Drying foods is one of the oldest methods of food preservation known to man. With the invention of refrigerators, freezers, and home canning, dehydration has declined in homes. Most modern day people who dehydrate foods for storage use electric appliances rather than the free methods that our forefathers used. That would be using the sun and fire – both perfectly good sources of heat for removing moisture from foods to make them last in storage. This helps create a more self-sufficient food supply which you can stretch to last for longer periods of time.
Dehydrating Food Without Electricity
During the summer our food sources are varied and bountiful. Greens are free for the picking, fruits grow wild on trees and bushes, and gardeners have more veggies than they can use. Canning, freezing, pickling, and using root cellars, are all great methods of preserving your harvest. But what if you do not have electricity? For long term storage of a variety of different foods, dehydration may be your best bet. Drying removes most of the moisture from foods, making it resistant to spoilage, lightweight, nutrient dense and easy to store.
Drying foods with an electric dehydrator is simple. However, without electricity you should to know how to dry your foods using the sun and/or fire as a source of warm, dry air for dehydrating.
FRUITS and VEGETABLES – If you live in an arid part of the world, drying food will be fairly easy. You can hang thin slices of fruits and vegetables by stringing them on monofilament fishing line or arrange them on a screen in full sun during the day and cover them at night to keep the dew off them. If you live in a rainy climate or in the north, where the heat from the sun may not be reliable enough, you may need to dry your foods over the fire.
MEATS – Unless it is really hot and dry, you still need to dry meats over a fire to keep flies or other insects from laying their eggs on the meat.
For either, when preparing the foods for drying, you will need to slice them into thin pieces and place them in a current of warm dry air that will remove moisture without actually cooking the foods. Too much heat will dry the exterior of the food too quickly, trapping moisture inside.
There are also commercially made “natural” dehydrator screens with covers available.
These allow warm air to flow freely through the screens while keeping the foods protected from unwanted pests. Otherwise, similar devices can also be constructed with a little ingenuity. For example, if you have a few old window frames and screens lying around, you could lay your foods out on them in the full sun and place the window as a cover above them on the south side at a slant. Otherwise a clear plastic sheeting cover would also work. This will prevent birds from eating or defecating on your foods, will build up warmth, and the slant will allow condensation to run down the window rather than drip back onto the foods.
For the best drying methods, remove as much moisture from your foods as possible. When you buy dried foods from the store, they often have some moisture left in them and will keep well because they are also preserved with sulfites. When dehydrating foods “naturally” (without artificial preservatives), you will need to dry them to the point that they are crispy, leathery, and hard to chew. You can rehydrate the food just before eating by adding some water, or even lightly boiling (or blanching).
Store your dried foods in plastic bags or glass mason jars with metal or canning lids, screwed on tight. If you have Co2 absorbers, use them. One tip is to save up the little packets of silica gel that come in shoe boxes and drop one or two of them in a jar with your dried foods to soak up any moisture that might get in. *(Make sure you do not later accidentally add them into your food prepared for eating).
Keep your dried food in a dark, dry place with the coolest temperatures you can manage. If you don’t have refrigeration, you can set up a cold storage room on the side of your cabin or house. An unheated room will also work. The colder and dryer your storage area, the longer the food will last. Light will cause vitamins to break down, so keep it dark.
More details at Source Article: The Prepper Project – Dehydrating Food Without Electricity