Dehydration of food is a very quick and easy method to preserve any food you have (mostly foods with a certain water content). Dehydrated foods are very useful for hikers and campers, since the weight, most of which they have to carry in their backpacks, can be significantly reduced by simply carrying dry food. It still retains its nutritional value, occupies very little space in your backpack and the weight is negligible.
Basically, to dehydrate your own food at home you will need some kind of system. In general, a good way to ensure that the dehydration process is carried out without problems is to keep the food vertically in plates with holes (so that there is air ventilation both from above and from below). Sometimes, this may be a small problem, since foods at lower levels may not receive fresh air from above, as higher levels block the passage.
To avoid this problem, place foods with lower water content in the lower levels, and those with higher water content in the upper level, for example. Fruits, vegetables, etc. Of course, you should keep in mind that different foods can, over time, absorb the odors of others, which can be annoying if you are drying beef with apples. Therefore, better keep different types of food away, and dry fruits and vegetables away from meat, etc.
DIY electric food dehydrator
To make sure that your home dehydrator works, it is to follow some simple guidelines. First, you need a source of heat, possibly the dehydrator should have a fan and should blow hot (hot) air into the food.
The air must flow freely between all layers of the dehydrator. In general, the fans are placed below the lowest level or to the side, so they distribute the hot air evenly among all the levels.
This is what you will need to make your own dehydrator with items that you do not have to look for in special stores:
- Large box (preferably you must have wings to close later)
- Source of light and / or heat.
- Wood slats / slats
First, take the cardboard box and place aluminum foil on its inner walls. Use the tape to attach the foil to the box so that it is firmly attached. Then make a small hole in the bottom of the box. This is where you will place the heat / light source to generate heat.
The hole should be small and well insulated. Be very careful to keep the cable away from the aluminum foil (if possible, insulate the cable with more tape). Since aluminum foil does not allow moisture to move away, some of it may remain near the cables (if exposed) and cause a short circuit, which may cause a fire.
Then cut the holes on the sides so you can place the wooden racks / slats through them. You can also use PVC pipes for this purpose. Everything depends on your imagination. These should go exactly in the center of your box.
Then, make small holes in the top of the box. In this way moisture can escape from above. Our advice is to have many smaller holes, instead of many larger holes. It works much better for your purposes. You can also place a small hole in each edge, not just the top surface.
When you have done all this, place the grids on top of the slats and you are ready to put your food for the test. Place the heating source just below the grilles. Then you have to close the box and let the moisture come out of the holes only. Do not leave the box unattended.
You can extend this system by having several levels of slats and racks, so you can dehydrate more foods at once.
Homemade solar food dehydrator
Solar dehydrators are very popular among people who prefer it simple and easy. It costs you nothing (besides the materials) and you let everything be done by the heat of the sun.
The mechanism behind this is to keep the air moving inside the dehydrator, but not too fast, or the temperature will naturally decrease. It needs to be high to remove moisture from food, but to move slightly to let moisture out of the box.
First, you need to make the frame of the whole dehydrator. Size does not matter, since it depends on your needs and plans on the amount of food you want to dry at the same time. One side should be at an angle so you can look at the sun, almost like a real solar panel.
The rest should be like a cube. You can use pieces of metal or wood to build the frame. Keep the front panel facing the sun. Your frame should have parallel slats so that you can then place the food grates there. You must point to square shapes all the time. The lower frame should be used for any fan or ventilation, in which a net fabric will then be placed.
The next one is the door frame. It should also be in a rectangular shape and it will face you. It will be placed vertically on the opposite side to the one facing the sun. When the door frame is ready, place it on one side, as you will have to place it at the end.
Then come the trays. You can use wooden slates, which you can place on both sides of the dehydrator frame. The trays have to be perfectly parallel, since they will be used for the grids, where they will place their food.
Now is the time to use a polycarbonate sheet to cover the entire side, facing the sun. Then proceed to place the sheet on the sides and vertical front side. Also, place part of the sheet just above where the door frame begins. To cut the polycarbonate sheet, you can use a box cutter, or galvanize it first where cut, since that makes it much easier.
Make holes with a drill where you will put the leaves and use screws to do it. They must be perfectly united and flat on the frame. Now you can place a network with small holes like vents on the front and rear of the dehydrator. This is to make sure no insect comes in contact with your food. One of the vents should be just below the door, so that it generates ventilation from the bottom up.
Since this is also done, you are almost there. We recommend that you seal all the edges where the materials touch each other. This is to make sure there are no small holes uncovered, since you do not want insects in your food. To seal the edges use silicone putty. Also, paint all interiors (walls and doors) black. This will attract light and warm the interior much faster.
Finally you need to make the trays or racks. However, make many trays for which you have support (if you remember those side wooden slats that you placed at the beginning). Use wooden trays. Set the screws aside so you can place the trays carefully on the wood supports, but do so that it is easy to slide the trays in and out.
Finally, the door frame arrives. Make sure it is covered with a sheet of polycarbonate (or a piece of wood) and fix it to the main frame of the dehydrator with screws and hinges. Paint it also black inside. As all this is done now, let the dehydrator stay in the sun for several days, so that all the paint and other odors from the manufacturing process escape. Otherwise, they will mix with the food you put inside.
It is always a good practice to keep a thermometer inside the dehydrator. This way you can control the temperature and know when the process is at full speed. The ideal temperature should be around 130 degrees F (54 degrees C). In case the temperature is lower, you can place a cloth in the lower vent so that the heat is retained and the temperature increases slightly.
Another version of a solar dehydrator is called a basic solar dehydrator. Basically, it takes almost the same shape as that described above, but the wall facing the sun starts from top to bottom (unlike the previous version, which has an angled part and a vertical part towards the sun).
In this basic version, the side facing the sun can be covered with a transparent plastic sheet (preferably thick enough) or even with a glass sheet. Your frame is not that complicated, but you should have a vent on the bottom again. You can make all the wood dehydrator and keep only the plastic or glass in the window and look inside to see how the process works.
You can also make the plastic or glass sheet the door to save time to do it.
Another version of the solar dryer. It is the one with a horizontal top, almost like a table.
You need to build a table structure with legs and a horizontal plane. Preferably do it 2 by 4 feet, so you have two squares side by side.
Then build two squares made of wood frame and fix a durable net to the bottom of each square frame. Make the frames so that when they are placed on the table structure, there is space under the square frames and the table. It must have ventilated air from all directions, even from below. To do that, you can place protrusions, such as placing screws in each corner, so that when you place the square mesh frames, they will be slightly raised over the base. Therefore, the air will enter and leave just below the food.
Next, build another frame of this type in the shape of two squares, 2 by 4 feet. Place metal sheets or polycarbonate sheets and screw them firmly to the frame. Paint the sheet in a dark color (preferably black) to drive more heat). This frame should be placed carefully over the two squares that you created in the second step.
You can simplify this dryer without building a complete table structure. You can simply make the base and then place it anywhere horizontally: on chairs, on other tables or on horizontal surfaces. Of course, it is better to keep it at an accessible level (better not at ground level) or you do not know how insects can be introduced.
Again, use a thermometer to measure the temperature and adjust it if necessary. If you want to do this, you may want to bend the entire adjustment slightly at an angle (for example, 87 degrees). This will create slightly stronger air ventilation. If you need the temperature to rise, you can try to cover some of the vents and cracks with a thin cloth, but otherwise the moisture will not escape.
This configuration does not require you to install any additional ventilation, although you can do so. If you do, place it under the two square mesh frames, just below the food. Since it will be very close to your food, keep it at low speed and let it blow gently. Also, to make sure the food dries evenly, cut them into very small pieces, preferably the same size. The smaller the pieces of food, the faster the dehydration process will be.
All these variations can be modified according to your needs, as long as they generate the necessary heat and ventilation within the space assigned for the food. It is crucial that the food is placed in a net or grid to ensure that food touches any surface as little as possible. The process will be much faster in this way.
To make the above dehydrators you do not need expensive materials. All this can be done with tools and materials present in almost all houses. Even if you have to buy something, it can be cheap and accessible. And after a few days, you will have your own dry products and enjoy your hiking or camping experience.
CONSERVATION OF FOOD