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Preserve summer produce by drying

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The four most common ways to preserve foods are freezing, canning, drying, and pickling. For a rundown on how to freeze the delicious summer produce piled mountain-high at your local farmer’s market, click here.

Drying – or dehydrating - removes all the water from a food and because it lacks moisture, mold and bacteria can't grow on it. Dehydrated foods will last about four months to a year, but some nutrients will be lost in the process. Commonly dried foods include meats, fruits (either in their original form or pureed to make fruit leathers or bars), herbs, and seeds.

In hot regions, sun drying is an option, but it requires at least three to four sunny days of 100-degree heat in a row. The easiest and most effective way to dry food is to use a commercially made dehydrator. These have several levels of stacking trays that allow air to circulate in and around the foods at just the right temperature—high enough to dehydrate the food but low enough not cook it. Generally, the foods are laid out on the trays according to the manufacturer's instructions, then the trays are positioned, and the temperature and timer are set. Dehydrators can take several hours or days to dry foods completely. Once dried, keep all food tightly sealed in a container in a cool, dark place to ensure its longevity.

Some food preservation books and "raw" food cookbooks also include detailed instructions for using a conventional oven as a food dehydrator, set at a low temperature with the door cracked, This is a great option if you're not ready to invest in your own dehydrator.

For more information about food preservation supplies, techniques and recipes, refer to the following books:

BALL Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Canning and Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

Previous post about preserving the bounty of summer:
Preserve summer produce by freezing

Want to learn about canning fruits and vegetables? Watch this site for more information.

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