top of page


Everyone knows the incredible complexity of a sun-dried tomato, the chewy satisfaction of well-flavored jerky, and the sweet treat of raisins, prunes and dried apples. We experience all of these thanks dehydration, one of the most effective and time-honored methods of food preservation. All organisms responsible for spoilage require water to live and multiply. Dehydrating a food makes it a very inhospitable environment for bacterial or fungal reproduction. Dehydration can be used effectively to preserve all vegetables, meats, and fruits. It should be noted that fruits lend themselves more to dehydration than vegetables because of their natural acidity. They retain more flavor and higher vitamin content than vegetables when dried. One notable exception is tomatoes, which are also naturally very acidic and so dehydrate very well.

When it comes to dehydration, the sun is your best friend, particularly in the arid west where you can often dehydrate outdoors even in December. The sun imparts a depth of flavor to dehydrated foods that an oven or commercial dryer never can. Whenever possible, dehydrate in the sun. To dehydrate most foods outdoors requires only a simple wood frame with screen material stretched over it, pretty simple! It's a good idea to bring dehydrating foods inside at night or cover them with a screen to protect from insects and other night roaming dehydration disturbers (we once woke up to find rabbit tracks across our partially dried fruit leather).

Here's an experiment to try: Dehydrate meat in the sun. Native American people used to dehydrate fish on 20 foot tall sticks because flies couldn't travel high enough to reach the meat. We haven't tried it yet, but we've wanted to. If anyone tries it, please report!

A note on dehydration temperature: most live and active enzymes in food are destroyed above 115 degrees. If the foods you are dehydrating are clean and fresh there is no need to dehydrate them at any temperature above 115. Molds and pathogenic bacteria won't proliferate fast enough in the dehydrating food to cause a problem for you later on, and you'll preserve all of the vitamins, nutrients, and enzymes in the finished product. Wahoo!

For your dehydrating pleasure, here are recipes for two of our favorite dehydrated products -- jerky and fruit leather (good luck making enough of either to really build up a storage supply, they're just too tasty for that!).

Jerky Ruhlman and Polcyn, Charcuterie, p. 55-56


  • 2 ¼ pounds boneless beef, eye of the round or lean round, fat removed

  • 20 g salt (1½ Tablespoon)

  • 5 g garlic powder (1 ¾ teaspoon)

  • 5 g onion powder (1 ¾ teaspoon)

  • black pepper to desired heat


  • Cut beef in strips 1/8" thick and 1" wide.

  • Combine beef and spices and refrigerate for 24 hours

  • Place beef in a dehydrator set at 140° (you can dehydrate at a lower temperature) and dehydrate for 12-24 hours until jerky is completely dry to the touch, dark and very stiff.

  • Store in an airtight container.

Fruit Leather Fruit leather is simply dehydrated fruit puree. Many fruits work well and combinations work well also. Note that less watery, higher pectin fruits such as plums will make leather that is more chewy; and more watery fruits, such as apples, will make leather that is crispy.


  • Wash fruit well and remove pits, seeds and stems.

  • Blend fruits together well

  • Pour onto greased jellyroll pan till ¼" thick.

  • Set outside in the sun until dried through (it is sometimes beneficial to turn the leather to fully dry the bottom once it is mostly dehydrated).

  • Cut into strips and store in an airtight container. Keep out of reach of children, or it will be gone almost instantaneously.

bottom of page