If your counter looks anything like mine post-autumn harvest, it is cluttered with piles of root vegetables and a plethora of winter squash. And although both varieties of produce last for quite a while, I love to dehydrate some of my favorite root vegetables to pop into mid-winter stews. Dehydrating keeps the produce’s fresh-from-the-earth taste and drastically lengthens how long each veggie keeps!
Dehydrating is a super simple preserving process- especially when you’re not in the mood to can- and is super hands off. A few minutes of prep, minimal ingredients, and a few hours of waiting and you are good to go.
Tools You’ll Need: Dehydrator Basics
Successful dehydrating is based on four principles: time, temperature, air flow, and quality of ingredient preparation. Because technology has come such a long way since humans first started dehydrating food, a lot of the guess work has been taking out of the process and we have some wonderful kitchen appliances to help! Before anything else you’ll need a dehydrator, mine is a giant 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator that is super high end (and a bit pricey) but there are SO many different options to choose from, from the super small counter top dehydrators, a great sized medium variety or the industrial ones like mine. These dehydrators often have preset timers and temperatures that can make life easy, however, if you don’t have one in your arsenal, a timer, your oven, and drying racks can suffice.
Preparation, Temperatures, and Times
Now, just like any other variety of vegetable, root vegetables aren’t all made the same. Generally they are broken down into three groups- taproots like carrots, rutabagas, and turnips, tubers like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and bulbs like garlic and onions. I’ll be referring to the first two taproot and tubers in this post. Because with a few exceptions (check out this book for a whole list of times and preparations) their preparation is the same!
To begin, no matter which variety you are working with you want to thoroughly clean your veggies, and then uniformly slice them into pieces that are about 1/4 inch thick. You can use a sharp knife or a mandolin for this. Skin removal is up to you- I like the texture that skin leaves as well as the added nutrient component, but you can peel each of your veggies if you’d like as well.
When it comes to root vegetables, blanching is the key to maintaining great texture when you re-hydrate. Essentially, you’ll place your pre-sliced veggies into a pot of boiling water for 3-5 minutes and then immediately plunge them into an ice bath to prevent further cooking. Let the slices cool, pat them dry, place them in a single layer on your dehydrator’s mesh sheets, and then pop them into your dehydrator.
The dehydrator should be set to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and the timer for about 8 hours. This is dependent on water content. Carrots can take as little as six hours, where as potatoes can take up to ten. Just watch the clock- when the veggies are done they should feel leathery and bear no indications of moisture content (aka no squishy veggies!)
Dehydrated foods last pretty much indefinitely if they are stored correctly. That being said, always check to make sure that your food doesn’t smell off or have mold before eating! Because the water has been completely removed, if you store in an airtight container that doesn’t allow moisture to seep in, you’re golden! I use mason jars- pretty and functional!
Post preservation, you’ll have fresh-tasting produce for the winter months, but if you want to enjoy your produce now, why not try out some simple recipes? I love dehydrating beets into beet chips, like my Sea Salt and Vinegar Beet Chips, for a fun snack that is simple to make.
If you’re looking for a simple, everything-in-a-single-place, reference guide I highly recommend The Dehydrator Bible. It is chock full of recipes as well as times, temperatures, and preparations for pretty much anything you could ask for!
What is your favorite way to preserve your autumn produce? Let me know in the comments below! Don’t forget to check out my other dehydrator basics posts, fruit and herbs!
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