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Dehydration is a process that involves the drying out of an item. This is sometimes done intentionally with certain foods to help preserve them. Sometimes it is done to produce an alternative flavor. There are several ways to accomplish this, such as sun drying or wind drying. Examples of dehydrated foods that can be produced by these methods include biltong, raisins, and dried fish.
There are many types of dehydrated foods. Some are associated with certain cultures. Others are widely consumed on an international level.
Meats are commonly dehydrated foods. Depending on the area of the world, the types of meat that are dehydrated can greatly vary. Examples include elk, ostrich, and pork.
Two examples of dehydrated meats that could be mistaken for each other include jerky and biltong. Both biltong and jerky can be made from the same meat, such as beef and deer. The difference lies in how these two dehydrated foods are made.
Jerky is generally cut differently and prepared with salt, spices, and heat. Biltong is often cut much thicker, includes vinegar in the preparation, and is dehydrated in cool conditions. Although jerky is common among many cultures, biltong is most associated with South Africa.
There are many dehydrated foods that come from the sea. For example, several types of fish are smoked and commonly used by people who often lack refrigeration in western Africa. In parts of the southern United States, dried salty fish called hake fish is commonly sold. People of Hadhramout, a place in Yemen, are known for their love of dried shark meat.
Fruits are commonly dehydrated by companies as well as homeowners. Some examples of commonly dried fruits include apples, apricots, and cherries. Oddly enough, some fruits even change names once they are dehydrated. For example, a plum becomes a prune and a grape becomes a raisin.
Methods for drying fruits include sun drying, oven drying, and using dehydrating machines. Dehydrated fruits such as bananas, peaches, and strawberries are often used in hot and cold breakfast dishes. Smaller dehydrated fruits such as raisins, cherries, and dates are often added to salads or used to create trail mix.
Vegetables are not as commonly dehydrated as meats and fruits. There are commercial sources that offer a variety of dried vegetables including pumpkin, carrots, and cabbage. These may be added to soups, stews and pasta sauces. Onions, celery, and peppers are three types of vegetables that are commonly dehydrated and marketed as spices.
I love all different kinds of dehydrated foods and a few years ago for Christmas my husband gave me a dehydrator that he had picked up from one of the department stores.
I was so excited. I planned out all kinds of different dehydrating projects and got lots of different seasonings from the store. I got a book from the library about dehydrating and planned out some pretty exotic recipes.
I started out with a simple apple chip and I immediately ran into problems. The dehydrator didn't hold much food, it took a LONG time, it was hard to clean and the results were not that great. I tried a few more batches with similarly disappointing results. Later
I tried banana chips and beef jerky but could never get them the way I wanted.
What I learned is that dehydrating is harder than it looks and it pays to have good equipment. I upgraded to a nicer machine and after few months of practice I was turning out store quality dehydrated foods. Now I give them away around the holidays and I have become famous for my dried foods.
I grew up in a pretty rural part of Missouri and once a year there would be a jerky making festival at the local VFW hall. All of the local hunters would bring any any game or meat of any kind that they had killed and it would all be prepared on site and put in a big industrial dehydrator that one of the guys had.
The next day everyone would meet back at the hall and the different kinds of jerky would be available to sample. I feel like I've tried just about every kind of jerky that you can think of. I've had raccoon, snake, possum, turkey, deer, squirrel and lots of other that I can't remember.
The results were pretty hit or miss. Sometimes they were way better than you would expect and other times they were as bad or even much worse than you might imagine. I can remember possum jerky being especially bad.
I absolutely love dried fruits. I don't think there is any kind that I do not like but my favorite is definitely dried cherries. There is just something about the chewy texture and the rich condensed cherry flavor that sets off all of my taste buds at once. I have to watch myself or I could easily eat a whole bag in one sitting.
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