Dehydrating Aromatic Vegetables

What are aromatics?  

Well, the first thing you should know is that when you dehydrate them they smell.  STRONG.

An aromatic vegetable is: A vegetable used as a flavor base for cooking, usually by sweating or sautéeing.  Our favorites are onions, garlic and bell peppers.

Actually, I don’t think that peppers are really considered an aromatic but in my mind they pair well with the onion and garlic and I don’t worry about any odor exchange.  You definitely don’t want to dry fruit alongside onions or garlic!

I love dehydrating these three vegetables:

  • The #1 reason?  We love to cook with these vegetables!  You want to store what you eat.
  • It’s a great way to use up those peppers that tend to sit in the back of the veggie drawer in your fridge until they’re too wrinkly to eat.  (Just make sure you dry them while they’re still firm and blemish-free.)
  • When you’ve forgotten to grab one of these staples at the grocery store, you’re not in for a mid-dinner dash to the store.  Having dehydrated vegetables on hand makes life just a tad easier.
  • When you remove most of the water out of food, you reduce spoilage and extend the food’s shelf life by months.
  • Rehydrating is easy!  I like to just throw them into soups and stews but to use in another dish, add what you want into a bowl of warm water for about 15 minutes and then cook however you like.

What You Need

A dehydrator (I use an electric dehydrator but you can also oven or solar dehydrate)

Peppers, Onions, and/or Garlic

Cutting Board and Knife

A Little Elbow Grease

About an Hour of Time (faster if you don’t have 2 little boys bouncing rubber balls in the kitchen)

*Optional but Handy* A Scrap bowl

Here’s What To Do

I like to start with the peppers.  They seem to go the fastest and they’re just so pretty in all those colors!  Core them, slice them in half, cut out any of the veins, and then cut halves into 1/4″ to 1/2″ strips.  Arrange them onto the drying trays.  Make sure to leave room so that air can flow through.

Next, I work on the onions.  Slice off the ends, cut in half and peel the papery skin from the outside.  Slice the onions crosswise into strips about 1/4″ to 1/2″ wide.  This is a little more work intensive because you need to separate all the layers into individual strips.  I spent a lot of time arranging the onions nicely onto one tray and then decided to see what would happen if I just dumped them on my second tray and spread them around loosely.  Read further for results . . . . 

Lastly, the garlic.  Ah, how I love and hate this one!  I love to have dehydrated garlic on hand because we love cooking with garlic.  A fun plus is that I can just send it for a spin in the blender and make my own garlic powder.  I absolutely hate having to peel, cut and arrange garlic though.  This seems to be the one that takes the most time.  Peel each garlic clove, slice as thinly as you can, and then arrange onto a drying rack.  **Tip**Use a mesh liner or parchment paper to line the tray so that the garlic doesn’t fall through.

What’s Next?

Set the dehydrator to 130˚ and wait.  And wait.  And then wait a little more.  In fact, this is the best part of drying food.  I always flash back to that mid-90’s Ronco infomercial “Just set it . . . aaaaaannnnndddd FORGET IT!”

Onions take around 6-8 hours.

Garlic (supposedly) takes 10-12 hours.

Peppers take around 14-18 hours.

Here’s what I’ve found.  Everything does just fine if you leave it all together for the whole time.  I tend to dry overnight and then check it the following afternoon.  It’s better to have food “overdry” than “underdry”.  Too much water content left in causes a disheartening surprise when you go to use your dried food.

I’ve also found that I must not slice my garlic thinly enough because it’s always the longest to dry.  That usually stays in for another full day after I take out the peppers and onions.  I made the mistake the last time I dried garlic to pull it out and try to grind it too soon and the “powder” hardened into sticky granules in my dispenser and were not easy to get out!  Trust me, unless you’re slicing paper-thin slices with a mandolin, extend the drying time until you can snap the pieces in half.

Here’s what I got the next day:

The verdict on the onion test:  It didn’t really matter how I placed them.  Both trays ended up just the same.  That’s it – no more of my precious time wasted on perfectly placed onion strands!  It’s kind of freeing.  🙂

Also, I did end up drying the garlic another day to go from “bendy” dry to “crispy” dry.

REMEMBER, this process with the onions and garlic is highly aromatic.  Which means . . . IT STINKS!!  Unless you can handle your house stinking to high heaven, I recommend you dry these in your garage or in a back room that can be closed off.  Our garage was pretty overpowering the afternoon I started it but when we came out the next morning, the smell didn’t knock us off our feet and actually smelled more of pizza than anything else.  Yum!

Let your dried food cool before storing so it doesn’t acquire moisture through condensation.

How to Store Dehydrated Food

There are five factors that affect the quality and storage life of your dried food:

  • Exposure to moisture
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Exposure to air
  • Exposure to heat
  • Time on the shelf

Although plastic Ziploc bags are very convenient, plastic is not the best choice for long-term storage since it can let in air and moisture over time.

Although not pictured here, make sure and store with the canning lids on!

It is recommended that dehydrated food be stored in glass or metal containers.  My personal favorite is to put food in mason jars.  If you’ll be using them immediately and don’t have a large amount, this should be sufficient.  If you are wanting them for long-term food storage, you can remove the air with a FoodSaver jar attachment.

ALWAYS store your dried food in a cool, dry, and dark place.  Like a pantry.  Or in a storage bin that’s away from heat vents, water pipes and heat sources.

Try to use your dehydrated food within a year’s time for the best flavor, nutrients, and quality.

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