(NaturalNews) Sun-drying is not only the oldest and simplest method of preserving food, it’s also the cheapest and most environmentally-friendly choice. Humans have been using solar power to dry fruit, vegetables and meat for thousand of years, and the technique works just as well today, especially if you live in a climate with high temperatures and low humidity, such as the southwestern and midwestern United States.
These days, many people use dehydrators or oven-drying methods of preserving food, but sun-drying can preserve more of the natural flavors, making the extra time and care worth the effort. Moreover, learning how to sun-dry foods is a very useful survival skill to have if the power grid goes down.
Almost any type of food can be sun-dried, but it’s best to start learning the techniques by first choosing foods that are relatively easy to dry, such as tomatoes.
Making your own sun-dried tomatoes
There’s nothing more flavorful than sun-dried tomatoes, and making your own couldn’t be simpler. Plum or paste tomatoes, such as Roma or Pomodoro, are generally considered the best choices for sun-drying, but any variety will work. The main thing to consider is thickness – slice paste tomatoes in halves or thirds, while plum tomatoes can be cut in half. Make your slices consistent in thickness so they will dry at the same rate.
Wash and cut the tomatoes to the desired thickness, then arrange them leaving space in between them on a frame that has stainless steel screens on the bottom and top. You can make the frame any size you want; the screen’s purpose is to provide airflow and to keep insects from getting in. You can season them with herbs or sea salt if you like.
Make sure you’re in for some hot, dry weather because it will take several days for the tomatoes to dry thoroughly. Place your racks in direct sunlight in a location that gets as much breeze as possible.
The tomatoes are ready when they no longer feel “tacky” to the touch.
Sun-dried tomatoes can stored in sterile canning jars with olive oil or in vacuum-sealed plastic bags.
Because they are high in sugar and acid, fruits are easy to sun-dry; the sugars and acid help to retard spoilage while drying. You’ll need to do a little preparation with most fruits before drying them.
Apricots and peaches should be cut in half and pitted before drying. Fruits such as apples, apricots and pears should be soaked in lemon juice or an ascorbic acid solution for around five minutes before being placed on the rack to begin drying. This will keep them from browning.
Cut the fruit into slices of uniform thickness and choose a hot, dry spell (85 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) for the drying period.
Bring the racks inside at night or cover them with cloth to prevent moisture from being reabsorbed.
Once the fruits are thoroughly dried, you should condition and pasteurize them for safe long-term storage.
To condition the dried fruits after they have cooled, place them in sealed glass jars for one week to ten days, shaking the jars daily to distribute the remaining moisture.
Once the fruits are conditioned, remove them from the jars and either pasteurize them in the oven on trays in single layers at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour or in plastic freezer bags in a zero-degree Fahrenheit freezer for 48 hours.
Sun-drying vegetables calls for basically the same method as fruits, but they should be cut in smaller pieces due to their lower acid content.
Why not give sun-drying a try this summer, especially if you have a surplus of garden fruits and vegetables?