Dehydrating food

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jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Good evening fellow forum friends!!!

I have been recently looking in to buying my own food dehydrator but have become stuck on a couple of things I can't find the answers for!! That's where you lovely people come in lol!!

Here we go -
Can I buy Jared sauces like chicken tikka masala and dehydrate them? And I would normally have it with rice so do I mix up with the rice and dehydrate the whole thing or cook the rice separately?

Also, when it comes to rehydration of the food, on the shop bought ones such as pack and go or mountain house meals it tells you exactly how much water to mix in, how will I no how much boiling water to add to my food?? The best advice I could find on google was that the food would double in size during re hydration so you need one cup of water to one cup of dehydrated food, does this sound right?

Also last question, but this about vac sealing, if I was to remove foods from there tins eg chilli or something and vacuum seal it instead, how long do you think it would last? It obviously doesn't need to be refrigerated as it wouldn't be in a tin, but obviously I appreciate that when you open the tin you are exposing it to the elements!!!

As always your help is greatly appreciated!!!

All the best
Steve
 

British Red

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Dec 30, 2005
25,532
400
Mercia
Steve,

Mounitain house is freeze dried - different process. Food you home dry can take longer to rehydrate. You often have to cook the dehydrated food in hot water to get it to absorb. Add water a little at a time (whilst cooking) until you get the desired thickness.

I have dehydrated home made sauces (e.g. spaghetti sauce, chilli sauce etc.) but never tried it with shop bought - I see no reason why it wouldn't work though.

As for vacc sealing, just don't do it with meat products. With veg products, it might buy you a day or two but I wouldn't try beyond that.

Red
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,408
883
63
Florida
...Also, when it comes to rehydration of the food, on the shop bought ones such as pack and go or mountain house meals it tells you exactly how much water to mix in, how will I no how much boiling water to add to my food??...
I like Red's advice (boil water and add it back gradually until you get the consistency/moistness you need)

Another way would be to determine how much water you removed from the food in the dehydration process and use that amount as your starting point. You can accomplish that by weighing the food. Weigh it BEFORE dehydration and again AFTERWARDS. The difference will be the amount of water removed. Remember that 1 fluid ounce of water weighs exactly 1 Emperial ounce (and IIRC in metric 1 cc of water weighs 1 gram; I'm sure if I'm off on the metric, someone will be along to correct me)
 
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chutes

Banned
May 6, 2012
43
0
Australia
You can dehydrate sauces so long as they are not oily/fatty. Pasta sauces and salsas are perfect for this. When you grab your dehydrator you should get some tray liners. These are for dehydrating sauces, casseroles and fruit pulp to make fruit leather. If your curry of choice has a lot of oil in it then I'd advise supermarket shelf "slop in a bag" sauces instead.

Vac sealing your fresh food will only give you maybe 6-8 hours of extra freshness and this depends entirely upon the temperature. My advice would be don't do it. Dehydrate your food instead - you're not going to be able to make MREs pouches at home.

I've found that home dehydrated foods rehydrate at a ratio of roughly 1:1. Your measurements don't have to be exact, just measure by eye.
 

rik_uk3

Banned
Jun 10, 2006
13,320
20
65
south wales
Be careful with curry, the smell in your dehydrator lingers to say the least.

Vacuum packing fresh meat as others said only give you a day or two extra but with cooked meat such as ham it should last you a few days without refridgeration, use a bit of common sense. Vacuum packed dry cured bacon will last a week or more.

Vegetables should loose an average of 80-90% of their 'wet' weight, so a kilo of carrots will end up around 100-200gm.

I tend to use separate dry ingredients to make a meal on site. This makes things easier as you can soak veg in a good amount of water and drain off excess before or after cooking. With sauces you can cheat a bit, e.g. hydrate your onions, mushrooms, peppers, add garlic powder and herbs of choice and dried minced beef, simmer in a minimum of water and add a packet of dried tomato soup and you have a quick spag bol. Much the same with a curry only use a dried curry sauce mix. Dried onions, minced beef, carrots, dried ox tail soup (these soups add flavour and thicken) and smash and you have a quick cottage pie.

I tend to dry frozen veg, sounds daft but it in fact makes good sense unless you grow your own. Frozen veg is pre sliced/prepped, pre blanced and often fresher than some fresh veg thats been sitting on a supermarket shelf for days and there is no waste. Frozen peas, carrots, swede, sweet corn, sliced green beans, peppers all dry very well and at £1 a kilo from Iceland they are great value.

Have fun and experiment.
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Hi Guys, some brilliant advice there chaps, thanks very much.

I think to start with I will just buy some good quality jar based sauces which use chicken, I think this way would solve the worry about having too much fat in the mixture.
Im not a big fan of shop bought sauces but it will be fun to experiment.
So would you guys cook the rice or pasta and mix it in with the sauce and dehydrate it, or take it with and cook on site?
I thought I read somewhere to completely make the meal, rice/pasta too and dehydrate the lot!!

I guess from what I read on google that the formula for rehydration wasnt far off, basically a cup of water to a cup of mixture and then add more if I need to!!
What I wasnt aware of was the fact it needs to be simmered so cheers for that!! I just would have made some sort of pot cosy!!

The reason for all his being is that Im trying to plan a trip for the end of june, and I really wanna go as light as possible, looking at the shop bought dried 'rations', over a 4 or 5 day period with the prices of the meals, I can pretty much buy a basic food dehydrator and I think actually make the meals myself!! Then when I do another trip the dehydrator would have paid for itself in savings!!

As for the re-packaging of canned food, I was only thinking of doing thison the first night, and maybe some bacon and sausages for the first breakfast so they wont be in the pack long, a few hours at most, plus with the bacon and sausages Im thinking I can vac pack them and freeze them? That way they will stay fresh for a while longer!!

On another note, any of you gentlemen that use vacuum packaging on a reguler bases, I have found these on ebay -

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/320907404765?ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1438.l2649

They work out at 10p each which I think is pretty good value for the size.
Once again thanks for all the help so far, if you have any mre tips, feel free to share!!

All the best
Steve
 

santaman2000

M.A.B (Mad About Bushcraft)
Jan 15, 2011
16,408
883
63
Florida
...maybe some bacon and sausages for the first breakfast so they wont be in the pack long, a few hours at most, plus with the bacon and sausages Im thinking I can vac pack them and freeze them? That way they will stay fresh for a while longer!!...
Another tip for anything you want to freeze like this; once frozen wrap it in a few layers of newspaper to insulate it and then overwrap that in a layer of aluminum foil to protect it in your pack.

Back in the Boy Scouts we'd do this with a pre=made meal as follows: Make up a ground beef steak (mix in seasonings, onions, mushrooms,etc. to taste and form a patty) place on foil along side cut potatoes, carrots or whatever side veg you want and seal foil pouch. Double wrap with foil. Now freeze the whole package. On the day of your departure remove from freezer and overwrap with layers of newspaper to insulate and place package in a ziploc before putting in your pack (this will keep the rest of your pack contents dry and odor free) It should thaw as you hike to your first campsite (about six hours max in Summer) When the cook fire is ready remove the newspaper and place sealed foil pouch directly on the coals to cook.
 
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Podcast Bob

Full Member
Its a big subject Steve and Rose and I currently compiling a book specifically aimed at UK outdoors people who want to use a dehydrator.We are aiming for a summer release if we can.

We've had our for 20 years and feel we have learned most things, although there are always interesting new approaches to add to our knowedge.

To answer your original question the answer is simply 'no'! A canned sauce never dehydrates well, and I can only presume this is down to various additives, oil etc. I have tried this with curry and pasta, and both took 3-4 days to turn into a tacky sticky 'wrap' and gave me no faith in this process.

However if you bring the sauce to a boil first, simmer it for a while and then let it cool before placing it on the tray, yes you can!

The other question about pasta or rice is easy. If you cook either from the packet it'll take approx 12 mins. However if you cook them first at home, 'refresh' them as you would and maybe add some pesto flavouring to taste. Then let them cool and put them on the dehydrator, you'll find they look very similar to when they were first out of the packet. HOWEVER, when your sauce is bubbling away in the pot, you can just drop these in for 3-5 mins and they will be cooked correctly. Cheaper on fuel and time.

However, if you were to do the other method, that is cook and mix up all the meal with the rice at home, and then let it cool. Put it on the dehydrator and it will work this way too!

This is in danger of turning into a long post so I'll give you a brief outline which works for us.

At home we cook up batches of 'base sauce' in a large pot. This is usually tomato based, with veg and herbs but no meat. Once cooked and cooled we use a mug (the same size as on the camp site) and count the number of portions this makes on the dehydrator tray. (It easy to forget when it is dried). This will take approx 24 hours to dry and during this time, we visit the tray, and break up the pieces to create as much surface area to ensure total drying.

Once complete we then put it all into one plastic bag and write on it, what it is and how many portions.

At the same time as all this going on, we may cook and dry some mince very simply and drain off as much oil as possible. Again this goes onto the machine in portions (less than the mug) and will take a bit longer to dry.

The same goes for the rice, cooked completely, refreshed and then dried in portions. This goes too for some pasta.

We might also then chop up some raw chillies, some black olives, maybe some sun dried tomato. This goes on a separate tray and gets dried too!

So now when you open the freezer drawer, you have plastic bags containing W portions of tomato sauce, X portions of mince, Y portions of rice, and Z portions of pasta. Plus a bag of dried olives and chillies.

I then weigh each bag and scoup out a 'portion' of each into a small bag to take with me. One bag per meal.

For example lets say I now have 3 bags of pasta sauce, 2 bags of mince, 2 bags of rice, 1 bag of pasta and 1 bag of 'bits'.

Come meal time, I MAY decide to have a chilli meal, so I pour the dry pasta sauce into my mug and then add water to the top. (After all thats the amount of water it lost) and put that into the pot. If I decide to add the mince at the same time, I add a little more water (guestimate) and then maybe some bits of dried chilli. Plus a splash more water for the rice later.

Gently heat it through and simmer it for 5-10 mins. Once the meat has lost it's 'crunchy' texture, drop the rice into the pot and the whole meal should be ready and just right in about 3-4 minutes.

HOWEVER maybe I wanted to have a veggie pasta meal instead? I would use the same process, leave out the mince and chilli, but add the olives, then after about 6-7 mins I would add the pasta and again this should be ready in 3-4 mins. (Veggie meals rehydrate much quicker than meat based)

From experience, don't touch pork or bacon, red meat is okay (steak and lamb), chicken and turkey can take a long time to rehydrate and flaky fish is okay. Oily fish not so good.

I've kept dehydrated food in the freezer for a couple of years and still enjoyed the meal. It will last a few weeks once out of the freezer PROVIDING it was dried fully before it went in.

Food will only go rancid, IF moisture is in the food, which defrosts in the bag and then kick starts the nasty bacteria doing its thing.

In 20 years, I have only ever thrown one meal away.

Lots more hints and tips coming in the book, breakfasts, puddings and meals to enjoy.

Two final tips: (1) You can't 'over-dry' any food. Once the moisture has gone that's it! (2) food stuffs will only absorb the moisture it has lost. Any extra water just makes things runny, or is used up when you add the pasta/rice etc.

Phew … I'm going for a lie down now ;-)
 

chutes

Banned
May 6, 2012
43
0
Australia
Great post Bob.

I do the same thing as you - separate meal components, i.e. separate portions of dried mince, sauce, veggies, etc. I'm only a beginner though, 4th year of dehydrator experience.

If you like Mexican food like I do, homemade refried beans are a massive hit out bush. Rinse and then coarsely mash a tin of red kidney beans, add cracked pepper, sea salt and chilli to taste, spread it out on the tray and dehydrate on medium for about 5 hours. Vac seal or throw it in a ziplock bag. Now I just need to find some dehydrated sour cream :)

Santaman's tips about taking fresh food with you are spot on. Salami, bacon, etc. can all be made to last up to five days. Having fresh bacon and eggs on the morning of day five of a sea kayak trip is a massive morale booster. One more tip for fresh food - store it wrapped in paper rather than plastic. Plastic, along with light, makes cured meats sweat, which makes them go slimy, which breeds bacteria, which ends in tears and dysentery. By all means use al foil, but make sure the paper is touching the food.

@Jacko, you don't need a dehydrator to start drying your own foods at home. Your kitchen oven will do the job. Beef jerky in particular is better dried in the oven than the dehydrator in my opinion. Set the oven at around 80-90 deg C, place your food on trays, making sure it's not touching, throw the trays in the oven, prop the door open an inch or two at the top (very important) with a wooden spoon or similar, then maybe six hours later your jerky is done. Will also work for packets of frozen mixed vegetables if you're a herbivore.

I'd definitely recommend trying the oven drying before shelling out for a dehydrator. Dehydrators are more convenient than the oven.
 

Podcast Bob

Full Member
I think it might be worth adding here, that when you do dry anything, using the oven or a dehydrator, the moisture carries the smell with it. So a curry or fish meal can linger a long, LOooOOOnng while after you have finished.

As such we thankfully have a back kitchen where we leave the window open all night long for the smells to be released.
 

rik_uk3

Banned
Jun 10, 2006
13,320
20
65
south wales
The five minute rice is as good as home dried, cooks as quick and you don't need to do the work yourself, always worth keeping some in your supplies, seem to be a permanent BOGOF in Iceland stores and the Tesco 'Everyday' savoury rice is 16p a pack I think.
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Hi guys, again thanks for all your replys,
Bob, you bring up some great points that iv not even thought about before, and also given me some great information I couldn't get off of YouTube or reading on the net!!
Unfortunately you kind of have blown my ideas into touch though lol, my ideas were quite simply to buy a good quality sauce eg a nice tikka masala, and some good chicken breasts, cook as per normal but make sure the chicken is pea size,cook the rice a normal and add it to the curry, then pretty much let it cool right out and then stick in the dehydrator for 10 hours or overnight and hey presto a nice few back packing meals!! But from reading your great post that is really viable is it?
Starting think the mountain house meals etc are not that bad value after all lol!!!
I think I may have interpreted everything I have been told or read differently to how it actually works!! It would appear some people on YouTube do it the way I was thinking, Mr Babel fish is a prime example, but he obviously isn't getting the best out of his machine!!
Thanks everyone, keep em coming!!
Steve
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Sorry gents one other thing that I have just seen in bobs post that didn't hit me first time round, do you have to keep the dehydrated meals in the freezer?
Cheers
Steve
 

chutes

Banned
May 6, 2012
43
0
Australia
Sorry gents one other thing that I have just seen in bobs post that didn't hit me first time round, do you have to keep the dehydrated meals in the freezer?
Nope. As long as you've dehydrated it properly it'll keep well in the pantry in a ziplock bag. You can vac seal it if you're paranoid. Just make sure that you keep it out of the light.

Our forefathers didn't have freezers... then again, they also didn't write books on dehydrating food, thus leaving themselves open to litigation if some ****** were to store half-dehydrated tucker in the cupboard, later unwittingly serving themselves a lovely meal with a rich salmonella sauce.

I have kept dehydrated cooked mince for 12 months in an empty coffee jar in a tropical environment and eaten it out bush. As I type this, I have around 500g of dehydrated beef mince, vegetable and beans in ziplock bags in my camping box in the shed. This was dehydrated in November last year and it will be all crispy and fresh when I prepare it next time I go for an overnighter.

Research the topic some more if you're worried about it, but dehydrated food is very forgiving and has a long (non-freezer) shelf life.
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Nope. As long as you've dehydrated it properly it'll keep well in the pantry in a ziplock bag. You can vac seal it if you're paranoid. Just make sure that you keep it out of the light.

Our forefathers didn't have freezers... then again, they also didn't write books on dehydrating food, thus leaving themselves open to litigation if some ****** were to store half-dehydrated tucker in the cupboard, later unwittingly serving themselves a lovely meal with a rich salmonella sauce.

I have kept dehydrated cooked mince for 12 months in an empty coffee jar in a tropical environment and eaten it out bush. As I type this, I have around 500g of dehydrated beef mince, vegetable and beans in ziplock bags in my camping box in the shed. This was dehydrated in November last year and it will be all crispy and fresh when I prepare it next time I go for an overnighter.

Research the topic some more if you're worried about it, but dehydrated food is very forgiving and has a long (non-freezer) shelf life.
Well thats pretty much what I have read tbh, just keep the properly dehydrated food in sealed bags, which isnt a problem for me as I biught a decent vacuum sealer machine sme time ago, all I need is an excuse to use it lol, and keep it out of the light in a cool place.
Like you say an old fasioned pantry would be perfect!!
So what are the advantages of keeping the meals in a freezer? is it purly a safety net just in case the food isnt properly dehydrated and therefore killing any bacteria?
Cheers
Steve
 

chutes

Banned
May 6, 2012
43
0
Australia
Well thats pretty much what I have read tbh, just keep the properly dehydrated food in sealed bags, which isnt a problem for me as I biught a decent vacuum sealer machine sme time ago, all I need is an excuse to use it lol, and keep it out of the light in a cool place.
Like you say an old fasioned pantry would be perfect!!
So what are the advantages of keeping the meals in a freezer? is it purly a safety net just in case the food isnt properly dehydrated and therefore killing any bacteria?
Cheers
Steve
You'll get YEARs of storage life if you store it in the freezer, but it's more of a safety thing in case the novice dehydrator fails to research properly or doesn't follow instructions.
 

Podcast Bob

Full Member
Bacteria needs light, air and moisture to start working, and so the rule of thumb is to do as suggested above, keep it air tight as possible in a cupboard, at a cool temperature.

As I said in my long post. The idea of using the freezer, is that IF you have made a mistake and not dried it enough, then the freezing process will keep you from harm. It is always better to 'over dry' anyway, which I think everyone does out of 'just in case' habit.

I also find the freezer storage system easier to navigate when I want a handful of foods ready to go. But that's personal.

Of course Steve, you can do as you say and cook up a meal add the rice and spread it thinly on the dehydrator. From experience, I would suggest using chicken or turkey mince, rather than small pieces. Chicken is notorious for taking a long time to reconstitute.

As long as you 'cook' the sauce before drying it it'll be fine. It will be considerably cheaper than bought foods, and although these instant Rice Packets are cheap, there is a reason for it. If you are going to cook food, then at least buy some decent quality stuff!

I've tried a vacuum packer and where they fail or a bit annoying, is that the dried food get very brittle and 'sharp' (well enough to burst a plastic bag). Which means you can lose food when travelling. All these things can be overcome of course, but I'm just sharing my experience to save the hassle for others.

One thing dehydrators are very good at is making Jerky. And BOY do I have some great recipes to share when the time comes. ;-)
 

jacko1066

Native
May 22, 2011
1,689
0
march, cambs
Bacteria needs light, air and moisture to start working, and so the rule of thumb is to do as suggested above, keep it air tight as possible in a cupboard, at a cool temperature.

As I said in my long post. The idea of using the freezer, is that IF you have made a mistake and not dried it enough, then the freezing process will keep you from harm. It is always better to 'over dry' anyway, which I think everyone does out of 'just in case' habit.

I also find the freezer storage system easier to navigate when I want a handful of foods ready to go. But that's personal.

Of course Steve, you can do as you say and cook up a meal add the rice and spread it thinly on the dehydrator. From experience, I would suggest using chicken or turkey mince, rather than small pieces. Chicken is notorious for taking a long time to reconstitute.

As long as you 'cook' the sauce before drying it it'll be fine. It will be considerably cheaper than bought foods, and although these instant Rice Packets are cheap, there is a reason for it. If you are going to cook food, then at least buy some decent quality stuff!

I've tried a vacuum packer and where they fail or a bit annoying, is that the dried food get very brittle and 'sharp' (well enough to burst a plastic bag). Which means you can lose food when travelling. All these things can be overcome of course, but I'm just sharing my experience to save the hassle for others.

One thing dehydrators are very good at is making Jerky. And BOY do I have some great recipes to share when the time comes. ;-)
Thats a very good point indeed about sharp bits splitting the bag!! again I didnt think of that!!
How lng would you dry that mixture for Bob?

Im assuming when it drys it will be like sheet of coloured stuff, so how much do you normally break the dried mixture up?
Does it rehydrate better in larger or smaller chunks?
ever had chicken mince before, whats it like? Does it have the normal 'chickeny' flavour lol!!

Im very much looking forward to the book, I loooooove Jerky!!
All the best
Steve