Drying is a food preservation method that removes moisture from food to an extent that micro-organisms such as mould, yeast and bacteria cannot grow. Drying is a preservation method that is suitable for fruits, mushrooms, herbs, seaweeds, berries, flowers and vegetables. At home, food can be preserved indoors or outdoors. Drying food outside requires a dry airy place with low humidity. Inside, a conventional oven, a food dehydrator or hanging in a warm, dry place can dry out foods and preserve them. Low humidity, air circulation and low heat are the necessary conditions for successful food drying.
Drying is well suited to harder-skinned fruits. Here is a basic how-to of drying fruit such as apples:
- Wash and dry slightly unripe fruits. Use produce that is free of blemishes.
- Slice the fruit uniformly. This way, they will take less time to dry.
- Place the pieces on a metal tray or a baking sheet covered with parchment.
- Place in a very low oven at about 49 degrees Celsius, 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You may need to keep the oven door ajar for air circulation.
- After about 4-6 hours the fruits should be sufficiently dry. You can tell that they are ready when no juice can be squeezed out when gently pressed.
A key benefit of preserving through drying is that, unlike with other methods, you can open a jar of dried food again and again without damaging the contents. You don’t need to consume the contents promptly once opened and much of the nutritional benefits of natural foods are retained when dried. Dried foods are a handy way to add flavour to dishes. Dried fruits make a convenient snack and taste good stirred into muesli/porridge/desserts. Dried herbs, vegetables, and seaweed can be rehydrated with water, and give a flavour boost to soups, stews, risottos and more. Dried berries and dried herbs make fantastic herbal tea. Don’t forget that wild foods such as rose hips can be harvested and dried. Rose hip tea is high in Vitamin C which will benefit us during the Irish winter!