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I noticed that when you talked about doing grated carrots you said to use your fruit roll-up trays. Do you need to use them when doing slender slices of celery? I was looking at your finished picture of the celery and it looked like the fruit roll-up tray was used. Is that correct?

Also, you mentioned that the celery as with the carrots, that they are to be leathery when completely dry. I'm wanting to store these in airtight containers and want to know how long the shelf life would be? It seems to me that it would be for only a few months if they are in a leathery state of dryness.

I have dried my carrots until they are easily snapped and completely dry to be sure they will last several years. And, btw I'm using a Nesco Md. 61 with 8 trays. I look forward to hearing from you soon! Ron

Hi Ron, first of all, thanks for taking time to write in!

Regarding the celery slices, they were on a "Clean-A-Screen" and not on one of the solid fruit roll-up sheets. Sometimes the very smallest piece of celery will 'drop through', but so long as you keep your dehydrator meticulously clean, there's nothing wrong with keeping the 'droppings' that fall into the very bottom! :-)

Leathery means just a bit pliable, but I agree with you, I dehydrate mine until they're brittle! The more brittle the better, because that means we've extracted the max amount of water – thereby they'll 'last longer'.

I also agree that 'leathery' = 'a few months' and 'brittle' = 'a few years'! Eight trays - wow, that's the way to go Ron! Cheers, Susan

Question: I am just beginning the dehydrating process and have been confused about dehydrating cooked meats. Do they always have to go into the fridge? Is there a way to dehydrate meats, vacuum seal, and then put on the shelf? Can you dehydrate cooked hot dog slices?

There must be a way to dehydrate meats or make jerky that can be stored on shelves or put into my bug out bag for the future. Please help me learn about the meat process. Thanks, Karen

Hi Karen, sorry for the confusion!

Cooked meats can be dehydrated and vacuum sealed (with an oxy-pack thrown in prior to vacuum sealing) and can last for a few months (up to six months, depending on how fatty your meat was – fat goes rancid fast!) without refrigeration.

I mention refrigeration on the site mainly if you aren't using an oxypack AND vacuum sealing - i.e. are just storing the meat in a Ziploc bag for immediate consumption.

Thanks for writing in – and again, apologies for not being clear -- Susan

Christy posted on FB: How long do you think dehydrated tomatoes will last in the mason jars without an Oxygen absorber?

Hi Christy, thanks for posting! Bit of a tricky question really because it depends how often you open the jar ... obviously the longer it remains sealed, the longer the tomatoes will last. To make them last longer though without an oxypack, consider adding olive oil with some dried herbs ... very tasty! But to answer your question, they'd probably be good for a few weeks – just check for any mold appearing (that is, without the added oil). Cheers, Susan

Can you address the lower temp for dehydrating that many experts say will keep the enzymes alive in foods? I want to be sure that what I dehydrate is nutritious and does not have the good stuff heated out. I'm so glad to have discovered your book and your approach about "preparedness". I love your web site as well. Wish you were a neighbor! :) Carol in St Pete, FL

Hi Carol! We practically ARE neighbors, I'm over on the other side of the state, near Vero Beach! Thanks also for your encouraging words regarding the website and book - it means a lot to me. Regarding your question about lower temps: Drying food does minimally impact the fruit/veggies' nutritional value, but no-where near as much as canning or freezing does. I'm sure you know that drying at a low temperature for long periods prevents/reduces the 'case-hardening' effect, whereby the outer skins get crusty and stops airflow reaching the center of the food. By using low heat, it vastly helps to retain the food's nutritional value.

We also blanch many foods, so that the skin cracks which aids in dehydrating. Unfortunately blanching does reduce Vitamins A and C in foods containing those vitamins. So as to keep even more of the nutritive value of RE-hydrated foods, simply USE the water you REhydrated the foods in, IN the actual recipe (where appropriate of course, such as soups and stews). I hope this helps and thanks for writing in!

Trina wrote in to ask: Can we eat the dried veggies? Are they really hard? I'm thinking of them as a snack for traveling ...

Hi Trina, first of all, thanks for taking time to write in, appreciate it!

Trina, regarding eating dried veggies: If you don't cut them too small or dehydrate them to a very crisp consistency, I think you could eat them like snacks, but bear in mind that when they are fully dehydrated, they do tend to become very brittle, and that's not going to be easy on the mouth and throat to swallow – so safety-first!

This is where "fresh food" trumps every other kind of food!

Easy Food Dehydrating & Safe Food Storage

Now then, dehydrated fruit is another matter. We've all seen dehydrated apricots in the stores and dehydrated grapes (raisins), but they don't get to that brittle stage when we dehydrate them. They remain chewy.

Why not do a test batch by dehydrating large pieces of veggies before your next trip, and see what you think. If you don't or can't eat them, I suggest you save them in proper vacuum-sealed bags with oxypacks. That way, there's nothing lost!

Derik needs to know: What is the Shelf life of home-dried grapes?

Hi Derik, thanks for posting! Home-dried grapes have the same shelf life of store-bought ones, but in our favor we have nothing 'extra' added to ours, such as sugar. They will last even longer when they are properly packaged in vacuum-sealed bags, with an oxypack tucked in!

Can you dehydrate butternut squash if you've roasted it already? I'd like to make it into a powder if possible.

Fiona, if you've roasted your butternut squash with added oil, then that could add a rogue rancid-element in the drying process. If your squash just had salt and pepper added, for instance, then there'd probably be no harm in trying. Roasting creates a tough exterior (think roast potatoes –  yummy!) but that may make it difficult to sufficiently dehydrate the butternut squash – as in 'case hardening'. Try it, and let us know how it turned out. Thanks for posting!

Hi, This is great info for a beginning dehydrator like me! Do all dry foods need to be "Conditioned"? I have missed this step in other instructions. Thanks, Linda

Hi Linda, basically the answer is "yes". It helps you to make sure that the foods really are dry enough. Case in point are mushrooms! They can really fool you, and when you visit them after their first "conditioning", you'll be surprised at just how "damp" they still are! So back on the dehydrator they go. Most other foods, though, are usually fine after sitting around in their conditioning (Ziploc) bag, just once. Glad you appreciate the info.! Thanks for posting – Susan

I have a box of frozen apricots and I want to dehydrate them. Question: They are frozen, which I read on your site is OK, but do I have to defrost them first and put in lemon juice to prevent browning? - Antoinette in SD.

Hi Antoinette! When I dehydrate frozen peas, I don't let them thaw out first, but they don't contain mass amounts of water – but I think frozen apricots might. You could let them sit in the sink in a sieve for an hour or two to let excess water drain off. Then put them in a glass bowl and toss gently with lemon juice. Try and make the apricots uniform in size, and that might mean cutting up some big pieces. You are now "good to go"! Thanks for writing in!

I have an old (15+years old) Nesco American Harvest dehydrator. I just love it. I use it all the time, fruits, veggies, and dried flowers, leathers and etc. My question is how many trays can I stack at the same time. I have a friend that said he does 12 trays at a time! Mine is old and I don't want to ruin any food or the dehydrator. I have only used 8 trays at a time. Thank you so much. Helena in Alaska.

Hi Helena, thanks so much for taking time to write in, appreciate it! Well, Bravo to your Nesco! 15 years old? Wow, way to go! If you're comfortable using eight trays and your "Nessie" always does a good job, why change? Obviously the more trays you use, the more you can dry at any one time, but, (and there's always a but!) it obviously will take longer to dry more trays! Using more trays won't make your heater work any harder, but it does mean that it will have to remain "on" longer. That's my two-cents!

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