~What you need to know to store dried foods~
After foods are dehydrated, they need to be stored properly. Four major factors will affect the shelf life of long-term storage of home dehydrated food; temperature, moisture, oxygen, and light. To be able to store your dried foods making sure you have the most nutritious products when rehydrated and cooked, these four conditions must be taken into consideration.
- Temperature affects storage shelf-life time the most. The cooler the storage area for your foods, the longer they will keep. Because food quality is affected by heat, the storage temperature will decide the length of storage; the higher the temperature, the shorter the storage time. At 60ºF/15°C, food will have double the shelf life as those stored at 70ºF/27°C.
- Moisture. The process of dehydrating removes most of the moisture from foods while retaining much of the nutritional value and flavor. It is a great method to keep your fruits and vegetables for later consumption. As long as you properly dry your foods to a state of crispness and store them in a dry environment, you will be able to store for the long-term.
- Oxygen will interact with, and break down, fats and proteins resulting in poor flavor and eventual spoilage. Fruits and vegetables only have small amounts of fat and protein but will still oxidize over a time when stored in an environment containing oxygen. Oxygen absorbers are commonly used inside long-term food storage containers to combat this.
- Light. Rays of light from the sun or artificial light will also eventually break down fats and proteins as well as nutrients in the food, resulting in poor flavor and eventual spoilage.
To keep your dried foods at maximum quality:
Cool all foods completely before storing. Hot foods can cause moisture to condense in your storage container as it cools down. This will spoil all your efforts. Condition your food to make sure it is fully dry before storing it long-term.
Storage Containers. The best containers to store your foods in for longer lasting shelf life are either Mylar bags, Food Saver-type bags, or vacuüm sealed jars. Plastic containers can be permeable to air and the plastic can degrade and break down over time, allowing air and moisture to deteriorate your foods. For long-term storage, an airtight container with a food grade oxygen absorber/moisture absorber pack will help the food last longer and reduce problems if a small part still has moisture.
- Mason-type Jars.Glass is cleaner than plastic. Glass’ non-porous surface doesn’t absorb food and germs and it can be safely washed at high temperatures in your dishwasher. A Mason jar is a molded glass jar used in home canning to preserve food. The jar’s mouth has a screw thread on its outer perimeter to accept a metal ring (or “band”). The band, when screwed down, presses a separate stamped metal disc-shaped lid against the jar’s rim. An integral rubber ring on the underside of the lid creates a hermetic seal. These jars can be vacuum-seal for long term storage.
- Food Saver-type bags. Foods that have been vacuum sealed are much more compact and lightweight than using mason jars and canning. Using bags also makes portioning easier and you don’t need to invest in a lot of different-sized jars to accomplish the same goal. Portioning is essential to any long-term food storage system because it will help to reduce waste and manage stocks more efficiently. In any case, you will quickly discover that you can cram more items into smaller spaces with bags. I buy the vacuum sealer rolls so that I can make any size bag I wish.
- Mylar Bags. The main ways that food is affected by long-term storage is through heat, light, moisture, oxygen, and rodents. Mylar bags help in all these areas to keep food at maximum freshness. Mylar in its basic form is actually a clear material made from polyester resin. Commonly known mylar bags for long term food storage are actually the clear “mylar” material laminated to aluminum foil, creating the effect of a flexible tin can.
Mylar bags can be sealed with an ordinary clothes iron. With an oxygen absorber added, they are the best food storage system for long-term storage.
Oxygen absorbers are used to remove oxygen from within a sealed environment, creating a nitrogen environment for long-term food storage. They protect dry foods from insect damage and help keep product quality. Oxygen absorbers are small packets that contain an iron powder and are made of a material that allows oxygen and moisture to enter but does not allow the iron powder to leak out. The Oxygen Absorbers are safe to place on top of the food. They are perfect for helping to keep your foods for long-term storage.
Desiccant packets (or silica packets) are used with food which will not be stored for long-term use, but opened and closed on a frequent basis. These packets also can help when storing items to prevent caking or clumping of powders. Be aware that food must be properly dried first. Silica gel packets will not make up for food that has not been fully dried.
Do not combine oxygen absorbers and desiccant packets in the same storage container. Oxygen absorbers rely on a bit of moisture to rust the iron and create an oxygen-free environment. Desiccants will cancel this out.
For more information on oxygen absorbers and desiccant packs, see Oxygen Absorbers & Desiccant Packs, Mystery Solved!
Vacuum Sealing is another way to prolong the life of your dried goods.This system removes the air from your containers. Since oxygen or “air” is one of the spoilers of food, this machine makes it easy to combat because it will remove most of the air and oxygen from the container’s environment. Again, food must be properly dried before vacuüm sealing. There is a risk of botulism with some particular foods if they are not dried enough, and then stored in air-tight containers.
For best results, store containers in a cool, dark, dry place.
What shelf life can you realistically expect?
Generally speaking, home dried fruits will have a shelf life of about 6 months to 1 year, if stored in glass mason jars and in a dark, dry, and cool environment (the cooler, the better).
The shelf life of home dried vegetables vary depending on the vegetable itself and how dry they are (% moisture content), but the average number seems to be up to a year. Some folks have storage life success of several years, but again, storage methods and conditions will affect storage shelf life greatly.
Also, generally speaking, the drier the food, the longer it will safely store. Vegetables should be brittle. Fruit however is not typically dried as much and remains pliable, but can be sliced thinner to dry to a crispy state.
- If vacuüm sealed and kept in cool, dry, dark storage, the shelf life is doubled.
- Stored in vacuum-sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers doubles the shelf life again.
- The double-wrap system of storage in Mylar bags, then put into a larger Mylar bag, sealed, inside of an airtight bucket will kept your foods the longest.
More Information: Storing Fruit & Vegetable Powders.
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