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The Art and Science of Food Dehydration

By Jennifer MacKenzie, Jay Nutt, Don Mercer

The Art and Science of Food Dehydration


Long before there was a refrigerator (or two) in every home, a deep-freezer in the basement and supermarkets full of pretty much anything in a box, package or jar, making food last between harvest seasons required a great deal of ingenuity. Early civilizations discovered that food left out in the sun was still edible after it was dry. With the advent of fire, drying and smoking became useful tools for food preservation between successful hunts and sustained ancient civilizations by providing a more consistent source of food. Today, we have the benefit of refrigeration, globalized food production, shipping and commercial processing, so we don’t have to preserve our own food at all. But as the saying goes, everything old is new again.


      Welcome to the new-old world of food dehydration. Whether you grow your own food, buy it locally from farmers’ markets or farm stands, hunt for your own meat or even buy your food from a regular supermarket, seasonality still affects the price and abundance of food. It just makes sense to take advantage of food when it’s abundant (and less expensive) and preserve it for times when it’s not as plentiful, or not available at all. Drying food is a wonderful way to do this. Dried food storage is space-efficient, and individual dried ingredients can be used in a huge variety of ways, a bonus that other preservation techniques don’t always offer. And when you’re cooking with food you dried yourself, you know exactly where it came from and what’s in it.


      Modern appliances designed for food dehydration make this ancient preserving technique faster, more efficient, reliable and easy. We no longer have to worry about wild animals stealing food set out to dry or a sudden downpour ruining days of drying. A simple appliance with trays, a heat source and a fan takes away the elements of surprise and essentially allows you to put fresh food in and take dried food out. Of course, drying food does take some know-how and a little trial and error at times.


       We hope you’ll enjoy incorporating the age-old practice of food dehydration into your modern life and taking advantage of what nature provides. So plant a few extra rows of tomatoes and beans, pick as many strawberries as possible when they’re at their peak and buy that big basket of freshly harvested carrots. Then load up your dehydrator. You’ll be thrilled to be cooking with your own dried foods the whole year through!


Find more helpful tips and information, plus fabuous recipes in The Dehydrator Bible.

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