As summer moves into fall, I realize that I’ve been using my Nesco dehydrator every week for the past three months. Wow!
What began with slicing strawberries and meticulously pitting cherries gave way to quartered apriums, and then finally Palisade peaches. Sadly, I dried the last of the peaches this week, but apples will come next (much to my father’s delight).
Previous posts have detailed the process of dehydration, followed by the essential second step of conditioning. Now, let’s talk about a couple of options on how to keep your produce safe in the pantry for extended periods of time — provided you don’t snack endlessly on it in the first week!
The “no fuss” method of long term storage involves using mason jars — provided your pantry stays dark, cool, and dry, these handy glasses work just fine for several months’ worth of stashing.
They also look really cute in your pantry cabinet… too many plastic bags make things look a tad like a squirrel warren… Speaking from long-past, pre-blog experience…
Best of all, you can toss your jars into the top rack of your dishwasher and re-use them as many times as you’re able. I hand wash the lids and dry them promptly to prevent rust, and they also last a good long time.
(Note: I don’t currently use canning methods for preservation, so reusing my lids is fine. More on that here at The Spruce Eats for those interested.)
If you’re a tea drinker, sanitized tea tins can work even better, because the metal walls completely block out sunlight. However, it is harder to detect moisture in these containers, so make sure the contents are adequately dried and conditioned!
A definite “con” of this method is that the more you open the jar, the more air gets in, shortening the lifespan of the food. It’s also recommended to keep jars relatively full, so that there’s less oxygen inside to potentially ruin the contents.
Online resources such as Purposeful Pantry and the National Center for Food Preservation (NCFP) strongly recommend using vacuum sealing methods to extend the shelf life of your dehydrated produce even further over the use of jars.
Vacuum sealers allow you place your food into a specialized plastic bag and use a machine to both remove all excess air and add a seal, thus reducing opportunities for moisture buildup or mold growth inside the bag. Beyond dehydration, both home cooks and chefs like to use vacuum sealers for the convenience of marinating meat, or pre-portioning meals for the freezer.
While this method solves the problem of Option 1 by keeping the environment airtight, it comes with its own drawback: vacuum sealers can get expensive, and the plastic bags tend to be one-use, so you’ll need to continually re-stock and throw old ones away.
Further, vacuum sealers need much more maintenance to ensure cleanliness than mason jars. There are many small nooks and crannies where food bits and liquid can get stuck and grow malorodous rather quickly, and you’ll need to clean it after every use.
Key to storage, no matter your method, lies in properly labeling containers with your initial storage date. For jars, I stick a bit of masking tape on the side with a scribbled date; in the case of vacuum sealer bags, a note on one corner in permanent marker will do.
Expiration will depend on the type of fruit of vegetable, as well as where you’re storing it, so research carefully. The NCFP states the following on expiration:
“Most dried fruits can be stored for 1 year at 60ºF, 6 months at 80ºF. Vegetables have about half the shelf-life of fruits.”National Center for Food Preservation
Unfortunately, my tiny apartment doesn’t have access to a root cellar, and all of my kitchen space lies close to the dishwasher or the oven, so I will likely stick to the shorter side of about 4-6 months to account for the additional warmth.
I’m excited to continue this journey of dehydration for the remainder of the harvest season and until winter, when my little Nesco will have earned a break until springtime.
See you next week, everyone!
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