Dehydrating food at home

Hello fine people, I hope everyone’s new year is off to a good start.

For the holidays, my wife and I bought ourselves a food dehydrator, a Nesco Gardenmaster to be exact, and while we’re definitely having fun with it, I know we are only scratching the surface.  Is anyone here currently dehydrating their own food?  I’d love to know not only what you are doing, but how you are working it into your preps.

So far we’ve had a blast dehydrating fruit and making our own jerky, and our next adventure will be to make a soup mix.  But where I’m struggling is trying to figure out how to best incorporate it into our preps.  When it comes to long-term food storage, so far it seems safer, and often cheaper, to simply buy packaged dehydrated foods.  But I’m hoping I’m wrong on that, so please share your success stories!


  • Comments (11)

    • 3

      One of my favorite subjects!  For me, the trick to using dehydrated food is knowing equivalent weights in fresh ingredients.  In broadly general terms, I find that one pound of produce dehydrates to one ounce of dehydrated produce.  For instance, if it takes 3 pounds of apples to make a pie, three ounces of dehydrated apples will do the job. 

      Once you have equivalents, you can convert any conventional recipe to dehydrated ingredients.  Last night I made a chicken pot pie (in a Dutch oven, outdoors!) with all storage ingredients, including dehydrated corn, peas and green beans.  It was just like fresh! 

      I have a list of dehydrated:fresh equivalents that I’d be happy to share but it’s in rough form.  I’d need to clean it up. There are probably much better resources online.

      • 1

        thanks!  of the many dehydrator cook-books and/or websites, are there any that you particularly recommend?

      • 2

        Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook is a very useful volume.  It’s old, but still in print and still relevant.  There are some YouTube “Backpacking Chefs” that have great videos, too.  Ever since I figured out the weight ratios in the foods I most commonly use, I’ve never bought a newer book. I just go to some recipe website like Allrecipes, browse until I find something that sounds tasty, and convert the recipe to dehydrated (or canned) ingredients.

        I hope you have lots of fun and get lots of satisfaction out of your dehydrator!

    • 5

      I’ve been dabbling into dehyrading food and made a forum post about it last year. https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/food-preservation-it-makes-sense-from-a-survival-standpoint

      There’s also another good one that I remember Dogpatch making that I saved that might help you https://theprepared.com/forum/thread/converting-recipes-from-fresh-to-dehydrated-ingredients/

      • 2

        thank you, very helpful.  I love that you were inspired by Little House on the Prairie!

    • 2

      I believe I read somewhere (maybe LDS site) that unless your buying commercially dehydrated foods (where they test for moisture content) you shouldn’t plan to store your home dehydrated foods long term. 

      I mostly dehydrate what I grow, and rotate through it in about a year. But I’ve found forgotten jars and they’ve been fine (maybe 2 years old).

      One of my favorite things to dehydrate is fruit leather. All that fruit in the fridge that is maybe not ideal to eat fresh anymore – chuck it in the freezer. Once you have a bag full dump it into the slow cooker and cook without the lid until it’s soft and the excess water has slightly evaporated. Blend it up and into the dehydrator it goes. 

      • 1

        I agree with this and do not trust my dehydration skills for long term food storage. The dried fruit that I made lasted for about a month before I ate it all, which is a lot longer than the fresh fruit would have lasted in my fridge, but I wouldn’t have trusted it for 6 months or more.

        Maybe if I had a vacuum sealer and put in an moisture absorber in there.

    • 4

      I’ve been doing some experiments with two essential veggies – carrots and celery – that have not rehydrated very well for me in the past. I’ve been successful with both of them.

      Carrots have had a tendency to remain leathery after cooking.  I dehydrated some frozen/defrosted, crinkle cut carrots.  I rehydrated them in a canning jar with lid so I could turn the jar over and make sure no floating pieces got pushed out of the water.  I discovered that rehydrating veggies fizz!  So I could watch them and know they’ve taken all the water they will when they stop fizzing.  Anyway, when ready, I brought the carrots to a boil, then reduced to simmer.  Although the pieces never stretched out to their original size (like so many veggies), after 15 minutes of simmering they were perfectly al dente, delicious and very nice to bite!

      Yesterday I dehydrated a bunch of celery.  Something told me to try slicing the stalks on the diagonal, instead of straight across.  With straight-across-cut dehydrated celery, I usually end up with sullen little balls of stringy veggie that refuse to relax.  I cut the celery into 1/4″ diagonal pieces, and blanched for a minute before dehydrating.  The finished celery resembled French cut green beans instead of pea-shooter ammo.  Rehydrated in the jar, then brought to boil and simmered 10 minutes.  The results were impressive.  All the al dente celery flavor in nice strips. 

      These two veggies are so important for soups, stews and casseroles!  May be basic stuff for more experienced preservers, but I’ve been discouraged about drying them.  Now I’ll be stocking up.

      • 1

        Celery is 95% water so does that take quite a while to dehydrate? You are smart to come up with the diagonal cut to have them rehydrate better.

      • 1

        Um, well, I’m used to things averaging about 12 hours to dehydrate, and I think I set the timer for about 10 hours.  That’s longer than some folks publish on their blogs, and it might have finished earlier, but I was sound asleep by then!  Drying times always seem to be affected by humidity, etc.  But overall, it didn’t seem an unusual amount of time.

    • 2

      Kudos to you! Healthy & fun project to work on. I’ve tried various methods, and with your dehydrator you should have good success. One of my fails (useful to share them as well as success) was air drying homegrown organic fruit in the hot, dry, clean attic. The apple slices were delicious & very dry, but in room temperature sealed jars they eventually grew lots of wiggly protein, if you know what I mean! My raisins & prunes were fine for long storage though, so clearly it depends upon the original crop. Other members shared that a short baking before storage can help in that situation.