Recently, some friends of mine were featured on a popular survivalist television show. They mentioned that they could dehydrate their baby food and store it for years!
I began to wonder for myself how would one go about preserving baby food in case of disaster and wanted to experiment with some techniques for myself. Dehydrated baby food would be a viable option during a power failure or natural disaster and maybe more practical when traveling.
Food dehydration has been used for a long time by campers and survivalist alike and is a really simple process. Dehydration removes the water from the food or puree. The dehydrated food is then prepared for storage and stored in an air-tight container in a cool dark place. It could then be reconstituted by adding water when you need it to be a puree again.
How To Dehydrate Baby Food
Fortunately, most baby food purees can be dehydrated for long-term storage. The key is making sure the food is very dry before storing to prevent the growth of mold, bacteria and yeast.
Dehydration happens with low heat and circulating air to remove moisture. The easiest way to dry a puree is to use a food dehydrator or conventional oven to remove moisture. Round dehydrators tend to have a hole in the center of the trays, so the square ones are easier to cover and better for drying purees. A dehydrator will also save you time, as it can get the job done in about half the time as a conventional oven. A conventional oven set on a low setting (no higher than 140ºF) can also do the job,but you may need to prop the door open with a wooden spoon or use a convection setting if you have one to keep the air circulating. If your oven does not have a setting lower than 140ºF, check the temperature on a “warm” setting. Anything over 140ºF will cook the food instead of drying it.
You can store your dehydrated puree in an air tight container. While you can store it long term in a zip lock bag, it’s better to keep it in a glass jar or plastic container with a lid to discourage rodents and insects.
Dehydrating fruit puree
When dehydrated, fruit puree becomes pliable and leather-like (think of a fruit roll up texture). Certain fruits like banana or apple may discolor. While it doesn’t impact the food’s taste or shelf life, you could add two teaspoons of lemon juice to every two cups of light colored puree to prevent discoloration.
- 2 cups of prepared apple puree
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
1. Line dehydrator trays with plastic wrap and spray lightly with cooking spray. I didn’t have a food dehydrator, so I used a rimmed cookie sheet.
2. Spread the apple puree onto the tray, it should be 1/8- 1/4 inch thick. The edges will dry fastest, so the edges should be just a little thicker than the center for even drying.
3. Place in oven or dehydrator at 135ºF-140ºF to dry. If you don’t have a convection oven, prop the door open with a wooden spoon to keep the air circulating. If you do have a convection feature, turning it on will help tremendously.
Many factors such as the amount of water in the puree, the humidity in the air, etc can effect drying time. A conventional oven may take between 8-12 hours and a dehydrator may take 4-6 hours. Turning the tray every couple of hours will ensure even drying. The leather is dry when it is no longer “tacky” to the touch. Test for doneness in the center of the tray, which is the last part to dry.
The finished product should be pealed off the plastic, cut into strips, re-rolled in plastic wrap and stored in an air tight container. Rehydrate by adding hot water, about 1/4 cup of hot water to 1 Tablespoon worth of dehydrated puree. Cover and let sit until all the water is reabsorbed, which can take up to 25 min.
I used about 2 cups of fresh apple puree in this example. Cutting it into eight equal pieces would give me 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoon) servings. About 1 cup of hot water would be added to each of those strips to get me back the puree consistency I started with. Here, it’s very important to know how much puree you’re starting with so you know what the serving size is, how many pieces to cut it into, and how much water per serving to add after it’s dried out!
Dehydrating vegetable puree
Vegetables (and even fruits) if sliced and dried are too hard to puree well which would leave you with a nasty texture when you try to rehydrate it. Think of trying to rehydrate apple “chips” or “crisps”. Yeeeeah, a mess!
The process starts with a freshly made puree. Follow the same procedure as above. Vegetable puree dries into crispy sheet rather than a leather after drying. The crispy chunks can be ground into a powder and stored as mentioned above. This is a great link on how to make and dehydrate a pumpkin puree.
How long can you store dehydrated puree?
If stored in an airtight container in a cool (below room temperature), very dry place some purees can be stored for up t0 20 years! Ideally, the moisture level of the food is about 2-3%. This ensures maximum shelf life. Fruit leather, if stored in a vacuum sealed bag or an airtight container in optimal conditions, can last for up to 3-4 years. In the freezer, it will last for up to one year.
Dehydrated vegetable puree powder can store much longer. It can safely be stored for up to 20 years and possibly even longer in ideal conditions. Temperature and humidity are very important, cooler and drier conditions equals longer shelf life. If storing dehydrated puree long term, it’s important to check it regularly for spoilage and throw out anything with mold or bacterial growth.