Sun drying process is quite interesting to test for a number of vegetables and fruits.
The process of conserving food is something mankind is familiar with because the days of yore. Several folklores recount the methods of preserving foods in a single way or another in accordance with the local plus cultural traditions. The idea was to avoid food from spoiling and help to make this last longer while keeping it fit for consumption. Though there are numerous ways of preserving food, drying plus fermentation are said to be one of the earliest methods of preservation. The idea was to get rid of the water content in the fruit and vegetables therefore preventing bacteria, yeast or fungus from growing on them.
Drying like a method of preservation has numerous benefits. Food becomes lightweight and easy to transport due to the reduced water content inside it. A research conducted by Dr. Naseer Ahmed, of RIMT University, states, “Dried foods are tasty, nutritious, light-weight, easy-to-prepare, and easy-to-store and make use of. The energy input is less than what exactly is needed to freeze or can, as well as the storage space is minimal compared with that will needed for canning jars and freeze out containers. The nutritional value of your meals are only minimally affected by drying.”
History of Sun Drying
Sun and wind both have been employed for preserving food through the process of drying out since time immemorial. Sun drying any method of preserving which is used in abundance in a variety of parts of the world, even today.
The significance of the Sun as a vital source of energy continues to be incorporated in various scriptures and text messages. Thus, it is no surprise that sunlight drying was a commonly used method of meals preservation in those days. In fact, archaeological websites in Egypt and Mesopotamia display proof that food has been conserved using these methods since the year four,000 B.C.
Even in the centre East, evidences prove that sunlight drying was used as a approach to food preservation as early as 12,000 B.C. The Romans may also be said to have a special corner with regard to sun-preserved foods such as dry fruits.
Indians are also quite familiar with sun drying. Most children in India have got borne witness to their grandmothers plus mothers practicing some or the additional form of the natural drying procedure. Whether it is chillies being sun dried out for the process of being converted into pickles, or delicious homemade potato chips – sun drying has always been an essential part of Indian cooking. Sunlight is also said to be the best disinfectant, helping cleanse food grains and produce that is infested with insects. In dire times when there is no electricity or transport, sun drying helps preserve food for longer till it can be taken to the market to be sold.
Sun Drying: Boon Or Bane?
Sun drying basically involves complete reliance on the power of the sun, with the help of natural airflow. It is a gentle process involving a simple reaction of the sun’s heat with your food. Since the sun drying method involves being slow and steady, the interesting and unique flavours that it imparts to the sun:dried food can be vastly different from that of fresh food. This is the reason why sun drying is a popular method of cooking even in highly modernised kitchens of the global world we live in today.
The best part about sun drying is that it is relatively low cost and a low-investment process too. The fact that it is environment-friendly makes it an ideal method of preserving for everyone. Plus, it is a great way to preserve food during situations of emergency when no other method is available.
There are, however, a few disadvantages of preserving food through the process of sun drying as well. Firstly, temperature cannot be controlled and food may tend to get overheated at times. Plus the method of sun drying is a labour-intensive method which involves a lot of people in the process. Also, the sun drying process is slightly risky as it involves heavy reliance on unpredictable weather conditions.
(Also Read: A New Way to Preserve Bread for Longer)
A Beginner’s Guide To Sun Drying
The best way to start experimenting the method of sun drying is to begin along 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 case it is vital to preserve meat and vegetables with the sun drying method, it is best to use an indoor method such as an oven or a food dehydrator.
Here are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind:
- Breezy, sunny days work best for sun drying out with the temperature on the higher end, approximately 30 degree Celsius or more.
- The humidity level should ideally be below 60% for optimum sunlight drying.
- In case fruits are planning to be sun dried outdoors, it’s best to provide a shelter or cover in case of unpredictable weather conditions.
- It is a good practice to check weather forecast beforehand, since it takes several days to completely dry food in the particular sunshine.
- Food should only be sun dried during the day, and brought back in during the night time, due towards the risk of moisture seeping back into it.
Sun Drying Process
- To get started, pre-process your fruit produce. Fruits with seeds should be split into two and the seeds should be removed.
- Light coloured fruits such as apples, pears and apricot should be soaked in lemon juice, in order to protect them from discoloration
- Ideally, the fruits should be cut into similar-sized pieces in order to ensure that all of them are evenly dried
- Use good drying racks to spread out the fruit in the tray. The racks can be made of bamboo wood or stainless steel.
- Place your drying racks in an area that receives bright sunshine and a cool breeze. Preferably stack the drying racks away from dust and traffic.
- Normally, it takes three to seven days for sunlight drying most fruits. The best practice is to let them sit out through the day and bring them back in the night.
- Once the food is sundried, it is important to pasteurize and condition them before storage to make sure the produce is insect-free. Here’s how:
a) Conditioning:Take the dry fruits and pack them in a sealed container for seven to ten days. If condensation develops in the jar, then the fruit requires more drying before storage.
b) Pasteurisation: To pasteurise in a freezer, simply store the cut and dried fruits in plastic bags in a freezer at zero degree Celsius for 48 hours. In case you want to use an oven instead, repeat the procedure by putting the sun dried produce on a tray and setting it at about 70 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.
Sun drying is an easy process, if practiced with caution and care. There is no end to the amount of creativity and imagination that can be applied to sun dried produce during cooking. The flavour that is derived from sun dried fruits is truly incomparable to any other.
About Aditi AhujaAditi loves talking to and meeting like-minded foodies (especially the kind who like veg momos). In addition points if you get her bad jokes plus sitcom references, or even if you recommend a brand new place to eat at.