Whether you’re a seasoned veteran of drying produce or you’re just getting your toes wet to the process, knowing how to properly store your freshly dried fruits and vegetables is critical in preserving your yield, and preventing mold and insect contamination. If you’re new to dehydrating fruits and vegetables, you may want to first read my article “4 Easy Ways to Dehydrate Produce”. Once you’ve taken a few attempts at dehydrating produce, you’ll want to master these easy techniques of storing your freshly dried goodies.
Dried foods are susceptible to insect contamination and moisture re-absorption and must be properly packaged and stored immediately. First, cool COMPLETELY. Warm food causes sweating which could provide enough moisture for mold to grow. Pack foods into clean, dry insect-proof containers as tightly as possible without crushing.
Store dried foods in clean, dry home canning jars, plastic freezer containers with tight-fitting lids or in plastic freezer bags. Vacuum packaging is also a good option. Pack foods in amounts that can be USED ALL AT ONCE. Each time a package is re-opened, the food is exposed to air and moisture that can lower the quality of the food and result in spoilage.
Fruit that has been sulfured should not touch metal. Sulfur fumes will react with the metal and cause color changes in the fruit.
Dried foods should be stored in cool, dry, dark areas. Recommended storage times for dried foods range from 4 months to 1 year. Because food quality is affected by heat, the storage temperature helps determine the length of storage; the higher the temperature, the shorter the storage time. Most dried fruits can be stored for 1 year at 60ºF, 6 months at 80ºF. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits.
Foods that are packaged seemingly “bone dry” can spoil if moisture is reabsorbed during storage. Check dried foods frequently during storage to see if they are still dry. Glass containers are excellent for storage because any moisture that collects on the inside can be seen easily. Foods affected by moisture, but not spoiled, should be used immediately or re-dried and repackaged. Moldy foods should be discarded.
The moisture content of home dried fruit should be about 20 percent. Once fruit has been dried, regardless of what method you prefer, the remaining moisture may not be distributed equally among the pieces because of their size or their location in the dehydrator. Conditioning is the process used to EQUALIZE THE MOISTURE. This greatly reduces the risk of mold growth.
To condition the fruit, take the dried fruit that has cooled completely and pack it loosely in plastic or glass jars. Seal the containers and let them stand for 7 to 10 days. The excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces. Shake the jars daily to separate the pieces and check the moisture condensation. If condensation develops in the jar, the fruit requires additionally drying before it is ready for packaging. After conditioning, package and store the fruit as described above.
Determining Dryness of Vegetables
Vegetables should be dried until they are brittle or “crisp.” Some vegetables actually shatter if hit with a hammer. At this stage, they should contain about 10 percent moisture. Because they are so dry, they do not need conditioning like fruits.
Additional Storage Tips:
* Store containers in a cool, dry and dark location. 60 degrees Fahrenheit or less, is best.
* Store dried fruits and vegetables in small batches to maintain freshness and to minimize the risk of contamination. Remember, single use size packaging.
* Store in non-metal containers.
* Dried fruits can be stored for up to 1 year.
* Dried vegetables can be stored for up to 6 months.
* Storing dried fruits and vegetables in the freezer will extend their usability over a longer period of time.
* To preserve freshness, store OPENED containers of dried fruits and vegetables in the fridge or freezer.
* Always inspect dried foods before using and consuming and discard anything with mold.
* If condensation appears inside one of the containers of your dried fruits or vegetables, it needs to be dried again.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews