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There’s nothing more frustrating than losing dehydrated food that you’ve worked long and hard on to mould. Even the smallest amount of moisture can ruin your dried produce. The extra step after drying, known as ‘conditioning’ is a simple process applied to recently dried food to ensure that any moisture that may be still in your produce, is equalised amongst all the pieces in the batch.
Here’s a list of things that can result in too much moisture:
The good news is, not all dehydrated foods need conditioning. If you are dehydrating produce for snacking within the next few weeks, you can safely skip this step. A period of conditioning, however, is necessary for many fruits and some vegetables if you are dehydrating to preserve food for months or years.
Fruit (which should be dried to about 20% moisture) are the main foods that need to be conditioned. Fruits are considered dried when they are pliable, don’t stick together and no beads of moisture form when squeezed between your fingers. High sugar fruits, like figs, cherries, and muscatel grapes may even feel slightly sticky – so it’s hard to tell if they are adequately dried. If you enjoy your dried fruits soft and chewy, we recommend conditioning.
Because vegetables dry to about 10% moisture, they are easier than fruit to determine dryness. Typically, vegetables become tough, brittle, or crunchy when dehydrated, so you will know when they are done. There are always exceptions. Vegetables that remain leathery, such as some varieties of tomato, mushrooms and cabbage may need to be conditioned. Also condition if the weather conditions are humid.
With experience, you will be able to tell which fruits and vegetables, or methods of slicing need more drying time or a period of conditioning.
Leave the dried produce on the Breeze Dehydrator trays to cool. You’ll be better able to gauge if there is moisture present after sitting at room temperature for an hour. If some are still under done, remove the pieces that are dry then switch the dehydrator back on for more time. When all the trays are dried, follow the steps below so that your hard work doesn't go to waste.
Take the dried produce that has cooled and pack it loosely into plastic containers or glass jars. Something large enough to be able to shake the pieces about. The containers may not be what you would store the dehydrated food in permanently. Seal the containers and let them sit somewhere handy (but not in direct sunlight) for 7-10 days. Shake or rotate the jars daily to separate the pieces and evenly distribute the remaining moisture. During this process the excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces. If moisture condensation develops in the jar, or pieces stick together, return the food to the dehydrator trays for further drying, then repeat the conditioning step.
After conditioning, package and store in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight.