Drying Foods: 5 Fall and Winter Foods Great for Dehydrating

Just because it's cold out doesn't mean it's time to stop drying foods. Even when it's cold, there are plenty of winter foods available that are great for dehydrating. If you're looking for more smart, savvy ways to save money in the kitchen, try drying foods in the winter. Here are just five fall and winter food choices that are nutritious, delicious and versatile.

Drying Foods: Dehydrated Apples Keep the Doctor Away

With over 500 varieties available, not only are apples a plentiful, cheap winter fruit, they're a versatile, nutritious food that lends itself well to dehydrating. Great for making fruit chips, they're equally tasty dried or reconstituted for baked recipes like pies, muffins and cobblers.

When picking apples for dehydration, look for firm fruits with deep coloring and, if you're choosing yellow or green apples, a slight blush. As for flavor, remember that Red and Golden Delicious are the sweetest, and Pippin and Granny Smith are the most tart. When dehydrating apples, be sure to trim off any bruised areas and to dry them to at least the same moisture level and texture as raisins (to prevent spoiling). Dry apples longer for crispy chips or sprinkle cinnamon sugar on them to add extra flavor.

Dehydrating Foods: Dried Pears for Healthy Chips and Salads All Year

A plentiful winter food and great source of fiber and vitamins, pears have a unique, delicious flavor that's both sweet and buttery. Just like apples, dried pears can be used for chips, baked recipes or even tossed into salads for a sweet, out-of-the-ordinary addition. (Hint: They're amazing paired with blue cheese and walnuts!)

When drying foods like pears, be sure to dip them in lemon juice, an ascorbic acid solution or a honey/sugar solution to prevent browning. And when it comes to choosing your pears, remember that green Anjou pears remain green as they ripen (so check their necks for ripeness) and that Bosc pears hold their shape best when cooking (so they're great for tarts and pies).

Drying Winter Food: Dehydrate Carrots For Soups, Dips and Juice Year Round

Perfect for smart cheap-eaters looking for both great taste and nutrition, carrots aren't just cheap winter foods, they're versatile superfoods too. Not only can they be used in soups and stews, they're great for making carrot cake and powdering to make carrot juice. Plus, carrots are an affordable powerhouse of nutrients, with over 13 key vitamins and minerals and a mind-blowing 686% of the daily requirement of vitamin A per serving.

When dehydrating carrots for snacking or reconstitution, use larger carrots rather than small (as sliced baby carrots can become practically microscopic when dried). Since size won't matter if you're powdering carrots, cut them smaller to reduce drying time and then just put them in a blender or electric grinder once they're thoroughly dried.

Drying Foods: Dehydrate Turkey to Make Your Own Turkey Jerky

There's more to drying foods than just fruit chips. Low-fat, low-cost and easy to make with a food dehydrator, homemade turkey jerky is a great way to take advantage of seasonal sales on Thanksgiving's favorite fowl. Plus, turkey jerky is high in protein and low in fat, so it's great for folks watching their waistlines.

When drying turkey for jerky, remember to use lean meat (as fatty meat will spoil quickly), to cut the meat across the grain, and to let the meat marinate for at least 10 hours before dehydrating (that way the marinade gets deep into the meat). Also, for easier handling, freeze the turkey meat a bit before slicing.

Dehydrating Foods: Try Dehydrating Mushrooms for Soups, Stews and Stuffings

Not only are these fungal favorites easy to use and store, dehydrated mushrooms have a concentrated, intense flavor that makes a little go a long way. Like carrots, dried mushrooms can be powered or left whole for later reconstitution. An abundant winter food that's easy to dry, many varieties are available and they're perfect for soups, stews, stuffing, casseroles and more.

Before dehydrating mushrooms, be sure to thoroughly clean them of dirt and gently pat them dry. If dehydrating mushrooms that are thick (like portabellos), slice them to about 1/4" thickness.

Dehydrating Winter Foods Means Saving Throughout the Year

Drying foods while they're in season is a great way to stock up and save on healthy foods year round. Whether you're a die-hard foodie or just a spend-thrifty mom, there are plenty of delicious, nutritious ways to use dehydrated winter foods like turkey, fruits and vegetables.

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