Natural, Organic Pre-treatments
Pre-treating fruits and vegetables for storage, regardless of method used is an important step in preserving the produce. It helps the food product keep its natural colour, and kills off enzymes that can cause food spoilage.
Although there are many products on the market for preparing food for drying, none of them are more effective than the natural products found in most kitchen cabinets and refrigerators. Natural pre-treatments are readily available and can be used for other purposes in the kitchen.
Salt Water Pre-treatment
4 to 6 Tablespoons of non-iodized salt
One gallon of water
Dipping or briefly soaking produce in a salt-water solution consisting of 4 to 6 Tablespoons of non-iodized salt to one gallon of water will prevent dis-colourization of most food products. Use only salt that has not iodized, as the additive will often react with the natural acids in the produce to effect the colour of the finished product. The produce should never be soaked for more than 20 minutes in this solution, as it will effect the vitamin and mineral content of the produce. This is not an ideal solution for people with low salt tolerances, but, is readily available to most home canners. Home canning salt is suggested because no chemicals have been added to keep it from caking when exposed to moisture, but any salt with no additives will suffice.
Vinegar and Salt Pre-treatment
2 Tablespoons of salt
2 Tablespoons of vinegar
1/2 gallon of water
This solution is effective for preventing the discolouring of produce being prepared for home drying. The food products should be soaked in this solution for 10 minutes or less. Again, adding salt to the food products is an effective method for preventing the discolourization due to oxidation (exposure to the air) of many foods, but, if you or anyone in your household are on a low-sodium diet, perhaps another solution would be a better choice.
Lemon Juice Pre-treatment
1 cup of lemon juice
1 gallon of water
Lemon juice is loaded with natural ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and is readily available in most super markets. Commercially prepared lemon juice works well, as the juice must live up to set acidity requirements, assuring you that the acid levels are sufficient to be an effective treatment for oxidation. Read the label carefully, as some of these commercial products have other additives that you may or may not want in your food products. I prefer freshly squeezed lemon juice from organic lemons to assure that the end product is organic and free from any added chemicals whatsoever, which, for me, is the whole point in preparing your own produce for storage.
1 cup of sugar
3 cups of water
This sweet sugar solution can be used to prevent discolourization and can be effective, especially when the fruits to be dried are sour, such as sour cherries or cranberries. It adds sweetness to the prepared food products, but, in order to be effective, the foods must be simmered for 10 minutes in this hot solution, which means that the products will be partially cooked before drying. This is the customary pre-treatment for such fruits as peaches, apricots, and cherries to prevent oxidation. Other methods should be used if you or anyone in your household is diabetic or on a low-sugar diet, such as the lemon juice preparation mentioned above.