Dried foods have a longer shelf-life than fresh foods, as well as many other benefits. Dried foods are nutritious and can be stored without the need for preservatives and chemicals. They make great foods for camping or hiking trips when you want portable foods without compromising healthy eating. Still, despite all the benefits of dried foods, proper packaging and storage is essential – indeed, dried foods can become contaminated by insects or spoiled by moisture when they are not packaged and stored properly. Let’s learn more about packaging and storing dried foods.
Limit Exposure to Moisture
Once foods have been dried, you want to limit their exposure to moisture. One often overlooked source of exposure is warmth. Before storing dried foods, you want to ensure they are completely cooled as warmer foods may sweat and create moisture. If foods are packaged when they are warm, there could be adequate moisture for mold to grow. Likewise, when you’re packaging foods, you also want to ensure that the jars, containers, or bags are clean and completely dry.
Vacuum packaging is a great way to preserve dried foods. Using canning jars or plastic bags that can be vacuum sealed helps to prevent moisture from spoiling the foods. Also, consider storing dried foods in suitable serving sizes because once you open a package, the foods will be exposed to moisture in the air. As such, you should consider how you will use the foods in a recipe and package accordingly.
Once your dried foods have been packaged, you should also carefully store the foods in a cool, dry place. Dried foods can usually be stored for several months, and even up to 1 year. Heat will reduce the storage time of most dried foods – for example, dried foods can be stored for up to a year at temperatures at or below 15°C; whereas, when stored at temperatures above 25°C, their shelf life drops to about 6 months. You can also check your foods regularly to ensure the packaging material is still dry – glass jars and even clear bags are a great choice because you can see if moisture is collecting inside the container. When moisture appears, always check that foods are not spoiled before consuming.
Of course, dried fruits should maintain some of their moisture content – up to 20 per cent, in fact. Sometimes, this moisture is not evenly distributed through the dried fruits after the dehydration process. To address this problem and reduce the risk of mold growing, you can condition your fruit. Simply place dried fruit in a sealed glass or plastic container for approximately 10 days. The fruit should be loosely packed and the container should be agitated or shaken daily to allow excess moisture to be redistributed through the fruit. If you notice condensation appearing in the jar, put the fruit back in the dehydrator and condition the fruit again.