Food drying is a method of food preservation by dehydrating the food, which inhibits the growth of bacteria and has traditionally been practiced worldwide.
Bacalhau, dried tomatoes, shark fins, dried shrimp, dried scallops, dried mushrooms, smoked salmon…
Japan is no exception, dried food has long been popular as a preserved food made from seasonal ingredients.
Sun-dring foods, which have been carried out since there was no long-term preservation technology such as freezing technology, are the wisdom that was used to preserve seasonal vegetables for a long time and use them without waste.
Sun-drying seasonal vegetables or seafood is typical scenery in the countryside of Japan, and recently this old-fashion method has been trending among young wives!
There are several types of food drying methods in Japan, today I am going to talk about “sun-dry” that you can begin at home today!
This site says, [The best way to start experimenting with the method of sun drying is, to begin with, fruits. Dr. Naseer Ahmed agrees, “The high sugar and acid content of fruits make them safe to dry in the sun.” Vegetables and meats are generally best avoided since they are lower in sugar and acid content.] In Japan, I have never heard of it. Sorry about my understudying, I sun-dry vegetables and mushrooms in the UK and the US, we haven’t had issues so far. However, I can’t take all responsibility and this is my private blog to share my life.
Benefits Of Sun-Drying
First of all, what you can get benefits from sun-drying? it brings surprising benefits.
- Since the vegetables are dehydrated with sun-power, umami and nutrition get fully condensed. At the same time, a unique crunchy texture is created.
- For example, sun-drying increases the content of calcium and iron in Daikon radish and vitamin D in shiitake mushrooms.
- The sun-dried vegetables with natural power from the sun and the breeze bring wonderful sweetness, umami flavor, texture, and natural aroma.
- The dehydrated food absorbs more flavor from sauceduring cooking processes and it is finished as a great dish.
- Save the cooking time. It’s already cut, and basically, just throw in the cooking.
- Economical and environmentally friendly. (reduce food loss) You can eat delicious vegetables that have been left behind, or that you tend to throw away, by drying them.
Tools For Sun-Drying Food At Home
Actually, dried vegetables are very easy to make. After cutting the vegetables, you can put them in a net or a basket and leave them in a well-ventilated shade during the day.
You can use anything that is well-vented in your house such as an oven rack, a cooling rack, a stainless steel wire grade.
But if you enjoy sun-drying frequently, these items will be handy for some reason. Let’s see what you can use for sun-drying.
The Food drying rack
I don’t know how much sun-drying is popular in your culture,
Again, sun-drying is super-common in Japan, so it’s easy to find “Sun-drying nylon net” throughout Japan, even at 100 yen shops.
I found a similar item which is the herb drying rack net on Amazon, it is a must-buy if you want to begin natural homemade sun-dry food life!
Unless it is not an open basket, there is no risk to be stolen from creatures such as bugs, birds, deer(?).
Especially the net has a really fine mesh, even flies and bees can’t get through the net to threaten vegetables.
Also, because of the net rack, it is easy to dry food compared with the basket and a typical cooking rack, so you don’t have to flip over during the process.
The one I bought at a 100 yen shop in Japan, was a kind of 100 yen quality, so big flies could perch my sun-drying veggies (it’s disgusting!). Also sometimes the zipper got the net and didn’t open smooth. (It’s frustrating!)
So I highly recommend buying a fine quality drying net.
Of course, you can use “a basket” for sun-drying.
A colander or a strainer is also fine for a small number of drying veggies. But It can say to other cooking tools I mentioned such as an oven rack and a colander, they don’t absolve moisture and not well-.
Therefore, when comparing with a natural material basket or stainless steel or plastic cooking tools, choose a flat basket made of bamboo or rattan due to good breathability.
But also you may have to protect from wild creatures, in this point, the drying net gives you free time without keeping your eyes on the food.
If you want to just see how sun-drying food works for you and are not sure you need a drying net, the basket can work. If you consider bugs and animals, the basket with a cover net may work.
Here is an idea to use a colander as a protection cover.
Next, I will introduce the tips for drying vegetables in the sun. If it doesn’t work, mold will grow, so I’ll show you how to dry it in the sun.
The best season for drying vegetables is in the dry, sunny, breezy season.
Humidity is the natural enemy for sun-drying food, check the weather forecast before starting.
Drying time depends on drying types, kinds of food, cutting style, roughly speaking, drying food requires from a few days to 1 week. (The semi-drying needs for only a half or full day.)
Start drying outside after the sun’s up until before sunset, and put the basket into the house at night.
Even inside the building, better to keep them in a room without humidity.
To succeed to make sun-dried food, you need…
- Dry air
- Sunny days
so if you live in a hot and humid area, there are more risks to grow mold and mildews. Better using a kitchen oven or a food dehydrator.
Can You Make Dried Veggies Inside Building?
It can be dried vegetables indoors if it is sunny and dry.
It’s hard to fail if the place gets full sun in the dry room especially in the winter season.
Again, the sun-drying process needs to eliminate humidity.
Avoid the place near humidifiers and the kitchen.
Basically, vegetables with less water content are suitable for dried vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and mushrooms. Especially for beginners, those vegetables are easy to begin sun-drying life.
Start carrots or mushrooms for the first step.
Try cutting vegetables in various ways and dry them. Yet, the wide cross-section will be quickly dried so it’s better to cut diagonally.
I slice mushrooms into 1/8 inches and slice carrots into 1/10 inches.
When sun-drying, the cut end should be facing the sun. If you have skin, place it so that the skin is on the bottom. If you have time, turn it over halfway.
Types Of Sun-Dry
There are two sun-dried types- “full-dried” and “Semi-dried”.
Semi-dried food is sun-dried for half a day to a day. The surface is dry, but water content still remains. It is recommended to consume in a few days but if you want to store it for a long time, put it in the freezer.
Full-dried vegetables are dried in the sun for about a week. The inside and outside are completely dried, so long-term storage is possible. You may need to rehydrate with water when cooking, like dried mushrooms.
How To Store
Semi-dried vegetables are considered raw.
Cook them on the same day as freshly dried is the best.
Put it in a freezer bag or container and keep it in the refrigerator, it can be last for about 3 to 4 days. If there is a lot of water, wrap it in kitchen paper and change it once every two days.
Or just keep it in the freezer.
Make sure the food is completely sun-dried.
Put a desiccant in a jar to store it in a pantry.
If water remains, it causes mold, so if you are nervous, store it frozen.