~Start with the best produce to get the best dried foods~
√ Start with the fresh produce in your garden or choose organic, non-GMO foods from the grocery store or farmer’s markets if you can afford them. Look for foods that are free of blemishes.
√ Use the best fruit you can for dehydrating. Remove any bruises or soft spots before drying. You can dehydrate bruised fruit, but only if you remove the bruised areas before drying.
√ Don’t dry any fruit with visible mold. The drying process won’t kill the mold spores.
√ Cut grapes and cherries in half. Once you dry your own grapes or cherries, you’ll never want to buy bulk versions again. However, the fat, round shape takes a very long time to dry (unlike raspberries). Cut them in half before placing them on the drying tray. It’s worth the extra step.
√ The higher the water content of a given fruit or vegetable, the larger it can be sliced because it will shrink more in the dehydration process. Generally though, the rule of thumb is 1/4 inch (6 mm) slices.
In addition to watermelon and cucumber, the following fruits and vegetables all contain over 90 percent water content: cantaloupe, grapefruit, strawberries, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, iceberg lettuce, sweet peppers, radishes, spinach, zucchini, and tomatoes.
√ Fruit will brown quickly after its cut, so to keep browning to a minimum, you can offset the oxidation by adding ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), citric acid, Fruit Fresh™, or bottled lemon juice.
√ Vegetables are blanched to keep the flavor and texture of vegetables, kill a more harmful bacteria, and decrease the time required for drying. It can also cut down on the smells of some of the more pungent vegetables (like onions and garlic). This process involves placing washed vegetables in a mesh bag, steamer, or strainer, submerging them in boiling water for a set amount of time and then placing them in very cold water for the same amount of time immediately upon removal.
√ Ground meats need to be lean, no more than 5% fat. For beef jerky, the leanest cut is typically eye round roast and steak with 4 grams of fat per serving and 1.4 grams of saturated fat. The next leanest cuts include sirloin tip side steak, top round roast and steak, bottom round roast and steak, and top sirloin steak.
√ Jerky meat is sliced no thicker than 1/4 inch (6 mm). Trim and discard all fat from meat because it becomes rancid quickly. If a chewy jerky is desired, slice with the grain. Slice across the grain if a more tender, brittle jerky is preferred.
Ground turkey and ground chicken, because of the mildness of their flavors, can be made to taste like other meats, sausage or pastrami for example, just with a seasoning blend.
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