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Food Dehydration - Step 1 - Preparation

Food Dehydration - Step 1 - Preparation

Dry your own fruits, vegetables and other foods

Back to Intro - Next page (drying)

Preparation Procedure

  1. Select the best fruit and vegetables!
    As with canning and freezing, dehydrated foods are only as good as the fresh fruit or vegetables. When selecting fruits and vegetables for dehydration, choose ones that are ripe, unbruised and at peak-eating quality.
  2. Prepare foods to be dehydrated as you want them to be served. Apples, for example, may be sliced, cut into rings, or pureed for fruit leather.
    Fruits: see this table for fruits
    Vegetables: See the table farther down this page for Vegetables
  3. Keep pieces uniform in size and thickness for even drying . Slices cut 1/8 to 1/4-inch in thickness will dry more quickly than thicker pieces.
  4. Some foods should be washed before drying. Foods such as herbs, berries and seedless grapes need only be washed before dehydrating.
  5. To prevent browning: try steaming, sulfuring or coating light-colored fruits and vegetables with acids such as lemon juice or ascorbic acid (FruitFresh) before drying. Steaming or blanching also is recommended for vegetables to inactivate enzymes that cause vegetables to mature, or toughen during drying. Again, see the tables below.
  6. Choose the right containers: Glass jars, metal cans or boxes with tight fitted lids or moisture-vapor resistant freezer cartons make good containers for storing dried foods. Heavy-duty plastic bags are acceptable, but keep in mind that they are not insect and rodent proof. Plastic bags with a 3/8-inch seal are best to keep out moisture. Recommended containers also include moisture-proof freezer containers or Ziploc type bags, or scalded (sanitized) glass canning or other glass jars. Vacuum food sealers are an excellent option for storing. 
  7. Thoroughly clean storage containers: for example, run glass jars through the dishwasher on the "sanitize" or "high heat" cycle and heated dry. Wash and dry the lids by hand.

Fruits: Pretreatments to reduce darkening

There are safe, traditional ways used to reduce darkening of fruit and vegetables. An ascorbic-acid coat or salt-water-and-vinegar dip will hold the color of fruit temporarily as it is peeled, pitted, and sliced for drying. After that, fruit can be sulfured or steam-blanched to prevent further darkening during drying and storage.  Some fruits are generally not pretreated, like pitted cherries and berries. They need no antidarkening or other pretreatment before drying.

Pretreatment for other fruits and vegetables helps prevent darkening, loss of color and nutrients, or undesirable changes in flavor and texture.

Fruit Preparation
Apples Peel and core, cut into slices or rings about 1/8 inch thick.
Apricot Pit and halve, slice if desired.
Bananas Use solid yellow or slightly brown-flecked bananas. Avoid bruised or overripe bananas. Peel and slice 1/4-inch to 3/8 inch thick, crosswise or lengthwise.
Blueberries, cranberries, currants, gooseberries, huckleberries Wash and drain berries.
Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, Tayberries, loganberries, boysenberries, Marionberries Wash and drain berries.
Cherries Stem, wash, drain and pit fully ripe cherries. Cut in half, chop or leave whole.
Figs Select fully ripe fruit. Immature fruit may sour before drying. Wash or clean whole fruit with damp cloth. Leave small fruit whole, otherwise cut in half.
Grapes (seedless) Select fully ripe fruit. Immature fruit may sour before drying. Wash or clean whole fruit with damp cloth. Leave small fruit whole, otherwise cut in half.
Grapes (with seeds) Cut in half and remove seeds.
Peaches and Nectarines Before sulfuring, pit and halve; removing skins is recommended
If you are steam or syrup blanching, leave whole, then pit and halve. May also be slice and quartered.
Pears Cut in half and core. Peeling preferred. May also slice or quarter.
Persimmons Use firm fruit of long, soft varieties or fully ripe fruit of round, drier varieties. Peel and slice using stainless steel knife.
Pineapple Use fully ripe, fresh pineapple.  Wash, peel and remove thorny eyes. Slice lengthwise and remove core. Cut in 1/2 inch slices, crosswise.
Plums and prunes You can leave them whole, but if you are sulfuring you should cut them in half

Pretreatment methods for FRUITS:

There are many methods use, all have been in use for many years and considered to be very safe. Of all of them, the one which stands out as both most effective and easiest is the sulfite dip method.

Sulfuring

Many fruits, especially apples, pears, and peaches, will gradually darken during drying and storage. Fruits may be dried without sulfuring, but this sulfuring decreases the loss of vitamins A and C and preserves color and flavor. Sulfuring also deters bugs and souring.

There are 2 ways to "sulfur" fruits: a smoke done outdoors and a dip.  The dip is much easier, faster and safer!

1b - See this page for sulfite dips

1a - See this page about how to sulfur smoke safely

 

Ascorbic acid

See this page about Ascorbic Acid methods
 

Salt-water-and vinegar Dip

Mix 4 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 1 gallon of water. Drop the cut fruit into the solution as you prepare it for drying.

Honey Dip

Many store-bought dried fruits have been dipped in a honey solution. A similar dip can be made at home but keep in mind, honey-dipped fruit is obviously much higher in calories and glycemic index.

Mix 1/2 cup sugar with 1.5 cups boiling water. Cool to lukewarm and add 1/2 cup honey Place fruit in dip and soak 5 minutes. Remove the fruit, drain well and place on dryer trays  and begin drying.

Syrup-Blanching:

Blanching fruit in syrup helps it retain color fairly well during drying and storage. The resulting product is similar to candied fruit. Fruits that can be syrup-blanched include: apples, apricots, figs, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and prunes.

Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup and 2 cups water in a pot. Bring to a boil. Add 1 pound of prepared fruit and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let fruit stand in hot syrup for 30 minutes. Lift fruit out of syrup, rinse lightly in cold water, drain on paper towels and place on dryer trays. Like honey-dipped fruit, sugar treat fruit is obviously much higher in calories and glycemic index.

Steam-Blanching

Steam-blanching also helps retain color and slow oxidation. However, the flavor and texture of the fruit is changed due to the heat.

Place several inches of water in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling. Place fruit not more than 2 inches deep, in a steamer pan or wire basket over boiling water. Cover tightly with lid and begin timing immediately. See table below for blanching times. Check for even blanching, halfway through the blanching time. Some fruit may need to be stirred. When done, remove excess moisture using paper towels and place on dryer trays.

Preparation and Pretreatment Methods for VEGETABLES

To prepare vegetables for drying, wash in cool water to remove soil and chemical residues. Trim, peel, cut, slice or shred vegetables according to the directions for each vegetable in the chart below. Remove any fibrous or woody portions and core when necessary, removing all decayed and bruised areas. Keep pieces uniform in size so they will dry at the same rate. A food slicer or food processor can be used. Prepare only as many as can be dried at one time.

The only method for vegetables is blanching, meaning heating vegetables to a temperature high enough to destroy enzymes present in tissue. Blanching stops the enzyme action which results in loss of color and flavor during
drying and storage. It also shortens the drying and rehydration time by relaxing the tissue walls so moisture can escape and later re-enter more rapidly.
Vegetables can be water blanched or steam blanched. Water blanching usually results in a greater loss of nutrients, but it takes less time than steam blanching.

water blanching: plunging the prepared vegetables into a large pot of fully boiling water. Begin timing when water returns to boiling. If it takes longer than one minute for the water to come back to boiling, too many vegetables were added. Then pull to vegetables out quickly and immerse in ice water for the same amount of time.  Then drain and dip the vegetables briefly in cold water. When they feel only slightly hot to the touch, drain the vegetables by pouring them directly onto the drying tray held over the sink. Wipe the excess water from underneath the tray and arrange the vegetables in a single layer. Then place the tray immediately in the dehydrator or oven. The heat left in the vegetables from blanching will
cause the drying process to begin more quickly.

steam blanching: Place several inches of water in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Heat to boiling. Place fruit not more than 2 inches deep, in a steamer pan or wire basket over boiling water. Put the vegetables loosely in the basket no more than 2 inches deep. Place the basket of vegetables in the pot, making sure the water does not come in contact with the vegetables. Cover tightly with lid and begin timing immediately, after the time, remove, then drain and dip the vegetables briefly in cold water. When they feel only slightly hot to the touch, drain the vegetables by pouring them directly onto the drying tray held over the sink. Wipe the excess water from underneath the tray and arrange the vegetables in a single layer. Then place the tray immediately in the dehydrator or oven. The heat left in the vegetables from blanching will
cause the drying process to begin more quickly.

 

  Blanching time
Vegetable Preparation Steam Water
Beans, green Wash thoroughly. Cut in short pieces or lengthwise. 2 to 2.5 minutes 2 minutes
Beets Cook as usual. Cool; peel. Cut into shoestring strips 1/8 inch thick. Already cooked. No further blanching is required.
Broccoli Trim; cut as for serving. Wash thoroughly. Quarter stalks lengthwise. 3 to 3.5 minutes 2 minutes
Cabbage Remove outer leaves; quarter and core. Cut into strips 1/8 of an inch thick. 2.5 to 3 minutes** 1.5 to 2 minutes
Carrots Use only crisp, tender carrots. Wash thoroughly. Cut off roots and tops; peel, cut in slices or strips 1/8 of an inch thick. 3 to 3.5 minutes 3.5 minutes
Cauliflower Prepare as for serving. 4 to 5 minutes 3 to 4 minutes
Celery Trim stalks. Wash stalks and leaves thoroughly. Slice stalks. 2 minutes 2 minutes
Corn, cut Husk, trim cobs. Blanch cobs. Cut kernels from the cob after blanching. 2 to 2.5 minutes 1.5 minutes
Eggplant Wash, trim, cut into 1/4 inch slices. 3.5 minutes 3 minutes
Horseradish Wash; remove small rootlets and stubs. Peel or scrape roots. Grate. None None
Mushrooms (obviously, stick to known edible varieties only!) Scrub thoroughly. Discard any tough, woody stalks. Cut tender stalks into short sections. Do not peel small mushrooms or "buttons." Peel large mushrooms, slice. None None
Okra Wash, trim, slice crosswise in 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch disks. None None
Onions Wash, remove outer "paper shells." Remove tops and root ends, slice 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch thick. None None
Parsley Wash thoroughly. Separate clusters. Discard long or tough stems. None None
Peas Shell. 3 minutes 2 minutes
Peppers and pimientos Wash, stem, core. Remove "partitions." Cut into strips, slice or dice. None None
Potatoes Wash, peel. Cut into shoestring strips 1/4 inch thick, or cut in slices  1/8 of an inch thick. 6 to 8 minutes 5 to 6 minutes
Spinach and other greens (kale, chard, mustard) Trim, wash thoroughly. 2 to 2.5 minutes 1 minute
Winter Squash, like Hubbard squash Cut or break into pieces. Remove seeds and cavity pulp. Cut into 1-inch-wide strips. Peel rind. Cut strips crosswise into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. 2.5 to 3 minutes 1 minute
Summer squash Wash, trim, cut into 1/4-inch slices. 2.5 to 3 minutes 1 minutes
Tomatoes, for stewing Steam or dip in boiling water to loosen skins. chill in cold water. Peel. Cut into sections about 3/4 inch wide, or slice. Cut small pear or plum tomatoes in half. 3 minutes 1 minute
Tomatoes, sliced Wash, remove core, and cut crosswise into 1/4 to 3/4-inch slices. No peeling or blanching is necessary. Slices can be lightly sprinkled with crumbled dry oregano or other dry herbs of your choice before drying. None None
**Steam until wilted.

 

Next: Step 2 - Drying

 

 

 


Above is the
2020 version of
the Ball Blue Book