Storing Dried Food
conditioning: The Number 1 problem in storing dried foods is mold. The risk is highest in a damp climate. So conditioning is very important, because it equalizes moisture so there are no damp spots where mold can get going. Conditioning allows excess moisture from some pieces to be distributed among and absorbed by drier ones.
After you finish the drying, put the food into a wide-rimmed, open-topped bowl for about a week. Give it a stir 2-3 times a day. Keep it covered with a screen or porous cloth fastened around the rim with a rubber band or string to keep out bugs. Then, if you wish, you can repack more tightly.
The Pasteurization Option: Some dryers heat up their dried foods once after they're done drying (and before storing) to "pasteurize" them. Other home dryers consider this step unnecessary and never do it. It's basically a final line of defense against bug problems. To pasteurize, heat the dried food before storing in a 175°F oven for 15 minutes, or in a 160°F oven for 30 minutes. Or else put in your freezer for 48 hours.
Preventing Sticking: Before bagging up sticky dried fruits, you can reduce sticking by shaking them in a bag of dusting material. Gen McManiman suggests dusting bananas with powdered oats, apples with cinnamon, pears with nutmeg, tomato slices with garlic powder or chili mix, and pumpkin pie leathers with pumpkin pie spice.
More Tips on Storing Dried Food
1. Store in small batches because even one small still-moist piece can cause the whole container's contents to mold, and because dried foods are best if used within a short time after their container is opened.
2. If you live in a moist climate, put the dried food inside the jar, and screw the lid on tightly as soon as you've finished drying, so it can't accumulate moisture again.
3. The lid does not have to be a perfect-sealing canning-style lid; save your money. On the other hand, it's nice if the container is moisture-, bug-, and dust-proof. But the reality is that you can use almost anything for a while—and we do: even a paper bag, a recycled mayonnaise jar and lid, or a plastic box with a tight-fitting lid.
4. Don't store in glass jars or clear plastic bags. It's nice to easily check and see just what's going on in there, but where there's light, there's oxidation; and when there's oxidation, there's nutrient destruction. If you do use a glass jar, line it first with a brown paper bag. If you must use glass and clear plastic, be sure to store it in the dark. Or you can store in paper bags.
5. In a humid climate, if your plastic or paper bags aren't airtight, you could put them inside a larger glass or metal container and put a tight lid on that. The outer glass or metal will also protect against} insects or rodents. Dried food should never be stored in direct contact with metal! (Line containers with plastic or paper.)
6. Label jars and packages with the name of the food and date you dried it. An easy system is to just put a strip of masking tape on the container and write on that. Freezing and thawing doesn't hurt dried food.
7. Store out of direct light and in a dry, cool room. You can keep it dark enough by storing the jars inside a cardboard box or under a sheet of black plastic.
8. Check once or twice a week for the first several weeks, and occasionally after that. If you see moisture beads inside the jar, the food should be dried some more! Mold is the result of food that's too moist when stored or that is packaged so openly in such a humid environment that moisture is absorbed.
9. Dried food should stay in prime condition for at least 6 months and may last up to 5 years, but there will be slow but steady deterioration in the meantime.
10. If bugs get into your dried food, you can salvage it by removing them and then roasting the dried food at 300°F for 30 minutes. Repackage and store the food again in containers that don't allow air circulation or insect passage. It should be all right, but check again after a few weeks. If there are signs of bugs, give the food yet another heat treatment. Bugs are not poisonous, just visually unappealing.
Continue reading here: Using Dried Food
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