How to Pre-treat Your Food Before You Dehydrate
Pre-treating food means treating the food in certain ways before dehydrating it. The most important benefit of dehydrating food is that it increases the shelf life of food. Pre-treating food can help further increase the shelf life, for instance honey dip, it can also help improve the appearance of the food by preventing drying. Let us look into Why and How to pre-treat food below.
Why Pre-Treat Food?
Now, dehydrating is a process of removing moisture content from the food, which thereby prevents microbial attack or growth of molds in the food. While there are a number of advantages dehydration offers, at times it can, at times affect the appearance of the fruit or vegetable being dried. As the presence of water in the fruit or vegetable gives it the shape and structure, removing moisture can make them look shriveled. Some fruits can be pre-treated before being put into the dehydrator. This can
- Improve their taste
- Enhance their appearance
- Increase their shelf life, helping them last even longer
- Give your end dish a phenomenal taste
What Are the Basic Different Methods of Pre-treatment?
Now as you know the advantages of pre-treating your food before dehydrating it, it becomes quintessential to know which of the food items should be pretreated as not all the fruits and vegetables require a pre-treatment. How to pre-treat the food items is the next important question, as pre-treating with lemon juice can give a nice citrus flavor to your dehydrated apples, while it can completely ruin the appearance of green vegetables like spinach or broccoli, by making them turn brown.
Types of Pre-treatments for Dehydrating Food Items:
- Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juice
- Honey Dip
- Cinnamon Sugar
- 1. Steam Blanching
- 2. Water Blanching
Let us take a detailed look into each one of these and the benefits offered by them to the fruits or vegetables being dried.
1) Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juice
For pre-treating with ascorbic acid, you can purchase the ready-made ascorbic acid powder, or it is highly recommended to opt for natural ascorbic acid present in the lime juice, orange juice or pineapple juice as this will impart freshness to the fruit being dehydrated. A dash of lemon juice or a squirt of pineapple juice gives the fruit being dehydrated a tart like a flavor to otherwise bland tasting fruits like apple, and prevents fruits like banana and apples from browning and enhances their aesthetic appearance.
Lemon juice should be diluted with water in a ratio of 1:4 and the thinly sliced fruit pieces should be dipped and quickly removed so as to prevent the buildup of added flavor and just prevent the browning of the fruit. The fruits become chewier, for instance, apples.
Drawback: If the fruit is left in the dipping solution for longer duration that needed, the citrus might mask the original taste of the fruit, which you may not be liked in all cases.
2) Honey Dip
For preparing a honey dip, you need to boil a half cup of sugar in one and a half cup of water and then leave the solution to cool down. When it is slightly warm add a two-third cup of honey in the solution constantly stirring it. Dip the fruit slices in the honey solution for few minutes, then drain the slices on blotting paper and place it on dehydrator racks for drying.
Soaking the fruit slices in honey dip helps increase the shelf life of the dehydrated product by increasing the sugar content in the fruit. This aids in the better preservation of the food. The honey dash gives the fruits a kick of sweetness to the fruit for you to relish.
Drawback: However, for health conscious people, the drawback is higher calorie counts brought by the sugar addition.
3) Cinnamon Sugar
You can sprinkle fruits like apples with cinnamon or cinnamon sugar to enhance their flavor. This can be done even after dipping the apples in the lemon water solution.
Blanching is usually done for vegetables; nevertheless, it can be done for some fruits as well. Blanching is basically of two types – Steam blanching and Water blanching. It involves boiling the fruits or vegetables briefly in water or steam to pre-cook them before dehydrating. It reduces the time taken to dehydrate the food significantly and also kills the microorganisms which may lead to spoilage of the food. Blanching also helps reduce the browning.
Drawback: The drawback is that it may change the texture and flavor of some fruits or vegetables, not always for bad. For instance, it alters the texture of pears and apples by making them light and comparatively less chewy. This depends on how you like your dehydrated food to be.
How to Pre-treat Different Fruits and Vegetables?
Different fruits and vegetable need a different type of pre-treatment.
Table I – The table below helps you take a quick glance at how to pre-treat different fruits:
|Fruit||Recommended Method Of Pre-Treatment|
|Apples||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Apricots||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Banana||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Blueberries||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Cherries||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Cranberries||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Figs||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Grapes||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Kiwi||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Nectarines||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Peaches||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Pears||Ascorbic Acid/Lemon Juices Mixture|
|Pineapples||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Plums/Prunes||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Rhubarb||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Strawberries||No Pre-treatment Needed|
Table II – The table below helps you take a quick glance at how to pre-treat different vegetables:
|Vegetable||Recommended Method Of Pre-Treatment|
|Asparagus||Water blanching for 3 to 4 minutes/ Steam blanching for 4 to 5 minutes|
|Beans, Green/wax||Water blanching for 2 minutes/ Steam blanching for 2 minutes|
|Beets||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Broccoli||Water blanching for 2 minutes/ Steam blanching for 3 to 3½ minutes|
|Carrots||Water blanching for 3 minutes/ Steam blanching for 3 to 3½ minutes|
|Cauliflower||Water blanching for 3 to 4 minutes/ Steam blanching for 4 to 5 minutes|
|Celery||Water blanching for 2 minutes/ Steam blanching for 2 minutes|
|Corn||Water blanching for 1½ minutes/ Steam blanching for 2 to 2½ minutes|
|Mushroom||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Onion||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Peas||Water blanching for 2 minutes/ Steam blanching for 3 minutes|
|Peppers||No Pre-treatment Needed|
|Potatoes||Water blanching for 5 to 6 minutes/ Steam blanching for 6 to 8 minutes|
|Summer Squash and Zucchini||Water blanching for 1½ minutes/ Steam blanching for 2 to 3 minutes|
|Tomatoes||No Pre-treatment Needed|
Herbs usually do not require any pre-treatment. Large leafy herbs, for instance, Basil etc. should be dried by removing their stem, to expedite the drying process
Knowing the correct way to pre-treat your food will not only enhance the flavor of your food but also increase the shelf life of the dried snack and improve its appearance. At times pre-treating the fruit or vegetable can also help reduce the drying time and help you save the power consumption and the get the ready to eat snack done in much less time.