Dad was a big proponent of freezing, and we always had a freezer full of game and fish. I remember one winter when he had gone on a job down in South Louisiana after a hurricane. The fishing fleet was bringing in shrimp that had been broken in the storm, and you could buy ungraded shrimp off the boats for ten cents a pound. At one point, the entire freezer was filled with shrimp. Have you ever gotten tired of eating shrimp? I did that summer. With Dad filling the freezer, Mom had to can the produce from the garden.
When the trays are full, and stacked one atop the other, she puts the lid on the dehydrator, and takes it outside to plug in. She takes the machine outdoors because it makes noise, it generates heat, and it blows that hot air right out the top of it. She lets it run for eight hours then brings it in at night. She brings it indoors because she doesn't want the dew setting on it, she doesn't want to take the chance of the veggies re-hydrating in the moist night air, and she doesn't want the neighborhood dogs sniffing around it.
The next day she lets it run for another eight hours, then checks the vegetables for dryness. When they are dry enough to store, they have a leathery feel.
To the right, you'll see what the tomatoes look like when they are completely dry. Momma packages them in zipper bags and puts them in her cupboard. No refrigeration is necessary. To re-hydrate them, put them in water. To thicken soup, just drop a handful in the soup stock.
I can see a huge benefit to using a dehydrator for camping and hunting. Those little tomato slices are wonderful eaten right out of the bag, like potato chips. A handful of dried tomatoes on a deer stand would take the place of some less healthy snack. They don't need refrigeration, so they wouldn't take up any ice-chest room. They won't spoil unless they get wet, so keep them dry and they should stay preserved indefinitely. If for some reason they get wet in a sudden downpour, make chili with them that night.
You can dry okra, squash, eggplant, fruits, almost anything that you don't want to can. Dried peaches are excellent. I'm gonna save my pennies and get me a dehydrator. I bet it makes great jerky. I'll keep y'all updated.
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