Life was complete even before the invention of electricity. Food preservation through dehydration was possible without electricity. So, it should never be a problem if you are not connected to the utility power.
Dehydration reduces the moisture content of food, which helps improve the shelf life of different foods.
Once the bacterial moisture is removed, food can last for several months, depending on storage conditions.
You don’t have to give away your fruits, vegetables, or meat because they can spoil.
We will discuss 5 methods of dehydrating food without electricity. We will also walk you through food preparation methods and store them once dehydrated. Keep reading for details.
- Why Should You Dehydrate Food?
- How to Prepare Foods for Dehydration Without Electricity
- 5 Methods of Dehydrating Food Without Electricity
- How To Properly Store Dehydrate Food
- The Final Sentences
Why Should You Dehydrate Food?
Dehydration is the process of reducing the moisture content of the food.
It is one of the oldest food preservation methods that involve removing bacteria-forming moisture, thereby improving the shelf life.
Traditionally, food dehydration was done by sun-drying or using open fire.
Today, we have complex machines that reduce the moisture content of succulent foods by channeling hot air to them.
Whichever the approach, you can preserve foods much longer than their ordinary shelf life.
Dehydrated foods are healthy alternatives to most junk foods we eat.
They can be perfect ingredients for making salads, oatmeal, baked goods, smoothies, and many others since they easily rehydrate in liquids.
You can dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and meat to preserve them for future use.
Dehydrating food is beneficial to an off-gridder since it helps to preserve food and maintain a constant supply.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables can be made available all year round through preservation. So, you are never afraid of growing vegetables in your garden for winter use.
How to Prepare Foods for Dehydration Without Electricity
Food dehydration is a delicate process that can go wrong if the procedure is not followed. A compromised food dehydration process will reduce the expected shelf life.
Different foods have a specific method of preparation for the dehydration process. Water content in meat, fruits, and vegetables is extracted using varying techniques.
Of great importance is food preparation, which comes before the actual dehydration.
Most fruits, vegetables, and meats can dehydrate well, while some foods are not suitable. Don’t just go about drying everything because you will be disappointed.
Fats, nut butter, avocados, olives, dairy products, eggs, and store-bought condiments are some foods to exclude from the list.
Keep Surfaces Clean
You have to maintain high hygiene when preparing food for storage. Clean and dry your chopping board, storage containers, and your hands.
That helps to minimize contamination by bacteria that can cause food spoilage.
Cut Everything Into Small Pieces
Thin slices of food dehydrate faster and more efficiently. Since you don’t have access to electricity, using machines such as mandoline for slicing fruits, vegetables, and meats may not be possible.
You, therefore, need a chopping board and a sharp knife to do this.
Chop large fruits and vegetables into thin slices. You also need to do the same if you want to dehydrate meat. If you don’t want to go through the slicing, you can consider making jerky strips.
Remember to remove all fat because they don’t dehydrate well.
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Pretreating is performed on fruits and vegetables. It helps to retain color and flavor, texture, improve dehydration time, and increase shelf life.
Not all fruits and vegetables require this step. It is just a recommended step but optional. It can be performed through the following:
- Ascorbic acid: Soak or dip fruits in an ascorbic acid solution for about five minutes to prevent browning. Make this solution by mixing one teaspoonful of powdered ascorbic acid with two cups of water. The prepared solution can serve two batches before being replaced.
- Fruit Juice: This is an alternative to ascorbic acid. Extract an acidic fruit juice such as lime, lemons, and oranges and use it as a pretreatment solution. It is used the same way as an ascorbic solution for pretreating only fruits. However, it is not as effective as ascorbic acid.
- Blanching or Steaming: This method is about quickly dipping fruit or vegetables in boiling water and rapidly cooling in cold water. Food steaming is also an option to help retain color and reduce dehydration time. Use this method if you want to dehydrate vegetables and fruits that will be used in cooked foods.
- Sulfite Dip: If you plan to store your fruits and vegetables for a long time, sulfite dip is recommended. However, the method can trigger allergies in asthmatic patients or those who are sensitive to sulfite. It is, therefore, not recommended.
5 Methods of Dehydrating Food Without Electricity
Electricity is the main problem many people living off the grid face, but it doesn’t mean you can’t dehydrate food. There are five methods you can use to dehydrate food without electricity, which include the following:
- Use your car method.
- Using the solar method.
- Using open and dry airspace.
- Black tarp method.
- Fire/wood stove drying method.
You can dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and meat and preserve them for future use with these methods. Read on to get the details of each work.
Use Your Car Method
Your car can do more than just carry you and any load you want to move along with you. When there’s no electricity, you can turn it into a dehydrator.
You can dry your fruits or vegetables in the car in about two days, given the warmth inside.
Cars stay warm even in winter. So, they are effective all year round. To turn it into a dehydrator, you need to crack the window to allow free air circulation. Once done, park the car in the sun.
Put the prepared foods into a tray and make sure they are evenly spaced without contact between adjacent pieces.
Cover it with a cheesecloth or other clean light cloth such as nylon to keep the flies and bugs away. Set it in the backseat of your car.
The fruits or vegetables can dehydrate in the car in one day, but that depends on the size of individual slices.
If it doesn’t, bring the food indoors and take it back to the car the following morning to continue the dehydration process.
Test if your foods are sufficiently dehydrated. The slices should snap when bent. For fruits, you can have a sturdy bend or a leathery property due to high sugar content.
Bananas and apples dehydrate well using this car method.
Using the Solar Method
As the name suggests, the solar method involves using energy from the sun to dry food slices. You will need to build a DIY dehydrator, which typically takes a boxy shape.
Place a transparent glass on top to allow heat from the sun to penetrate, screen trays to allow free air circulation, and a vent to let moist air out. Use only food-grade screen trays.
Put the prepared food for dehydration on the screens and cover it with a cheesecloth or netting.
Take the DIY dehydrator to the sun and place it in a south-facing direction to catch the maximum sun. Leave it in the sun until the food is well dehydrated.
This method is appropriate for fruits, vegetables, and meat. However, it might take longer for meat to dehydrate than other foods.
Using Open and Dry Airspace
There is no need to worry about the electricity if you live in a hot area such as the tropics.
A DIY dehydrator is also unnecessary because the open space provides all the conditions needed for food dehydration. It also relies on the heat from the sun to dehydrate food.
Sun-drying herbs and vegetables are easy and take the shortest time because of their low moisture content. You can make a herb drying box or hang them on a string.
Some people even spread them on the mat. You can also use this method to dry fruit and meat.
All you need to do is thinly slice the food and wrap them with cheesecloth to keep off bugs. You can look for pest and bug-free locations if you don’t have cheesecloth.
Black Tarp Method
A black tarp or trash bag absorbs heat from the sun and gets very hot. Using this property, you can dehydrate your foods without a car, dehydrator, or electricity.
All you need to do is spread the tarp or trash bag on an open ground, where it is exposed to full sun.
Also, find a screen for covering the food to keep bugs and flies away. It should be thin or light enough to allow sunlight to reach the black surface.
Blocking the sun will significantly reduce the effectiveness of this method and increase the drying time.
The black tarp method is ideal for any food. Herbs and some veggies can be dehydrated as they have less moisture content, but you will need to thinly slice fruits and meat.
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Fire/Wood Stove Drying Method
An open fire can provide enough heat to dehydrate food. Similarly, wood stoves create a forced convection current that dries air around them. You can rely on these principles to dehydrate your food.
If you use a wood stove, just put the prepared food in a tray and fuel it. You can also string them up near a wood stove.
Keep the wood in the stove burning to dehydrate your food around the clock. You don’t have to cover it or pack it as you do with the outdoor methods.
Low wood stove temperatures are ideal for dehydrating fruits and meat. You can also use an open fire for drying meat by stringing them near the flame.
For vegetables, consider using a woodstove with the damper mostly closed to keep the heat low. Avoid overheating the foods when dehydrating.
How To Properly Store Dehydrate Food
Dehydrating food helps extend its shelf life. However, that can be compromised if it is not stored appropriately.
Storage matters if you have to maintain the texture, flavor, and freshness of any dried food. Most home-dehydrated foods have a shelf life of between six months and one year if properly stored.
Dehydrated fruits will last for one year, while vegetables last six months if stored under 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruit leather can last only for one month at room temperature.
Meat, on the other hand, lasts for one to two months. You can extend this to six months if stored in a vacuumed and sealed container in a freezer.
Dehydrated Food Storage Conditions
- Consider an airtight, non-plastic container such as a large, clear glass jar.
- Maintain temperature at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cool the dehydrated food before packaging and store in a dry place.
- Store dehydrated food in a dark place since light will cause degradation.
Put together, store dehydrated food in an airtight, non-plastic container in a cool, dry, and dark place. You can also consider desiccant packs to remove moisture and an oxygen absorber.
How can you dehydrate food without a dehydrator?
You don’t necessarily need a dehydrator or electricity to dehydrate different foods. Consider sun-drying, using wood stoves, car drying, solar drying, or using black tarps.
There may be other methods, but these are the most common and reliable. If your foods are well prepared for dehydration, any of these methods should work.
How long does dehydrated food last?
The shelf life of the food depends on the type of dehydrated food, storage conditions, and how effective the process was done.
Dried fruit will last for a year, vegetables six months, and meat one to two months. After dehydration, store the foods in a sealed, non-plastic container in a cool, dry, and dark place to achieve maximum shelf life.
How to make jerky without electricity?
You can still make jerky meat without electricity by relying on the sun’s heat. Remove all the fats and cut them into thin strips.
Put them in a tray and cover them with cheesecloth or netting to keep off bugs and take them to the sun to dry. You can use a DIY solar dehydrator, black tarp, or string them.
The Final Sentences
Food preservation through dehydration is still possible without electricity. You can use the methods highlighted in this article to dry fruits, vegetables, and meats.
What matters is how you prepare them for this process. Once dehydrated, store them appropriately for maximum shelf life without degradation.
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