Grace Viall Gray.

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many advantages of drying?

When we study the history of food preservation we find that drying was
practiced before canning, pickling or preserving. I know my
grandmother successfully dried quantities of things.

Vegetable and fruit drying have been little practiced for a
generation or more, though there have been some thrifty housekeepers
who have clung to their dried corn, peas, beans and apples. A friend
of mine says: "Why, dried corn has a much better, sweeter taste than
your canned stuff. I would rather have one little dish of my delicious
dried corn than two big dishes of your canned corn."

Drying, I think we will all admit, does not and cannot take the place
of canning fruits and vegetables in glass or tin. Drying and canning
are twin sisters, and always go hand in hand.

The ideal arrangement for all homes, whether on the farm, in the
village, in the town or in the city, is to have an ample supply of
canned food for emergencies and quick service, and an equally ample
supply of dried foods when meals are planned beforehand and there is
time enough for the soaking and cooking of the dried foods.


THE ADVANTAGES OF DRYING

When we come right down to facts, drying has many advantages over
canning.

The process is very simple, as you will see. The cost is slight. In
almost every home the necessary equipment, in its simplest form, is
already at hand. There is no expense for glass jars or tin cans, and
with ordinary care there is no loss of products, as there may be in
handling glass jars or from spoilage. The actual work requires less
time and less skill than canning and the dried products when properly
prepared are just as good as the canned ones - some say better.

One special thing in favor of drying is the little storage space
needed. You can often reduce 100 pounds of fresh product to ten
pounds by drying, without any loss of food value and with little loss
of flavor.

Dried products can be moved more conveniently than glass jars or tin
cans, for they are usually reduced to from one-third to one-fifth of
the original bulk.

Another valuable thing about drying is that the little odds and ends
one would scarcely bother to can may be dried in the oven as you go
about your housework.

I have often been asked the difference between the meaning of the
terms "evaporated," "dried," "desiccated" and "dehydrated." These
terms are used more or less interchangeably when applied to foods from
which the moisture has been removed. In a general way, however,
"evaporated" products are those from which the moisture has been
removed through the agency of artificial heat; dried fruit is that
which has been exposed to the heat of the sun, though not infrequently
the term is applied to products handled in the evaporator. The other
terms are commonly applied to products that have been evaporated by
one of the various patented processes in which equipment of some
special design has been used.

To avoid any confusion we will use the general term "dried" for all
products that have enough of the water removed to prevent bacterial
action, but which still retain the maximum food value, color and
flavor of the original product. And that is what we want to accomplish
when we attempt to dry.

How are we to remove the water and still retain food value, color and
flavor? There are three principal methods by which we can do this.
First, by artificial heat. Drying by artificial heat is done in the
oven or on top of a cookstove or range, in trays suspended on the
stove or in a specially constructed dryer built at home or purchased.

Second, by the sun. Sun drying is done either out of doors in the sun,
under glass in sun parlors, or the products are hung in the attic
where the sun has free access.

Third, satisfactory drying may be done by an air blast from an
electric fan.

Of course any one of these may be used alone or two different methods
may be combined. You can start a product on the stove and finish it in
the sun, or _vice versa._

The simplest and yet the most effective drying may be done on plates
or dishes placed in the oven. It may be done on the back of the
kitchen stove with these same utensils while the oven is being used
for baking. In this way left-overs and other bits of food may be dried
with slight trouble while the stove is being used, and saved for
winter use. This method is especially effective for sweet corn. A few
sweet potatoes, apples or peas, or even a single turnip, may be dried
and saved.

To keep the heat from being too great, when drying in the oven leave
the oven door partly open. For oven use, a simple tray may be made of
galvanized-wire screen of convenient size, with the edges bent up for
an inch or two on each side. At each corner this tray should have a
leg an inch or two in length to hold it up from the bottom of the oven
and permit circulation of air round the product.

Oven drying in a gas range is an effective method if the temperature
is kept even. An oven thermometer is a great convenience, otherwise
the temperature will have to be carefully watched and the burners
turned as low as possible. It is economy in the end to purchase an
oven thermometer, for then you can have the temperature just right. It
is best to start the temperature at 110 degrees Fahrenheit and dry at
130 degrees. Never go over 150 degrees.

If you wish to dry in the oven over the kerosene stove, place
soapstones over each burner to prevent the heat from becoming too
intense. Turn the burners very low until the stones are thoroughly
heated. You can turn off the burners completely after the desired
temperature is reached and it will be maintained from the heat of the
stones for five or six hours. If more time than that is required for
the drying, it may be necessary to light the burners again before the
end of the process. The products should be turned constantly, so that
they may dry evenly.

When using any oven for drying you can cover the oven racks with
cheesecloth and spread the products on them. Always have the racks two
or three inches apart to allow free circulation of air.

An effective dryer for use over a stove or range may easily be made at
home. For the frame use strips of wood a half inch thick and two
inches wide. The trays or shelves are made of galvanized-wire screen
of small mesh tacked to the supports. Separate trays sliding on strips
attached to the framework are desirable. This dryer may be suspended
from the ceiling over the kitchen stove or range or over an oil,
gasoline or gas stove, and it may be used while cooking is being done.
If an oil stove is used there must be a tightly fitting tin or
galvanized-iron bottom to the dryer, to prevent the fumes of the oil
from reaching and passing through the material which is to be dried. A
bottom of this kind may be easily attached to any dryer, homemade or
commercial. A framework crane makes it possible for this dryer to be
swung to one side when not in use.

A larger kind of homemade stove dryer can be made. This is a good
size: base, 16 by 24 inches; height, 36 inches. The lower part or
supporting framework, six inches high, is made of galvanized sheet
iron, slightly flaring toward the bottom, and with two ventilating
holes in each of the four sides. The frame which rests on this base is
made of strips of wood one or one and a half inches wide. Wooden
strips, an inch and a quarter wide and three inches apart, serve to
brace the sides and furnish supports for the trays.

In a dryer of the dimensions given there is room for eight trays. The
sides, top and back are of galvanized-iron or tin sheets, tacked to
the framework, though thin strips of wood may be used instead of the
metal. Small hinges and a thumb latch are provided for the door.
Galvanized sheet iron, with numerous small holes in it, is used for
making the bottom of the dryer. To prevent direct heat from coming in
contact with the product and also to distribute the heat by radiation,
a piece of galvanized sheet iron is placed two inches above the
bottom. This piece is three inches shorter and three inches narrower
than the bottom and rests on two wires fastened to the sides.

The trays are made of wooden frames of one-inch strips, to which is
tacked galvanized-wire screen. Each tray should be three inches
shorter than the dryer and enough narrower to allow it to slide
easily on the supports when being put in or taken out.

In placing the trays in the dryer push the lower one back as far as it
will go, leaving a three-inch space in front. Place the next tray even
with the front, leaving the space at the back. Alternate all the trays
in this way to facilitate the circulation of the heated air. It is
well to have a ventilating opening, six by two inches, in the top of
the dryer to discharge moisture. The trays should be shifted during
the drying process to procure uniformity of drying.

Several types of stove dryers are on the market. One of these has a
series of trays in a framework, forming a compartment. This is placed
on top of the stove. Another is a shallow metal box which is filled
with water. This is really a water-bath dryer. This dryer or
dehydrator can be used on either a gas or coal range. A thermometer is
necessary in order to maintain the right temperature. The slices of
vegetables or fruit are placed on the tray with the thermometer, and
the dryer does the work.

Commercial dryers having their own furnaces may be bought at prices
ranging from $24 to $120. Some of these, in the smaller sizes, may be
bought without furnaces and used on top of the kitchen stove. The cost
is from $16 upward.

Sun drying has much to recommend it. There is no expense for fuel, no
thermometer is needed, and there is no danger of overheating the
fruits or vegetables.

For sun drying of fruits and vegetables, the simplest way is to spread
the slices or pieces on sheets of plain paper or lengths of muslin and
expose them to the sun. Muslin is to be preferred if there is danger
of sticking. Trays may be used instead of paper or muslin. Sun drying
requires bright, hot days and a breeze. Once or twice a day the
product should be turned or stirred and the dry pieces taken out. The
drying product should be covered with cheesecloth tacked to a frame
for protection from dust and flying insects. If trays are rested on
supports placed in pans of water, the products will be protected from
crawling insects. Care must be taken to provide protection from rain,
dew and moths. During rains and just before sunset the products should
be taken indoors.

To make a cheap tray for use in sun drying, take strips of wood
three-quarters of an inch thick and two inches wide for the sides and
ends. To form the bottom, laths should be nailed to these strips, with
spaces of one-eighth of an inch between the laths to permit air
circulation. A length of four feet, corresponding to the standard
lengths of laths, is economical. Instead of the laths galvanized-wire
screen with openings of one-eighth or one-quarter of an inch, may be
used. In using wire the size of the tray should be regulated by the
width of wire screen obtainable. The trays should be of uniform size,
so that they may be stacked together for convenience in handling.

A small homemade sun dryer, easily constructed, is made of light
strips of wood, a sheet of glass, a small amount of galvanized-wire
screen and some cheesecloth. A convenient size for the glass top is
eighteen by twenty-four inches. To hold the glass make a light wooden
frame of strips of wood a half inch thick and one inch wide. This
frame should have legs of material one by one and a half inches, with
a length of twelve inches for the front legs and eighteen inches for
those in the rear. This will cause the top to slope, which aids in
circulation of air and gives direct exposure to the rays of the sun.
As a tray support nail a strip of wood to the legs on each of the four
sides, about four inches below the top framework and sloping parallel
with the top. The tray is made of thin strips of wood about two inches
wide and has a galvanized-wire screen bottom. There will be a space of
about two inches between the top edges of the tray and the glass top
of the dryer, to allow for circulation of air.

Protect both sides, the bottom and the front of the dryer with
cheesecloth, tacked on securely and snugly, to exclude insects and
dust without interfering with circulation. At the rear place a
cheesecloth curtain, tacked at the top but swinging free below, to
allow the tray to be moved in and out. Brace the bottom of this
curtain with a thin strip of wood, as is done in window shades. This
curtain is to be fastened to the legs by buttons when the tray is in
place. If you have a sunny, breezy attic you can hang your drying
trays there.

The use of an electric fan is an effective means of drying. As there
is no danger of the food scorching, the fan proves as effective as the
sun for drying.

Sliced vegetables or fruits are placed on trays one foot wide and
three feet long. These trays are stacked and the fan placed close to
one end, with the current of air directed lengthwise along the trays.
The number of trays to be used is regulated by the size of the fan.
Drying by this process may be done in twenty-four hours or less. With
sliced string beans and shredded sweet potatoes a few hours are
sufficient if the air is dry.

Of importance equal to proper drying is the proper packing and storage
of the finished product. Use baking-powder and coffee cans and similar
covered tins, pasteboard boxes with tight-fitting covers, strong paper
bags, and patented paraffin paper boxes, which may be bought in
quantities at comparatively low cost.

A paraffin container of the type used by oyster dealers for the
delivery of oysters will be found inexpensive and easily handled. If
using this or a baking-powder can or similar container, after filling
adjust the cover closely. The cover should then be sealed. To do this
paste a strip of paper round the top of the can, covering the joint
between can and cover for the purpose of excluding air. Pasteboard
boxes should be sealed by applying melted paraffin with a brush to the
joint.

If a paper bag is used the top should be twisted, doubled over and
tied with a string. Moisture may be kept out of paper bags by coating
them, using a brush dipped into melted paraffin. Another good
precaution is to store bags in an ordinary lard pail or can or other
tin vessel having a closely fitting cover.

The products should be stored in a cool, dry place, well ventilated
and protected from rats, mice and insects. In localities where the air
is very moist, moisture-proof containers must be used. It is good
practice to use small containers, so that it will not be necessary to
leave the contents exposed long after opening and before using.

A very good plan is to pack just enough fruit or vegetables for one or
two meals in each container. This will lessen the chance of large
quantities being spoiled. For convenience label all packages.




CHAPTER XIII

HOW TO DRY FRUITS


Having decided to add the accomplishment of drying to your other
housewifely arts, you have given some thought and study to the subject
of driers. You now know whether you prefer sun, artificial or fan
drying. You have either made or bought some kind of a drier. Little
other equipment is needed.

A few good paring knives, some plates, and if possible some cutting or
slicing device to lighten the work of preparation are all that are
necessary. A sharp kitchen knife will serve every purpose in slicing
and cutting fruits for drying, if no other device is at hand. The
thickness of all slices of fruit should be from an eighth to a quarter
of an inch. Whether sliced or cut into strips the pieces should be
small, so as to dry quickly. They should not, however, be so small as
to make them hard to handle or to keep them from being used to
advantage in preparing dishes for the table, such as would be prepared
from fresh products. Berries are dried whole. Apples, quinces, peaches
and pears dry better if cut into halves, rings or quarters.

Cleanliness is essential. A knife blade that is not bright and clean
will discolor the product on which it is used.

Winter apples should be chosen for drying when possible, as sweet
apples and early varieties are not so well adapted to the purpose.
The Northern Spy, the Baldwin and the Ben Davis give a good-flavored
dried product. Most early varieties lack sufficient firmness of
texture for the best results. On the other hand, some comparatively
early kinds, such as Gravenstein and Porter, are considerably prized
in some sections.

To prepare them for drying, apples are peeled, cored, trimmed and
sliced one quarter of an inch thick. Be sure to cut out all worm
holes, decayed spots and other blemishes. Defects are easily cut out
with an ordinary straight-back, sharp-pointed knife having a blade two
and a half to three inches long.

To prevent discoloration, as fast as the fruit is prepared dip it into
a weak salt solution - three level teaspoonfuls of salt to one gallon
of water. After all the apples are prepared, remove surplus moisture
and put on trays, water-bath drier or whatever device you are using.


HOW TO REGULATE THE HEAT

Start with the temperature at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, gradually raise
it to 130 degrees and do the drying at that temperature. It is
important to know the degree of heat in the drier, and this cannot be
determined very accurately except by using a thermometer. Inexpensive
oven thermometers can be bought or an ordinary thermometer can be
suspended in the drier. If a thermometer is not used the greatest care
should be given to the regulation of the heat. The temperature in the
drier rises rather quickly and the product may scorch unless close
attention is given to it.

The reason sun drying is popularly believed to give fruits and
vegetables a sweeter flavor probably is that in the sun they never are
scorched, whereas in the oven or over a stove scorching is likely to
happen unless one is very careful. An oven or dairy thermometer is a
good investment. If you do not have a thermometer test the heat by the
air feeling warm to the hand. The product should never be so hot that
it cannot be grasped in the hand. In order to prevent the fruit from
burning where artificial heat is used and to keep it from sticking to
the drier by remaining in contact with it too long, stir the fruit
occasionally. To insure the most uniform drying in sun drying, the
fruit also should be stirred occasionally.

Remember that if trays with metal bottoms are used for drying, they
should be covered with cheesecloth to prevent acid action. Oven racks
may be covered with either cheesecloth or heavy wrapping paper.

The interval between stirring varies with the type of drier used, with
the condition of the fruit and with the degree of heat maintained.
Make the first stirring within two hours after the drying is begun.
After that examine the product from time to time and stir often enough
to prevent scorching or sticking and to insure uniform drying. Use a
wooden paddle for stirring. Where several trays or racks are placed
one above the other, it is necessary to shift the trays from time to
time, so the upper tray goes to the bottom and the bottom tray to the
top.

The time necessary for drying fruit depends upon several factors: The
type and construction of the drier; the depth to which the fruit is
spread; the method of preparing, whether sliced, quartered or whole;
the temperature maintained; and weather conditions, whether bright
and sunny or cloudy and damp.

If the atmosphere is heavy and damp the drying is retarded. Under some
conditions it is hardly possible thoroughly to dry fruit.

There is possibly no step in the entire drying process that requires
better-trained judgment than the matter of knowing when the fruit is
sufficiently dried. A little experience will soon teach this.

The fruit should be so dry that when a handful of slices is pressed
together firmly into a ball the slices will be "springy" enough to
separate at once upon being released from the hand. No fruit should
have any visible moisture on the surface. As the dried apples, pears,
peaches and apricots are handled they should feel soft and velvety to
the touch and have a pliable texture. You do not want fruit so dry
that it will rattle. If fruits are brittle you have dried them too
much.

After the apples and all other fruits are dried they must go through
another process, called "conditioning." The best way to "condition"
fruits is to place them in boxes or cans and pour them from one
container into another once a day for three or four successive days.
By doing this you mix the fruit thoroughly and give to the whole mass
an even degree of moisture. Pieces that are too dry will absorb
moisture from those that are too moist.

You may lose a whole bag or jar of dried products if you neglect the
conditioning, for if one moist piece goes into that bag all is lost.
Moisture breeds mold and mold means decay.

Ask yourself these questions: "Do I ever lose any dried products? Are
my dried products when soaked and cooked as near like the original
fruit as possible?" If you lose products and if your dried fruits are
tasteless you had better start the conditioning process. For with this
one step added to your drying you need lose no dried products, and you
need not dry the fruits to the brittle stage, as you must of necessity
do when you put them away immediately.

After you have poured the dried products back and forth every day for
three or four days as an additional precaution, reheat the dried fruit
to 140 degrees just long enough - about thirty minutes - to allow the
heat to penetrate throughout the product.

Two kinds of moths stand out prominently among insects that attack
dried fruits and vegetables. They are much more likely to get into the
fruit during the process of drying than to find their way through
boxes into the stored products. This applies particularly to drying in
the sun. The Indian-meal moth is the most destructive of these
insects. It is about three-eighths of an inch long and has a cloaked
appearance, one-third gray and the rest copper-brown. The fig moth is
about the same size, but dark, neutral gray. A minute, flattened
chocolate-brown beetle usually accompanies these moths and does
considerable damage. Both of the moths deposit their eggs on fruit
when it is on the drying racks - usually at dusk or after dark, for
these insects are not fond of daylight.

It takes from three to ten days for the eggs to hatch into whitish or
pinkish grublike caterpillars, and from five to ten weeks from the
laying of the eggs before more moths appear to lay another lot of
eggs. A number of "broods" or generations are produced yearly, so if
a few of these moth eggs are stored away on dried fruits or vegetables
hundreds of caterpillars are produced and many pounds of valuable
material may be destroyed during the winter if the products are stored
in a warm room. Dried fruits stored in warm, dark bins or in sacks
offer especially favorable places for the development of these
destructive moths.

It is evident that the larger the package, the greater the chance of a
few eggs doing much damage. Small cartons or containers confine the
injury from these moths to small quantities of material; for if the
containers are closed tightly the insects cannot easily escape from
them and infest other packages which may not have been infested
previously.

If you are drying by sun and the products are not thoroughly dry at
night, finish the process on the stove. If you desire to carry it over
to the next day screen the drying racks early in the evening and
fasten down the cheesecloth. With these precautions and with proper
storage, no danger ordinarily need be feared from these insects. The
additional precaution of heating the dried product to 140 degrees for
thirty minutes sterilizes it if already infested.

Though not necessary, tin cans or glass jars make good receptacles for
storage of dried fruits or vegetables. Pasteboard boxes with tight
covers, stout paper bags and patented paraffin paper cartons also
afford ample protection for dried products when protected from insects
and rodents. The dried products must be protected from outside
moisture, and will keep best in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place.
These conditions, however, are difficult to obtain in the more humid
regions, and there moisture-tight containers should be used. If a
small amount of dried product is put in each receptacle, just enough


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