Try Dehydrating Your Emergency Food
Although it is easy to purchase dehydrated or freeze-dried emergency foods, many people opt to dehydrate their own. There are several reasons for this: the person simply enjoys preparing the food themselves; they grow a lot of vegetables and fruit and need a way to preserve the harvest; this is also an economical way to provide for emergency food. However, you should be aware that food dehydrated at home will not have as long a shelf life as that prepared commercially – commercial equipment is able to remove more moisture than your dehydrator will be able to do.
The dehydrator that you choose should reflect how much you plan to dehydrate. If you have only a small amount of produce to dry at any given time, you can probably get a smaller model, which will be available at a fairly small cost. However, if you are an avid gardener or have access to a local farmer’s market, you may well want to invest in a larger model that will allow you to prepare large quantities at one time.
While most people use dehydrators for vegetables and fruit, it is also possible to make jerky. However, you should be aware that beef needs to be heated to 160 F and chicken 165 F in order to make sure that there is a complete bacteria kill. In most cases, it will be necessary to pre-cook the meat to make it safe, and it has also been found that the jerky spices also aid in preventing the proliferation of bacteria.
An example of a great dehydrator would include the Excalibur 3900. Unlike some food dehydrators, the dehydrator does not use heat from the bottom to dry the food. It fans warm air over the trays of food allows for more even drying. Not only is this faster but it also saves on electricity and keeps the moisture contained in the food.
Packaging Your Dehydrated Food
You can package your home dehydrated foods in a number of ways – plastic Ziploc bags, glass jars, or freezer containers. All of these will work well, but glass containers are probably the safest as rodents or insects will not be able to access the contents. The food should be packed in the container as densely as possible, but you should take care not to crush the contents. Seal the container, then label with the name of the contents and the date it was processed.
The best place to store your dehydrated food is in a cool spot, such as the basement. Food stored at relatively low temperatures, 55 to 60 degrees, will keep much longer than dehydrated food that is exposed to higher temperatures. Keep your dehydrated food out of the light, as this can cause deterioration and will shorten shelf life.
Moisture can be a problem, and condensation is a possibility if the food is placed in an area where there are fluctuations of temperature. If you see moisture on the inside of a glass jar or plastic container, it is best to use the food right away, as long as there is no spoilage. Any food that appears to be moldy or discolored should be thrown away – do not even give it to pets to eat. Home dehydrated food usually has a shelf life of approximately one year, at which time it should be used or replaced.