We were discussing drying our own foods on the talk group the other day. Found this in my old Boy Scout Field Book…. of all places. Would likely be much more energy efficient to use an actual food dryer but it does talk about some steps to avoid spoilage that I hadn’t considered….
Dehydrate Your Own Food
Commercial processors market hundreds of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, though you can dehydrate your own meat, fruits, and vegetables in an oven at home. Here’s how.
To make beef jerky, slice a pound of lean beef into strips about 1/4-inch wide, cutting with the grain. Season strips with a little salt and pepper, then drape them over the bars of the rack in your oven. Place a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drippings, and leave the oven door open just a crack to let moisture escape.
Turn the oven’s temperature control to its lowest setting-around 120 deg F and let the meat dry for about 8-hours until it is shriveled, chewy, and delicious. Seal the jerky in plastic bags and you’ve got a great addition to your back country larder.
You can dehydrate vegetables and fruit in much the same way. Begin with fresh, ripe produce. Wash it well, remove cores and stems, and slice it thinly. Next, break down natural enzymes that could speed deterioration by briefly steaming the fruits and vegetables in a colander or vegetable steamer placed in a large pot, containing 1/2 inch of water. Cover pot, put it on the burner, and bring the water to a boil. In a few minutes the produce should be limp and ready for oven drying.
To prevent slices of fruits and vegetables from falling through an oven rack, tightly stretch cheesecloth or a tea towel over the rack and secure it with safety pins. Spread the slices on the cloth. Check after about 8 hours for the fruit to be dry but not brittle, pack them in plastic bags. During a trek you can eat them as they are, add them to dishes you are cooking, or soak them a few hours in water to restore their original sizes and shapes.