Week 33 Preparedness Challenge
This week’s challenge is to add dried fruit to your food storage. Now is a great time because fruits are plentiful and ready to harvest. Fruit may be processed in several ways to remove water to preserve it. Dehydrating with or without preservation chemicals and freeze drying are the primary drying methods. You can choose to buy dehydrated fruit or make plans to dehydrate fruit at home.
What Exactly Are Dried Fruits?
Drying fruits is an ancient practice and has been perfected by modern techniques. Dried fruits have a portion of the water content removed through dehydration or freeze-drying. Commercially dried fruit range from soft and pliable to crisp and snappish. In freeze-drying food is frozen and then water is removed by turning the frozen ice crystals into vapor. The product retains its shape and is porous, allowing it to be easily reconstituted.
Commercially dried fruit such as raisins, prunes, apricots, and peaches have a moisture content of twenty to twenty-five percent. These dried fruits may be treated with sulfur dioxide which is a preservative that helps make them soft and pliable as compared with non-sulfured dehydrated fruit. Dried fruit have a shelf life of about one year.
Many fruits can be purchased dehydrated or successfully dehydrated at home. Properly stored, the shelf life of dehydrated fruits is about a year. However, when packaged in #10 cans with oxygen absorbers, dehydrated fruits have a shelf life of twenty-five or more years.
Freeze-dried fruits are light-weight, with 98% of their moisture removed, and retain their shape. Commonly freeze-dried fruits include strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, mangoes, peaches, and apples. They are delicious eaten in their dry state but can quickly be reconstituted with a little water. If properly stored, freeze-dried fruit will stay shelf-stable for twenty-five or more years.
What Are the Advantages of Using and Storing Dried Fruit?
DRIED FRUITS TASTE GOOD
Dried fruit’s sweet nature makes it appealing to children—adults, too. It’s a handy snack and simple to use in an emergency. It adds flavor and texture to baked goods, oatmeal, salads, and main dishes.
DRIED FRUIT COMES IN A WIDE VARIETY
There is an amazing variety of fruits that are commercially dehydrated or freeze-dried, and many are available at grocery stores. They are usually sold in snack-size or pantry-size packages. Look for resealable packaging and store packages in airtight containers or in a freezer to preserve freshness and prevent contamination from insects. Dried fruit is an easy food to have and eat in an emergency.
DRIED FRUIT IS NUTRIOUS
Dried fruit is nutrient rich. Dried fruits are loaded with good nutrients—antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also calorie dense which makes them a good survival food.
DRIED FRUIT IS COMPACT
Dried fruit takes up a fraction of the space of fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. Because it doesn’t take up much room, it’s ideal for a survival backpack or a grab-and-go bag. Likewise, it uses space efficiently in a food storage room.
DRIED FRUIT IS VERSATILE
Dried fruit requires no extra preparation and can be eaten straight from the package which makes it an ideal emergency food. But dried fruit can also perk up cereals, salads, main dishes, and baked goods.
How to Buy Dried Fruit
The most common dried fruit is raisins. Other traditional dried fruits are dates, figs, prunes, and apricots. Their high sugar content makes them soft and pliable after drying. Other popular dehydrated fruits include apples, peaches, apricots, cherries. Some fruits like pineapple, mangos, bananas, and cranberries are dried and processed with added sugar.
For a huge assortment of dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits, check out nuts.com. This specialty company sell a huge variety of high-quality dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits and nuts.
If you’re interested in adding fruit to your long-term storage, you can purchase #10 cans of dehydrated apples quite economically from the Home Storage Centers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Dehydrated apples in #10 cans have a storage life of 30 years if stored properly. Augason Farms and Rainy Day Foods also sell dehydrated fruit in #10 cans.
This Week’s Challenge
How Much is Twenty Servings of Dehydrated Fruit?
- Twenty two-ounce snack packs of dried fruit
- Twenty ¼-cup servings of raisins in a two-pound package
- Twenty ½-cup servings of dehydrated apples in a #10 can
How Much Fruit Should You Store?
Start with the simple preparedness challenge and store twenty servings of dried fruit per person. But then ask yourself a few questions. How will your family have access to fruit in an emergency? Do you have easy access to fresh fruit? Do you anticipate that there will be fresh fruit available in grocery stores? Are you able to grow some of your own fruit? What types of fruit will be best for your situation? Do you want to store other forms of fruit such as frozen or canned? How long a time are you planning for?
IT’S SIMPLE TO CALCULATE HOW MUCH FRUIT YOU NEED TO STORE
One way to determine how much fruit you need is to multiply the number of days you are planning for, times how many servings per day, times how many people you are storing food for.
So, if you want one serving a day for four people for one month here is how you calculate it: 30 days x 1 servings x 4 people equals 120 servings. As an example, a #10 can of dehydrated apples has 20 servings, so you would need six cans of dehydrated apples for 120 servings.
What Is the Shelf Life for Dehydrated Fruits?
The shelf life for dehydrated fruits purchased at the grocery store or that you dehydrate yourself is one year. That means your dehydrated fruits will last from harvest to harvest. That works out great if you use the dehydrated fruits you store throughout the year and have means for dehydrating more in the coming harvest.
If you want to “store and forget,” then I recommend that you store commercially dehydrated or freeze-dried fruit that is designed for long term storage. It is usually processed with sodium sulfide as a preservative and oxygen absorbers to minimize oxidation. The storage life is twenty-five years or more.
What Are the Best Methods for Dehydrating Your Own Fruit?
Dehydrating is one of the easiest ways to preserve food, and fruits are among the easiest foods to dehydrate!
Sun-drying is the oldest form of food preservation, and you can use this method to dehydrate fruits. But you will need to worry about rigging up dehydrating trays, possibly turning fruit from time to time, keeping insects off the fruit, and, of course, having reliable sunshine. It is also tricky to know how long it takes to dry fruit in the sun because there are so many variables. Once you have figured out a sun-drying system, sun drying is inexpensive. Instructables Workshop has a nifty compact, foldable Solar Dryer Box design worth looking at.
You can use your oven to dehydrate fruits, but it is also challenging. Begin by putting fruit on a silicone-lined cookie sheets and drying at your lowest oven temperature. Although this can be successful, not all ovens have a low enough temperature setting, so you tend to get fruit with a hard outside and not completely dry inside. You are also limited by the number of oven racks and end up using a lot of energy for a small amount of dried fruit.
FRUIT DRIED IN A FOOD DEHYDRATOR
Dehydrating with a food dehydrator is easy. Several styles of dehydrators are available, and they vary in capacity and cost. Some styles are round with the air distributed vertically from the bottom up like the Nesco Garden Master Pro or rectangular with the air distributed horizontally like the Excalibur Dehydrator, Dehydrators have from five to ten trays and may have a timer and manual or automatic settings.
What Do You Need to Dehydrate Your Own Fruits?
TOOLS FOR DEHYDRATING FRUITS
Besides a dehydrating method, you will need a few basic kitchen tools like a paring knife, vegetable peeler, and colander. A couple of specialty tools will make it faster to prepare fruit. An apple peeler on a wooden stand is a time-saving tool, although you may prefer to dry apples with the skins left on. An apple corer or apple slicer are also handy. I recently discovered a nifty apple slicer that slices an apple into sixteen thin slices, perfect for dehydrating. A mandolin slicer along with a protective cut-resistant cutting glove will be useful for slicing firm fruits.
- Paring knife
- vegetable peeler
- Apple peeler, corer, slicer
- Apple slicer
- Cut-resistant gloves
How Can You Keep Peaches and Other Fruit from Sticking to Food Dehydrator Trays
Have you had the problem of trying to dry peach slices and having them stick to the dehydrator trays? After some experimenting we solved the problem. Instead of lying peach slices on their sides, I cut the peaches into little-bit-bigger wedges—about eight slices per peach—and rested the bottom of the wedges on the trays. This put much less surface of the peach in contact with the trays. It worked great! I had no problem removing the dried wedges from the dehydrator trays. When the peaches seemed dry—pliable but not crunchy and not wet inside—I put them into big resealable bags and left them for a week or so to even out the dryness. Then, I packaged them into smaller resealable bags. I stored them in our freezer but they have also been fine on the pantry shelf, too.
Is a Home Freeze Dryer for You?
The latest contribution to food preservation at home is the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer—a home appliance that will freeze-dry food. Food that is made using this dryer is excellent and rivals commercial freeze-dried foods.
It uses a refrigeration condenser that freezes food to a very low temperature (-40°F). A vacuum pump creates a vacuum inside the drying chamber, which pulls off the ice crystals, which then change to vapor and evaporate. It will handle both fresh and cooked foods, including combination meals.
ADVANTAGES TO FREEZE-DRYING
- Preserve a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and cooked entrées
- Quality of product, including taste, texture, color, and nutrition, is maintained
- Long storage life when properly stored
- Reconstitute quickly and completely
DISADVANTAGES TO FREEZE-DRYING
- The biggest limitation is cost, but look for prices to continue to come down
- Requires a dedicated counter space or storage space
- A batch uses about $4.00 of electricity
In my book “Crisis Preparedness Handbook, Third Edition,” find out more about dehydrated and freeze-dried foods and dehydrating fruits at home, as well as help for other types of home food preservation and all areas of food storage and emergency preparedness. You can find it on my website CrisisPreparedness.com. Or, find it on Amazon as a regular book or in the Kindle version.
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