Drying is one of the oldest methods used to preserve food. For thousands of years, people have dried many foods to preserve them for trail use and use at home.
The Indians throughout this continent were drying meat, fish, corn, squash, pumpkins, beans, and berries long before the Europeans ever arrived. Preservation of fresh vegetables and fruits by drying is still a great way to prepare your food for wilderness trips or for use at home.
It is also interesting to note that drying is America’s fastest growing method of food preserving. Drying preserves food by removing sufficient moisture to prevent its decay.
Why Dried Foods
Since drying reduces the size of the food, it has the advantage of conserving storage space as well. The water content of properly dried food is anywhere from 5 percent to 25 percent, reducing both weight and bulk.
As a youngster growing up in the southern Appalachians, I recall seeing strings of green beans hanging on the front porch walls of the remote mountaineers’ cabins. The dried beans were called “leather britches” beans. I saw apple slices drying on the top of corn cribs and smokehouses.
Pumpkins, peaches, sweet potatoes, corn, okra, and many other fruits and vegetables were sun-dried for use in these mountain homesteads when money and transportation to town were both in short supply. I grew up eating these sun-dried foods and have always thought they were delicious.
Making Your Own Dried Food for Camping
Drying your own food can be a fun way to save energy while preparing wholesome, inexpensive, lightweight food in the backpack, Drying foods at home can be accomplished several ways in the sun as mentioned above, oven drying as discussed in the chapter on jerky, or drying in a commercial dehydrator.
People are going crazy over dried foods for any reason. Camping or hiking, or going travel are some reasons you should try dry foods. Here are some tips.
Sun Drying Foods (Recipes and Uses
Since I tend to lean towards the old ways of being self-sufficient, I like this method of drying foods best. It requires only energy from the sun, no chemicals or additives, and little equipment. All that is required is a sharp knife for cutting, a large piece of cheesecloth, screen wire or a fiberglass screen, a large pot, a drying rack, and some fresh fruit or vegetables.
The drying rack consists of the stand and the tray. The stand is simply something to set the tray on. You can make a set of legs that look like a table without a top, or you can use two sawhorses. The tray is a fine mesh screen.
An old window screen that you have cleaned will work well.
If you wish, you can make a permanent drying screen from a 4’X4′ fiberglass screen and frame it as you would a window screen.
The most important part of drying is air flow and temperature, drying in the sun is unpredictable unless the drying tray temperature is over 100°F and the relative humidity is low. If the temperature is too low, humidity too high, or both, spoilage in the form of souring or molding will occur before drying is achieved.
Sun Dried Fruit as Dehydrated Meals for Camping
Sun-dried fruit can be great as dehydrated meals for camping, traveling and other trekking adventures. To make this sun-dried fruit you need to follow some techniques.
- Select ripe or overripe fruit such as apricots, apples, grapes, plums, etc. Moreover, the berries, pineapples, oranges, pears, peaches, and tropical fruits can also be very useful for making these items. These foods are great for going to the woods, hiking and climbing mountains.
- Remove stones or pits from fruit and make it proper for preparation. Seeds of berries or grapes need not to be removed.
- Slice fruit about % inch thick. Try to keep slices the same thickness for even drying. Spread on rack 1 layer thick and cover with a cloth. The cloth covering keeps insects off the sweet-smelling fruit.
- The drying time of the fruits will depend upon the type of fruit used and the temperature of the day. The process usually takes 1 or 2 days. If fruit takes more than 1 day, it is recommended that the racks be brought in at night out of the dew.
- Fruit is done when it feels leathery hard on the outside and a little bit soft on the inside.
Before storing fruit, the first “test” it. Put it in a paper or cloth bag for a week. Stir it every day. You will know if the fruit is sufficiently dried and ready to store if no mold appears.
For final storage put into an airtight container, label, and date. Store in a dark, dry place. Dried fruits can be eaten as they are, or they can be reconstituted by soaking in water overnight.
Freeze dried fruit can also be very effective in using outdoor and camping purposes. So, you can store them in the freeze and then use them as well.
Sun Dried Vegetables can be Great as Backpacking Food
While making the full in-depth dehydrated meals day in the last summer trip in the desert, I had tried a lot of meals. With the best kinds of hiking hat to resist sun, the food was another thing to be mentioned.
Drying vegetables is more complicated than drying fruit. Select your vegetables carefully. If they are not fresh and are not in prime condition for cooking, they are not suitable for drying, Vegetables should be washed and prepared on the same day they are harvested, and they should be blanched (with steam) or parboiled a few minutes before drying.
Blanching is the process of heating vegetables sufficiently to inactivate enzymes, the biological catalysts that facilitate chemical reactions in living tissue. If certain enzymes are not inactivated, they will cause color and flavor to deteriorate during drying and storage.