Let me begin with a caveat: Any time I say something on here that doesn’t sound quite right to you, please check it out for yourself. Don’t always assume I know what I’m talking about! Really! Ask Vince! 🙂
Yesterday a reader commented that she was not aware that dehydrating food made it safe for storage outside the fridge or freezer. She thought only canning was safe for that type storage. I wouldn’t want to poison any of my readers so I did some research just to confirm that it’s safe and that we haven’t just been lucky through the years. Yes, if properly dehydrated, foods are safe to store without refrigeration. The recommended length of time they can be stored varies greatly depending on the source of information. Some things I’ve read say the food is safe for one year, some say 5 years, some say 30 years . . and everything in between. I have had dehydrated veggies that were great after 2 years but I’ve never kept any longer than that simply because we consume them. Dry beans that you buy in the store are simply dehydrated beans. Meat jerky is dehydrated meat.
Today I’m talking about dehydrating potatoes because I’m up to my eyeballs in potatoes right now. Almost any food can be dehydrated. I mentioned yesterday that I dehydrated jalapeno peppers and made ground jalapeno pepper. I’ve dehydrated a ton of tomatoes, run them through the food processor, then sifted them and had tomato powder to add to soups or stews. It adds a fresh tomato taste! Fruits can be dehydrated as slices or fruit leathers can be made. Herbs can be dehydrated. Really . . almost anything.
I have never dehydrated anything and been unhappy with the results once it was re-hydrated. I think potatoes, squash and eggplant are some of the foods I love dehydrating because I get so much better results than with freezing or canning. One year I canned a bunch of eggplant because I knew I didn’t like it frozen. All of it got dumped. It was so mushy I could hardly even look at it!
So . . here’s how I dehydrate potatoes. If anything looks suspect to you, as always, please do your research and make your own determinations about the safety of what I am doing.
First, potatoes have to be fully cooked. They can be sliced and blanched but I’m not real sure if blanching means cooked through the center but potatoes really have to be cooked or they’ll turn black. There’s a fine line between cooking til they’re just done and cooking til they fall apart. I struggle with that line! Methods I’ve tried:
- Slicing the potatoes into the thickness I’m going to use in the dehydrator (less than 1/4″), putting them into boiling water til the center is barely done, then plunging into ice water.
- Slicing as above, steaming til barely done.
- Boiling the whole potato in the peeling until barely done all the way through, rinsing with cold water, putting the the fridge overnight. The next morning I peel the skins off and slice them.
Because of the number of potatoes I am usually putting up at one time, the last method works best for me. Even the potatoes that fall apart, so long as it isn’t too many, I put the crumbles in the dehydrator too and use them in whatever I’m making.
Another reason I prefer the third method is because I sometimes make hash browns, which simply means I grate the cooked potatoes instead of slicing them.
The slices need to be uniform in thickness so that they will all dry at about the same time. As you can imagine, very thin slices are going to dry way before very thick slices. When loading the dehydrator trays, if I find slices that are a bit thicker, I place them near the back, closer to the heat source and fan.
Some folks use a mandolin or electric slicer but I find that I can slice enough potatoes to fill the dehydrator in no time just using a kitchen knife and I seem to have better control over the potato . . not that my potatoes are out of control but sometimes when using a mandolin or the electric slicer, the potatoes have a tendency to crumble more than when I’m hand slicing them.
Once the potatoes are sliced or grated, they go into the dehydrator. Set the dehydrator temp at about 125º for about 10 hours, depending on the thickness of the slices and the amount of humidity in the house already. For hash browns, or grated potatoes, I cook them about 6 hours. The slices need to be completely brittle.
For squash, I do not cook or blanch it — slice it and dehydrate it. For eggplant, I do blanch it but cook the slices only about 3 minutes, then plunge into ice water. I dehydrate the eggplant at about 110º.
When dehydrating anything, if the temp is set too high, there is a danger of the outside of the slices forming a “crust” that traps the moisture inside so even though most dehydrators have temp settings much higher than 125º, don’t be tempted to use it for veggies.
Once the potatoes are dehydrated sufficiently, I allow them to cool . . maybe half an hour. You do not want to let them sit too long, especially if it is humid in your house. They begin to absorb moisture immediately. It isn’t like you have to work quickly . . but you don’t want to forget them out overnight.
I vacuum seal them, either in bags or in Mason jars, using my FoodSaver. I have just a standard, every day model . . nothing fancy or expensive. We vacuum seal so much around here that we keep a spare. We watch for sales and when we see a good sale, we buy one so that when ours goes out in the middle of the night, all I have to do is open the box and start afresh with a new FoodSaver. Ours last 2 to 3 years mostly but we use it a lot! There are more expensive, more commercial models made for heavy use but I’m ok with what we’re doing.
For anything dehydrated to keep, it has to be stored in an airtight container with as much air removed as possible. Vacuum sealing is definitely the best way to do this.
For the batch I photographed, I sealed them in the vacuum seal bags because all my empty jars were in the shop and it was the middle of the night when I was doing this. My preferred method for storing is in a Mason jar. I put the sliced potatoes in a quart jar and the hash brown potatoes in a pint jar. Those are the sizes that work for us.
But, for the pictures below, I will show how I did it with vacuum seal bags.
When using bags, because the potatoes are crunchy and sharp, I put them in zipper bags first. I do not close the zipper bags.
I take several paper towels and fold them in half lengthwise. I’m not being wasteful because I will use them for something else when I open this package.
I wrap the paper towel around the outside of the zipper bag and slip it all into the vacuum seal bag. This helps to protect the vacuum seal bag from the sharp edges of the potatoes that might poke through the zipper bag.
Vacuum and seal. Simple as that.
This is squash that I have vacuum sealed in Mason jars.
Over time, you will learn what size container and how much to use. There are 4 or 5 good sized squash in each jar. My dehydrator has 9 trays and it takes about 1 tray per squash if the squash are fully developed. What’s in those two jars filled all 9 trays of my dehydrator. There’s enough squash in each jar to make a full casserole recipe, which is what I like to do because I can divide it half, freeze one, and cook one. Each one will be enough for at least one dinner and one lunch for the two of us. If I decide to saute the squash in a little butter with onions and peppers, one jar will be enough for one dinner and one lunch for the two of us. Because there are other ingredients in the casserole, each quart of dried squash makes 4 meals but if the squash is just sauteed, each quart makes 2 meals for us.
It is recommended that they be stored in a place away from sunlight or direct light (such as in a pantry) and the optimal temperature is about 60º. That’s nowhere in central Texas! I keep them in the pantry in my sewing room. The thermostat in there is set at about 75º most of the time and that’s about as cool as anywhere around here.
I check the bags often (at least once a month) to be sure they’re still completely sealed and have not lost their seal. For the jars, I make sure the “dent” is still down in the lid and I shake the jar gently to be sure none of the slices are sticking together. Any sticking would mean moisture is in the jar. If there’s any air in the bag, or moisture in the jar, I open it to inspect the contents. If there’s so sign of mold, discoloration or mushiness, I cook those immediately.
I let Vince eat it first to be sure he’s ok before I try it. If there’s any sign that the potatoes may be less than perfect, I toss it.
There’s one problem with this method of preserving food! It’s usually late at night by the time I’m putting it in bags or jars and I have a bad case of the munchies. I could eat all 9 trays of dehydrated squash. It’s like eating a sweet potato chip. I love those things!
Judy D in WA says
Thanks for writing these posts. I’ve always wanted to dry potatoes but was a bit of a chicken about it. Now I can’t wait to try. 🙂
Great info. Judy !
You go into so much detail ! I really appreciate that !
Thanks, Judy, for the great detailed information. One question–you mention doing squash, do you mean summer squash, like zucchini? If you do zucchini, do you peel it first or leave on the skin? I was wondering if the skin would remain tough after rehydrating it. I would love to dehydrate my zucchini; drives me crazy to pay $1 a pound for that stuff in the winter!
When I took a food preservation class years ago, the instructor brought in samples of fruits that she’d dehydrated 15-10 years earlier. All were still edible. She was using hers to prove a point — I’m guessing no one else would keep them hanging around the kitchen that long, but if done right it does last!
Mama Spark says
Thanks for this post! I use my dehydrator all the time but have not tried potatoes. Do you do something special to re-hydrate these or the squash before cooking? Have you ever made dried carrot slices to eat like chips? I love them from the store but imagine they would be even better done at home.
glen in louisiana says
I have dabbled with my dehydrator for years now. I may just have to pull it out again.
Helen Koenig1 says
I like your summer squash – it looks lovely! Mine = while tasting fine as dehydrated, didn’t when reconstituted – but I now suspect that it was more than slightly singed in the gas oven I had at that time. Definitely will be dehydrating this year – provided, of course, my squash develops as pretty as it so far looks! I depend HEAVILY on my dehydrator and garden for all my food for the year!
Helen Koenig1 says
Oh yes, meant to comment also – I had 2 HUGE bags of sweet corn I bought on an over-ripe sale one year – something like maybe 4 bushel per bag – at least! I washed, etc. blanched (and cooked – for supper,etc.) then cut off the cob, dried it on the screen gizmo that comes with the dehydrator – and only this year finished the last of it. Oh yes – it made one FULL No. 10 can of dehydrated corn! VERY nice – tasted like fresh! Oh – forgot to say – by the time I finished it, the dehydrated sweet corn was over 5 years old and sure made up a lot of sweet corn for supper, chowders, corn pudding, fritters and just about any other way I normally use it! And SOOOOO easy to do!
Judy, I am amazed at your generosity in taking the time to write this all out for us. Thank you!
Thank you for these posts. I had been wondring how to take advantage of the many sales on potatoes around here. I have discovered canned potatoes are usually only good if I slice them for frying, but dehydrated ones open a whole new area of uses. Also, you mentioned eggplant–do you peel it first? A lot of times the peel is so tough it’s hard to eat. And thanks a lot for mentioning the potatoes taste so good right after coming out of the dehydrator. Just what my jeans need to hear. 🙂
Shirley Suter says
I love dried squash chips too but my favorites are sliced cherry tomato chips. My family fights over them! I also make beef jerky and feel a handful of tomato chips and a piece or two of jerky are a great, running-out-the-door lunch (with a big bottle of water).
Joan in NE says
I’ve not tried potatoes, but have done most every other veggie from the garden I do the tomatoes and make a powder in the blender. Like you add it to soups in the winter. Gives the fresh taste of tomato in winter. My potatoes are just about to bloom and will try some dehydrated when they are dug. thanks for sharing
Judy, when you put the dehydrated veggies in a mason jar, how do you seal the jars? Can you use regular lids and just heat the jars or do you need a special type of lid?
The Mason jars get vacuum sealed with an attachment for the FoodSaver. I love mine, and have gotten so many great ideas from Judy for making even better use out of it. If you don’t have one, they are well worth the $!
ROFLOL! Thanks for the laugh Judy – Better Half and I both lost it over the crossed-out Vince line. 😀 Of course we knew you were kidding anyway. And thanks for sharing your dehydration process too!
Thank you so much for writing this article, I forwarded it onto my oldest dearest daughter and hopefully she will take your tips from it (as she is always asking me & I have no idea on dehydrating food as I have no dehydrator for now!LOL)
Again, THANK YOU !!!!
Lewis Goudy says
It sounds like you have an Excalibur. I started with a five tray (for jerky) and got a nine tray when I discovered how great the dried summer squash is. They don’t rehydrate to the same water content as the fresh squash, only around half. In other words, you double the nutrient density! In pasta sauce the fresh goes to mush and makes a lot of water, but the dried not only hangs together but has a little chew to it (al dente). It will not dilute the sauce–quite the contrary. If you are using chopped tomatoes, mushrooms, etc. throwing in a handful of dried squash/peppers will absorb the excess liquid. This is very handy also for filling a soup or stew.
I’ll conclude with another favorite (unrelated) trick. Blend two parts extra virgin olive oil (by weight) and one part peeled garlic. Freeze immediately (I use yogurt cups). Two superfoods in one extremely convenient format! You can shave a bit onto a tossed salad with the point of a knife and the shavings will melt on contact. Fresh garlic has many health benefits but is not the friendliest of foods in terms of prep time. Garlic goo is.