Conversion Options in Preserving: Dehydrating Favorite Recipes

Now that I am “officially” retired I have joined several groups on Facebook that discuss various ways to preserve food. I started following two groups on freeze drying after working on a recipe to convert our popular canned Loaded Pasta Sauce into a dry version for the backcountry enthusiasts in my family. The stories in the Facebook group were somewhat amusing (many people purchase a freeze dryer because the concept of freeze-dried candy is exciting) to cautionary (issues with the seal and the oil and…..). I decided the expense, considerably north of my budget, was not worth the issues I read.

However, each time I make the dehydrated Loaded Paste Sauce, I reconsider, because converting a whole foods recipe to a dehydrated one takes time.

There seem to be two basic ways to achieve a dehydrated recipe for a prepared dish, not just an individual ingredient: ONE: Dry each ingredient and assemble or TWO: Mix the ingredients and then dehydrate.

Since so many people have jumped on to the home grown/home preserved bandwagon this year, I want to welcome you and offer a few tips I have picked up along the way. I want to say that there are tons of people who have been preserving years longer than me with a long heritage guided in the kitchen by their family. Listen to them, too. They have answers to problems I have not yet experienced. LOL

My first best advice is to develop dry meal recipes you enjoy as whole foods. I see a lot of questions on the dehydration Facebook groups asking what meal they should prepare. Knowing someone has a recipe that turns out successfully is a good start, but a meal you know you enjoy is a better start!

I am very proud that one journey into a recipe conversion ended with a BEST in Dehydrated Division at the Oregon State Fair, so while you may not like the ingredients, consider the technique for your favorite recipe.

Before moving to Oregon I helped establish a year-round local food market, The Wild Ramp in Huntington, West Virginia. As part of a crowd-sourced fundraiser, we offered a prize for a significant gift: a Wild Ramp cookbook. It took a couple of months, but I edited an amazing cookbook with whole food recipes submitted by about 50 people in that community as well as chefs I knew elsewhere, including several here in Oregon.

One woman submitted a recipe for a Pumpkin Coconut Curry Soup. When I made the recipe up for the family, I was blown away by its ease of prep and complex flavor mingling. It became a family favorite.

Preserving The Local Harvest

Flash forward and here I am in Oregon, Can-Doing instead of Wild-Ramping, and I am given a ton (seemed like) of surplus winter squash and various pumpkins by my partner farms. Pumpkin puree can not be safely canned, and I sincerely doubted that people would buy canned cubed pumpkin to blend themselves, so knew I could not use a canning technique to reduce that food “waste”.

Anyone who has cut open a pumpkin or squash for roasting knows that some are stringy and some are creamy. For a smooth pie….and a smooth instant soup….the creamier varieties of squash and pumpkin are needed.

I found butternut squash was the one I chose first. Acorn squash works well but is just a tad harder to clear out of the shells, and that little amount of work decided it for me. If you have a surplus of acorn squash and more than no patience, it is a good option.

I’ve used all kinds of pumpkin, including the pie pumpkins in the huge boxes in front of the supermarket for 45-15 cents a pound (the closer to Halloween you can wait……..) but do not recommend the humongous ones sold for jack-o-lanterns. Those are mostly open cavity with a thin layer of stringy meat. Like any other recipe, buy what you can afford because quality can make a difference to the mouthfeel. This year I was deeply pleased with two heirlooms from a couple of my local farmers. When I roasted them, they slid off the skins very easily using a soup spoon to scrape the meat like a pudding.

Galeux D'eysines Squash Seeds
Galeux D’eysines reaches weights between 10-20 pounds and looked like it was kissed by a frog, but it makes the most velvety smooth sauces.
Black Futsu squash
The Black Futsu squash starts very dark and then matures with a bloom that almost looks like a gray mold also cooked creamy and cleaned so easily from the skin with a soup spoon.

Okay, now the rest of the ingredients. Obviously, the curry powder can be purchased hot or sweet (your preference). The onion and garlic are readily available dried as powder. Since the recipe ends up being powdered, this is personal preference. You can dehydrate your own garlic and onions and powder them, or use commercially prepared ingredients.

There are many coconut milk powders available online.

While cans of coconut milk are readily available in most supermarkets with Asian sections, this is not the way to go if you plan to dehydrate this recipe. This is the expensive ingredient in this recipe, so I decided not to try to modify this myself and found dried coconut milk products online. The first time I purchased the product, it had tiny flecks of coconut in it. The second time I purchased it, they had removed the coconut flakes. I liked it and so I added coconut to the recipe……that is an optional item. If you want 100% smooth texture, skip adding the coconut itself and just use the milk.

Finally, the broth. You have two options. ONE: When making up a family-size soup, you can prepare the soup mix with personally canned or store purchased broth. TWO: Use powdered bouillion in the dry mix and then add water in the final preparation prior to eating. (I have salt restrictions in my diet so I have to watch that kind of commercial product. I found adding a culinary yeast with flavor notes I desired provided the ease to final prep I wanted. )

I opted for the dry flavoring (culinary yeast for me instead of dry bouillion) so I could package my soup mix for single-serving use to be very easy. It literally takes only the time to boil some water and then 3 minutes to rehydrate before you can eat this soup!!

CONVERSION time. You have to figure recipe ingredient quantities. Obviously, a cup of milk you pour out of the bottle is not the same volume as a cup of milk powder. You know this without thinking, but to make the recipe work, the math HAS to be done. Yeah for calculators!!! Bigger YEAH for a book that already did the calculation!! This book, Rehydration Calculations Made Easy has sections in both US measurements and metric measurements and provides comparable measurements for whole foods, dehydrated and freeze-dried.

And then the magic happens and on page 18, there is exactly what we need!!

We’re not completely done, though. The original recipe calls for 2 cups of roasted squash…..and all that recipe tells you to do to prepare the squash is to cut it open and roast it. Not all recipes give complete instructions and this is an example of how you, as the experienced cook, figure it out. The whole recipe talks about using a belnder or immersion blender to make the soup smooth. Let’s start with that concept and assume 2 cups of puree.

The instructions and our calculator helps us help us here. The recipe calls for 2 cups of puree for the soup. Basic elementary math leads us to 0.33 cup of powder.

Working the math helps us do the complete recipe conversion.

If you want help with a recipe conversion, holler. I mastered it, you can!!!

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