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DIY Dehydrating
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Steve S
(idahosteve) - F

Locale: Idaho
DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 11:49:55 MDT Print View

I've been thinking about doing some dehydrating, and I have a sizable garden. However, lots of produce that is great in "season" is really not worth much later on.
My question is what items (produce) are the go to items that are actually of use for making meals, and for bringing on the trail? These would be the items that I'd like to look into dehydrating.
What veggies for example are worth drying to make meals out of? or to add to existing meal packages?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 13:00:45 MDT Print View

It is possible to dehydrate many kinds of food and get good results. I get the best results from fruit, sliced very thin. Vegetables with a high degree of natural moisture work well. For example, spinach. That yields a green powder that I can sprinkle into soup.


Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 14:03:04 MDT Print View

Basically if you like eating it and you have extra, dry it! I like most veggies myself so I keep on hand a good 15 or more types, in small sizes, so I can add them to my meals. It is a great way to bulk up commercial meals as you asked.
Just keep your pieces uniform and small for best results. Shredding works well also.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 14:05:30 MDT Print View

Peas, green beans, and corn don't dehydrate well at all. Well, I guess they'll dehydrate OK, but it's the re-hydration that seriously sucks. They remain as hard as BBs, even after several hours of soaking in water. Nearly all other veggies will do fine. That's probably why Mountain House only freeze dries those 3--the others you can dehydrate yourself.

I finally stopped dehydrating much meat, as some cuts are pretty hard to rehydrate. But you can buy burger, chicken and beef in freeze dried form (Mountain House sells it fairly cheap in bulk #10 tins; check out, as they seem to be a good place to pick those up, especially once you've become a customer, and you catch their 25% off April sale. The #10 tins have a 30-year shelf life until they're opened).

By the way, there's a great site called Harmony House that sells nearly every veggie and bean imaginable. Prices are decent. So unless you want to get into the dehydrating thing for real, you might want to check them out. Both Bob and I are rather into doing this ourselves. In fact, I've got 15 sliced kiwi fruits in my dehydrator right now. This hobby is addicting--when you get on a roll, you'll find yourself dehydrating everything you can find. My cat runs and hides when he sees me pull out the dehydrator. He thinks maybe he'll be next.

But seriously, dehydrating your own stuff allows you to eat rather well on the trail. You can control the amount of salt and fat (compared to the usual FD dinners), and you can create dishes that aren't available otherwise. Choose your spices, choose your ingredients, choose your volume. As an example, tomorrow I'll do a 2-night trip in RMNP to stare at the aspen colors. I'll eat well: red beans/rice with dehydrated chicken sausage slices, and then my favorite chicken masala combo. Both meals run about 4 oz. packaged, the same as a MH Pro-Pack. These require a little simmering to get things just right, so I'll use my canister stove (therefore a bit heavier cooking setup). I stockpile my 5-6 favorite dinners during the winter months, portioning things out and then vacuum sealing each meal. If all the ingredients are either FD or dehydrated, they are shelf stable for maybe a year in my cool, Colorado basement. But anything with meat or other fat will best be stored in the freezer (6 months?) or fridge (3 months?).

Here's to good food!

Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 15:04:39 MDT Print View

We dehydrate just about everything, including corn, peas and green beans. Yes, they rehydrate slowly. But all you have to do is to start them rehydrating around lunch time.

We put the stuff in a double ziplock or something like that, add the appropriate amount of cold water at lunch time (just enough to rehydrate, not to make soup), then put them inside a pot or something near the top or our packs. By dinner they are soft and ready to cook. This works with freezer-bag cooking as well.

Colin Fletcher wrote about this many years ago. He used a plastic baby milk bottle, if I recall.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
RE: DIY Dehydrating on 09/29/2010 16:49:04 MDT Print View

Never thought about the bottle. I found these:

I got them for Walker for eating while traveling but honestly they are neat - really light, tight fitting lid and can take heat. For rehydration of smaller amounts they would rock. Found them at Target in the baby section.

James D Buch
(rocketman) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: RE: DIY Dehydrating on 10/04/2010 06:08:14 MDT Print View

Yes, the long soaking before cooking will work for even commercially dehydrated green beans.

I know that often today, we believe that anything knowledge based over a couple of years old MUST SURELY be obsolete.

But it isn't.

We can still learn from old dead white men like Colin Fletcher.

Jeff Antig

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: DIY Dehydrating on 10/04/2010 06:23:44 MDT Print View

As Gary mentioned, some foods don't dehydrate too well. I find that actually letting them cook/boil in the stove for 15 minutes gets them decent enough to eat as opposed to just letting them rehydrate in a cozy. We like to dehydrate our leftovers and vacuum pack them to store w/ oxygen absorbers. When We the storage gets full, we go camping.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
Re: DIY Dehydrating on 10/04/2010 07:45:30 MDT Print View

I disagree with this...

"Peas, green beans, and corn don't dehydrate well at all. Well, I guess they'll dehydrate OK, but it's the re-hydration that seriously sucks. They remain as hard as BBs, even after several hours of soaking in water."

however, there is a technique to getting home-dried peas and corn to rehydrate beautifully.

First of all, when drying, start with frozen veg as they've been pre-blanched.

Secondly, the rehydration. This is where I sacrifice a few grams and use a wide mouth Nalgene or other tight sealing container. Add the veggies in and cover them (just) with boiling water. Seal the container and put it in a cozy for 30 minutes (or more if you have time or if the temps are very cold). I do this while I set up camp and such. The pressure from the steam in the bottle seems to force the veggies to take on more water. Works like a charm every time and it also works well for dried beef, pork and chicken.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
DIY Dehydrating on 10/04/2010 07:56:20 MDT Print View

Thanks for offering that technique, Laurie. I'll give it a try soon.

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
rehydration photo on 10/04/2010 11:42:16 MDT Print View

You are welcome... hope it works out for you. I use a cozy called an Aquatherm from Granite Gear. I find it gives the best results. I like using the Nalgene over other screw-top containers because it does double duty for carrying water. I don't really trust other containers not to leak.

Here's a photo of veggies being rehydrated (I was cooking for 5 that night - Chicken and Veggie Pot Pie).

veggies being rehydrated

This was about halfway to three-quarters through the process. I took it out of the cozy for a photo. You'll notice that the veggies sink as they rehydrate and that the carrots hydrated first and that the peas and corn are just starting to sink. Some things take longer than others.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 10/04/2010 11:44:19 MDT.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
DIY Dehydrating on 10/04/2010 12:09:56 MDT Print View

Nice photo, Laurie. I'm curious--do you usually fill the Nalgene to the top with water? You indicated in your earlier post that the steam from the hot water helped rehydrate things faster. I wouldn't think there would be much, if any, steam available if the bottle was filled to the top. I'll try it both ways. Thanks for the tip. And have fun with your new dehydrator!

Laurie Ann March
(Laurie_Ann) - F

Locale: Ontario, Canada
steaming on 10/04/2010 12:59:38 MDT Print View

Usually I just cover... but this particular time I didn't because I had less experience (twas my early days). It still worked but took about 50 minutes. Then I added creamed soup leather (that I had made into a powder) and freeze-dried chicken to the excess water to make my pot pie sauce.

As I got more adept at rehydrating and started writing books about it, I discovered the steam, That helped by reducing the use of water and cut quite a bit off the time too. Also it meant that nutrients weren't being lost into the water (and drained off) if I wasn't using the excess to rehydrate another ingredient.

Anyway, I just wanted to show that they will rehydrate either way.

Edited by Laurie_Ann on 10/04/2010 13:01:01 MDT.