Dehydrating vegetables is an easy way to preserve large amounts of fresh produce. Unlike canning, it does not require special equipment (aside from the dehydrator), there are no issues about food safety, and the finished product takes up hardly any space. Don’t get me wrong, I typically prefer canning. But as many vegetables require pressure canning to remain shelf-stable, and I do not half a pressure canner, dehydrating becomes the best option for me. While dehydrating does limit the usefulness of the vegetables, it is still a great method to have on hand.
Dehydrated vegetables can be re-hydrated and added to quick breads and sautés, or simply tossed directly into a pot of soup. The texture may not be suitable for eating raw, so it is best to use in cooked dishes. When dehydrated and stored properly, dehydrated produce has an amazingly long shelf life, sometimes as long as a few years. There are two main rules to follow for successful dehydrating:
1. All pieces should be the same size and thickness.
2. Vegetables should be thoroughly cleaned and free of blemishes.
I prefer to use an electric dehydrator instead of the oven, as it provides more consistent temperatures and air flow (though you can certainly use an oven if you wish). One benefit to using a dehydrator is that most units contain a fan that circulates air around the vegetables, helping to push away moisture.
Most vegetables are dried at 125 degrees for 4-14 hours. However, I find that particularly moist vegetables, such as bell peppers, take considerably longer. The peppers in this post took about 24 hours, while the carrots and sweet potatoes took 16 hours. All times are dependent on the moisture content and size of the food and can sometimes differ from batch to batch, so just keep checking until they are done. It is good to note the ambient humidity as well, as that can also affect drying time.
Produce must be pretreated by steam blanching to prevent continued ripening. Simply prepare and chop vegetables as necessary, then steam for 3-4 minutes. I like to then spread them out on a kitchen towel to get off as much moisture as possible before placing in the dehydrator.
That’s basically it! The Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving has a lot of great information about all kinds of preservation techniques, from pressure and water canning to freezing and dehydrating. It is really a necessity for any home preserver.
Need something else to dry? Next you can trying Dried Chicken Broth!
Have you ever dehydrated vegetables? Which are your favorite vegetables to dry?