Rehydration & Using Dried Foods


Tips for Rehydrating All Dried Foods


When you first get your dehydrator, in the addictive frenzy to stock your pantry, you may not think about HOW to use your new goodies. However, the issue will soon come up when your shelves are full (gasp!) and you try to cook with them.

Here are a few points to keep in mind:

  • Dried fruits can be eaten as is or reconstituted in room temperature water or juice.
  • Dried vegetables must usually be reconstituted unless you are making chips to snack on. The best way to reconstitute these is with boiling water or boiling stock.
  • Once reconstituted, dried fruits or vegetables are treated as fresh.
  • Fruit leathers and meat jerky are eaten as is.
  • Vegetable barks are usually dropped into cooking to flavor and will soften and mix with the soup, stew, or sauce.
  • Vegetable, Fruit, and grain/nut/legume powders are used in a variety of ways in cooking for flavoring and flours. Reconstituting before use is usually not necessary.

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Reconstituting Fruits and Vegetables

To reconstitute dried fruits or vegetables, add water to the fruit or vegetable and soak until the desired volume is restored. (See “Rehydrating Dried Foods” chart below for examples.) Do not over-soak the food. Over-soaking produces loss of flavor and a mushy, water-logged texture. It is a good idea to save your water and use it in cooking if possible because there are flavors and nutrients in it that should not be wasted.

I have found that, for the most part, just covering your dried food with water in your container is the easiest measurement. Put a lid on the container or cover with plastic wrap. Check the food every 15 minutes. If the food has not plumped up but the water has all been absorbed, then just add more water. Time for reconstituting will depend on the size and shape of the food and the food itself. Most dried fruits can be reconstituted within 8 hours, whereas most dried vegetables take only 2 hours at the most. Reconstituted fruits and vegetables should be cooked in the water they were reconstituted in for maximum nutrition. I use my French press for many foods I rehydrate. Here is how I use it.

CAUTION! For food safety, if soaking takes more than a hour, refrigerate the product for the remainder of the time to prevent growth of microorganisms.

Some foods, like mushrooms fair better when  gently simmered until tender and plump. If you have a dish that is going to cook for 45 minutes or more, just adding a bit of extra liquid to the pot along with your  dried foods will be sufficient to rehydrate them. For soups and stews, add the dehydrated vegetables, without rehydrating them. They will rehydrate as the soup or stew cooks. Meat, whether freeze-dried or dehydrated, also works better with this method.

Other foods, like sweet peas and corn, rehydrate much better if steamed BEFORE dehydration. This process is not necessary if you are grinding the food into powders/flour. Still other foods, like pumpkin and beets work better if roasted in the oven before dehydration. This is a learning process for you, but any foods you have trouble rehydrating can be cooked beforehand to yield better results.

Leafy vegetables and tomatoes do not need soaking. Add enough water to cover and simmer until tender.

To measure to add to your cooking, I find that a ratio of 2:1 works for me with most dried vegetables. For example, your recipe calls for 1 medium onion or 1 cup chopped onion. Measuring out a heaping 1/2 cup of dried, chopped onion will give you approximately the 1 cup you need to fulfill this amount of fresh chopped onion. For fruits I usually have more of a yield of 1 cup of dried fruit equalling 1-1/2 cups reconstituted.

Standard Measurement for recipes:
1 cup dehydrated vegetables, rehydrated = 2 cups fresh vegetables
1 cup dehydrated fruit, rehydrated = 1-1/2 cups fresh fruit


This chart is given as a guideline only. Your results may be different.

Dehydrating Dried Foods-NCHFP Chart

Source: National Center for Home Food Preservation

 


Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze-dried foods are measured differently. Because of their unique construction, if you are using freeze-dried foods the measurement is going to be a 1:1 ratio. So if your recipe calls for 1 cup of fresh blueberries, you will replace these with 1 cup of freeze-dried blueberries. This will give you the amount you need for the recipe. Just remember to either soak the berries beforehand or add more water (again, a 1:1 ratio) to your cooking.

Standard Measurement for recipes:
1 cup freeze-dried fruits or vegetables, rehydrated = 1 cup fresh fruits or vegetables

Measuring Powders

Measuring powders from your dried foods for recipes can be a bit more tricky, but the general breakdown, along with a bit of taste-testing, will teach you what you like for your meals.

I have found that a heaping cup of dried fruit or vegetables will yield me about 1/4 cup of powdered product. These powders usually replace flavorings, like seasonings or extracts. These are going to be a concentrated version of your dried foods, therefore only a little is needed to flavor your meals.

It is important to keep in mind what your are replacing these powders with. A dried seasoning is usually a 1:3-4 ratio, while an extract can usually be replaced at a 1:2 ratio. Your best judge of how much is enough is to start with a smaller measurement and taste-test after thoroughly mixing.

For freeze-dried products the powder is usually a 1:1 ratio as these foods do not have the flavor intensity of dehydrated foods.

Standard Measurement for recipes:
Seasoning: 1 teaspoon dried fruits or vegetable powders = 1 tablespoon fresh fruits or vegetables
One Serving Size: 1 tablespoon dried fruits or vegetable powders
Extracts: 1 teaspoon  dried fruits or vegetable powders = 2 teaspoons extracts
Flour replacements: use up to 1/4 cup (taking out the same amount of flour) per 1 cup of flour for best results
Freeze-dried powders: 1 teaspoon = 1 teaspoon fresh fruits or vegetables

There is usually no need to reconstitute powders unless you need to make a puree for your dish.


For more information, read our article Dehydrating with a Purpose-What To Do with All That Food!

Other Guides to rehydrating dried foods: Baking with Dehydrated Foods and How to Cook with Dehydrated Foods.


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