Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dried Vegetables: The Drying Process, Reconstituting And Using

Dried Vegetables
Successful drying of vegetables depends on air dryness, heat and air circulation. Drying can alter the nutritional content of vegetables as shows below;

• Calorie content – this value is not changed even when vegetables are dried though nutrient concentration is likely to be higher given the loss of moisture.
• Vitamin A- can be fairly well retained if heating conditions are regulated.
• Vitamin C – is largely destroyed during the blanching and drying stages
• Thiamin, niacin and riboflavin may also be lost during drying, though this can be recovered if water removed from the vegetable is reused.
• Fiber – remains the same
• Minerals – iron is never destroyed by drying but most minerals can be lost if soaking water is not used.

The drying process

The drying process starts with selecting the right vegetables. The best for drying are usually peak flavor vegetables that have reached eating quality, just as they reach the maturity stage. Sweet corn and peas are however selected for drying when they are slightly immature; this is before their sugars are turned into starch and enables them to retain their sweetness.

Since picking is known to activate enzymes that cause changes in color, texture, flavor, nutrient and sugar content, vegetables should be prepared immediately after gathering and the processing must take over immediately.

Start by thoroughly washing the produce to remove any dirt or spray and drain thoroughly. Always ensure to discard any produce with bruises, mold or signs of decay.

Pre-treating can be applied to enhance quality and safety. Blanching is a method used in the treatment phase to slow or stop enzyme action that can cause undesirable changes to the produce during storage. Blanching is also believed to relax tissues enabling produce to dry faster. It also helps in protecting vitamins, flavor, color and texture during storage. Pre-treating in citric acid or water has been found to help in destroying potentially harmful bacteria as the vegetables are dried.

Vegetables can be dried in the oven or in a dehydrator. Always start by arranging pre-treated vegetables on drying trays at about inches deep.

If using the oven, gas or electric, you’ll have to be very careful not to scorch your produce. You’ll need proper ventilation and correct temperatures throughout the drying period. When you are ready, pre-heat the oven at the lowest rating (140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit). Then adjust the thermostat and open the oven door to achieve a consistent oven temperature while you allow moist air to escape. Now place trays of prepared produce into the oven, stacking them until you have about 3 inches left at the bottom and at the top. The distance between two trays should be set at 2.5 inches. Shift the trays from bottom to top every half an hour, stirring if the produce was set at  inch deep. Remember to remove just as the produce approaches drying.

Dehydrators are more easily used. Only ensure that trays are rotated throughout to encourage consistency in drying.

Packing, reconstructing and use:

Leave dried vegetables to cool then pack in dry small dark glass jars or in a vapor-proof freezer. Metal cans may also be used. Ensure that all lids are sealed.

Reconstruct by adding 2 cups of water to 1 cup of dried vegetables and leave for two hours.

Dried vegetables can be used as ingredients for casseroles, soups, stuffing, sauces and stews.

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