3 Tips on Creating Gourmet DIY Dehydrated Meals at Home

bushkas kitchen dehydrated artisanal gourmet food meals snacks

Whether you are making meals for your next big backpacking trip or food prepping at home to stock your pantry with ready to eat, just add water gourmet meals or snacks, making dehydrated food at home can be both fun and delicious!

Here are my 3 suggestions on making and storing simple and cheap artisanal meals or snacks:

Everything is Better with Sauce

This is by far my #1 favorite way to make any dehydrated meal taste like a home cooked meal. This is a great and lightweight addition when you are camping or backpacking as well! Keep shelf stable sauces stocked up at home so next time you need a quick meal, boil some rice or pasta and add your “instant” sauce!

Suggestions: Choose any non fatty sauce. If you are making your sauce at home, lower the amount of olive oil you would normally add or completely substitute olive oil with vegetable stock.

Directions:
  1. Either buy your favorite sauce from the store OR
  2. Make your favorite sauce at home.
  3. If you are making your own sauce, make sure you blend it until creamy smooth.
  4. The sauce needs to be thick and have an apple sauce like consistency.
  5. If your sauce is too thin, reduce on stovetop until it thickens.
Drying Directions (Dehydrator):
  1. Spread sauce on fruit leather tray until about 1/4” thick.
  2. Gently bang your tray on the counter to even out and pop all air bubbles.
  3. Dry at 135F.
  4. Test for dryness by peeling the leather. Leather should peel off the tray without sticking. If the leather is sticking, leave to dry longer.
  5. Once you are able to flip without any part (especially the middle!) sticking, flip and allow to dry another 1-2 hours.
  6. You can either let this dry until it has a fruit leather texture (pliable but does not stick together if you press the edges together) or until brittle. This is purely based on preference! Once rehydrated, you won't tell the difference.
Drying Directions (Oven):
  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. DO NOT USE WAX PAPER.
  2. Spread sauce until about 1/4” thick.
  3. Gently bang your tray on the counter to even out and pop all air bubbles.
  4. Dry at oven's lowest temperature.
  5. Same as above for testing for when done.
Storage:
  1. If you dry until brittle, my favorite method for storage is to use my spice grinder to grind the sauce into a powder as it stores much smaller.
  2. Once completely dry and cool, store in airtight glass mason jars.
  3. You can also store in a ziplock baggy. I do not recommend storing for more than 1 month in a ziplock baggy (if dried until brittle) or more than 2 weeks in a ziplock baggy (if dried until fruit leather texture).
  4. Your sauce may darken in color the longer it sits. This is perfectly fine and will rehydrate to a normal color.

My favorite sauce to dry at home is tomato sauce made from scratch. When I see tomatoes on sale at the farmer's market, I buy them by the case, make my mother's secret tomato sauce recipe, and then dehydrate so I always have fresh tomato sauce on hand.
dehydrated food to go ready to eat just add water tomato sauce
You can get creative too! Here's some chicken bone broth that I made so I always have healthy no preservative stock to cook with or drink instead of afternoon coffee.
bushkas kitchen dehydrated food chick bone broth

Wow your Friends with Candied Fruit

Candied fruits are great for snacking or for baking with! Lookat how fun and beautiful these cookies are.

Suggestions: Use pineapple, cherries, apricots/peaches/any stone fruit, watermelon rind, or any citrus peel

Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine 1 cup of granulated sugar, 1 cup honey (any natural sweetener will work, honey or dates is my preferred), and 1.5 cup water into saucepan.
  2. Boil over medium heat until temperature reaches 235F.
  3. Stir constantly during this process so that the sugar doesn't burn or clump.
  4. Add in your fruit in small enough batches that all fruit can be coated.
  5. Lower heat and cook until fruit/rind is transparent (approx. 30 minutes.)
  6. Repeat until all fruit is candied.
Drying Directions (Dehydrator):
  1. Spread candied fruit on tray. I suggest using a fruit leather tray as I've had the mixture once drip to the bottom of the dehydrator which took ages to clean.
  2. Dry at approximately 125F between 12-18 hours.
  3. Candied Fruit is dry when the fruit is no longer sticky. (TIP: fruit will almost always feel sticky if you feel test it when the fruit is warm. Turn the dehydrator off and let it cool to do a sticky test.)
Drying Directions (Oven):
  1. Same instructions as above except place your oven as low to 125F as it will go.
  2. Time will vary depending on your oven temperature.
Storage:
  1. Once completely dry and cool, store in airtight glass mason jars.
  2. I do not suggest storing for more than 1 week in ziplock baggies as these type of bags do not have a high barrier against moisture and oxygen. After a few days, you will notice your candied fruit becoming softer as the fruit begins to absorb the moisture that passes through the bag.
Here are candied watermelon rinds that I made! Some were made plain and some I dipped into a basil sugar mixture I made by blending fresh basil and sugar together in a spice grinder. These smelled mouth wateringly delicious as they dried. Get creative with your toppings!
dehydrated fruit candied watermelon rind

Perfectly Seasoned not Too Salty Jerky

I've become a real jerky snob since I've started making my own jerky at home. More often than not, jerky I buy at the grocery store is over seasoned and every packet tastes the same. The real joy of homemade jerky is the ability to customize the flavor profile to be whatever you want!!

I think jerky makes the perfect lunch when you are on the go. It's easy to pack and store in luggage if you are going on a flight, it's mostly hands free to eat when driving, and it makes the perfect outdoor adventure lunch or snack. Salty and satisfying.

If you are new to jerky, I suggest checking out Excalibur's list of awesome jerky recipes. I've made a few from this list, and none have disappointed.
chicken jerky dehydrated food at home

All of their recipes include step by step instructions, and here's a quick and dirty tip from me to make cutting your meat into thin slices simpler. The key to jerky is to have thin, uniform pieces so that they all dry at the same temperature. However, cutting meat into thin strips can be quite the challenge! To make this process easier, place your meat in the freezer for between 1-2 hours until it is slightly frozen. When meat is frozen, it is SO MUCH EASIER to cut into strips! Your hands will thank me.
Storage: Store your jerky in the freezer to maximize shelf life.

So there you go! My top 3 tips on making gourmet DIY dehydrated meals or snacks at home! Go get crazy!




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