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In drying times - DIY dried vegetables and breadcrumbs

Click here to read our Andrew James Digital dehydrator review!Click here to read our Andrew James Digital dehydrator review!Not convinced that you're going to be able to get through all of that *insert your problem food name here!* before it takes a turn? Do you also have a small amount of freezer space or none at all? Then simply give it a DRY!


Of course fresh food is always better for you in terms of the nutritional content but then, dried vegetables are better than no vegetables in times of limited availability. I hate wasting any kind of food, and you've already paid for it with your hard earned money (or foraging/growing time!) so you might as well make sure you get to use ALL of it!

To get your synapses firing with ideas, see below for several food items that take to drying particularly well: 


(OK these can't really be called recipes but are certainly useful processes to know! I'm afraid I can't give you accurate timings here either, hence why they're not recipes, as there are way too many factors that can affect the process including; the quantity and thickness of the food, the temperature you are drying at, the humidity of the environment you're drying in... you'll just have to prod at it often and judge for yourself!) 


Dried Breadcrumbs

DIY dried breadcrumbsFor years I used to buy breadcrumbs from the supermarket for making my own chicken kievs etc, then at some point I realised how ridiculous that was - not to mention the other ingredients and colouring that gets added to the mix negating the point of healthier home-made kievs!


So instead I would crumble up a fresh slice as and when needed, however you just can’t beat the convenience of having some dried breadcrumbs in a handy jar ready to simply shake out. Now we've gone Organic I have no other choice but to make my own at home anyway – I'm yet to find any certified organic breaded chicken or fish products in a supermarket freezer section!


It’s also a great way to avoid wasting bread that you’re not likely to eat before it goes off, especially as we’re not meant to feed it to the ducks any more either! :/

My drying method involves roughly crumbling a slice into a baking tray (or processing with my blender if I have access to 240v power!) and simply leaving it in the oven overnight to dry out. Our motor home oven is a tiny gas one which has a vent at the back to let fresh air in and seems to give just the right amount of air circulation to dry the crumbs out nicely without even being switched on! For a conventional electric oven it’s best to switch it onto the lowest setting and leave the door ajar for a couple of hours.


After your crumbs are dry, pop them into an airtight jar and use them as and when needed. If they go mouldy on you then they weren’t dry enough before they went in the jar, as when properly dry they should stay good for months at room temperature! I use our dried breadcrumbs in the meat mix for burgers and kofta kebabs to help bind them and to help retain the meat juices, and as a crunchy coating for our fish and chicken etc.



I'm not particularly a fan of mushrooms myself, but Ryan likes them. Even so there are only so many he wants to eat in one week, so we still always end up with some spare to preserve before they go bad! They can be cooked and frozen but with our limited freezer space always at a premium I prefer to dry them instead. Whilst they're still smelling fresh, with no fuzz or slime, simply arrange them loosely in a warm and dry spot in the kitchen to shrink up. The shelf in our kitchen gets a nice dose of warm dry air from the wood burner below it so dries stuff in a matter of hours, but if you don't have a good spot like that you can use your oven on it's lowest setting, an open paper bag placed near a radiator, or a purpose built dehydrator. See the review of my new favourite kitchen gadget: my Andrew James Dehydrator here> I've probably given away the review result there haven't I? :)


Sometimes I slice them thinly first, or for smaller varieties just leave them whole! Don't waste kitchen time doing anything you don't have to! To re-hydrate leave them to soak in water for an hour or so then cook as normal, or simply drop them into a stew or bolognaise and let them rehydrate from the stock or sauce as they cook.



DIY dried mango snackWho likes the Mango?! I certainly do but this time Ryan doesn't! Never mind - we don't have to like all the same things and all the more for me! Again though, there's only so much of it I can eat by myself before it's over ripe so drying what's leftover is a great way to preserve the precious fruit, and it actually creates a more convenient snack item for later in the week!


Simply slice it as thinly as you can and dry until leathery, a mandoline slicer is a god send for this task - though mind your fingers! ;) See mandoline slicers on Amazon now!See mandoline slicers on Amazon now!


This is one food that I find dries better in a purpose-built dehydrator, retaining much more sweetness and flavour, but it is possible to achieve with your oven on low – just be careful not to burn or over-dry it!



DIY sun-dried tomatoesAre you a fan of those intense and chewy sun-dried tomatoes? You'll probably not be able to tell the difference between those expensive ones and your own uber-frugal home-dried tomatoes!


Simply remove the skins, slice (add olive oil and any herbs of choice for really fancy ones!) and dry until they reach the desired texture. Again a purpose-built dehydrator works much better for this one as the higher temperatures of an oven can turn tomatoes bitter if you're not careful.

 See the Hario Manual Coffee Grinder on Amazon now!See the Hario Manual Coffee Grinder on Amazon now!

If you have a coffee grinder I've heard that the dried skins make an incredibly flavoursome tomato powder to give a boost to soups and sauces so you don't even have to waste those! It's a gadget that's on my wish list for some day in the future, this is the one I've got my eye on if you fancy one or is anyone wants to donate it to me... ;D 



Dry your own kitchen herbsOn those occasions when I've bought a bunch of fresh herbs, I always end up with far more than I needed for the particular recipe. Fortunately herbs are very easy to dry and keep for later!


There are a couple of ways to do it, for more robust herbs like sage or bay you can simply tie them together with string or an elastic band and hang them up, but for herbs with small leaves (that are likely to drop and scatter!) pop them into a paper bag to keep it all together. Either way leave them in a warm and dry place until they are dry and crispy. To store, crumble them into small jars or zip lock bags – don't forget to label them else you may end up playing herb roulette with your dinner! ;)


Mixed dried vegetables

A mix like this is a fantastic commodity to have stashed away in your cupboard or camping-food basket for pimping up your soups and stews. Keep adding any spare veg you dry to an airtight jar or tub, and dip into it as and when you need it. Simply toss a handful into a stew and let it rehydrate as it cooks!

The contents and it's remaining nutrients should stay viable for up to a year. You can include whatever you like with this one, after all it's your mix! If it helps, ours tends to be a mixture of dried cabbage, leeks, carrots and peas, with the occasional bit of swede or turnip in there as well :)


Each vegetable dries differently so you need to do them separately to avoid having a mixture of over and under-dried veg, the chances are though that you'll be drying them separately anyway as and when you have extra! Cube carrots and other roots, leave peas whole and slice cabbage, onions and leeks evenly...


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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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