As Preppers, we all know the value of being able to dry or dehydrate food and spices for our preps, however what about after SHTF hits? How will we do this without electricity or propane? I suppose you could use a fire to do it, but then it would all take on the smell and flavor of smoke and that is not always desirable. There are other natural ways to do it that you may not have thought of and that is the topic of today’s post.
Man has been smoking and drying meat, vegetables and spices for thousands of years. They make these foods last longer and are more convenient to use when needed. While we will be focusing mainly on Peppers and vegetables today, these same techniques can be applied to many items and are easy to do.
The first method we are going look at is the screen drying method. I remember seeing my grandparents doing this when I was a child. (Yes, I am old.) This is done by taking two frames made of wood or aluminum and stretching window screen over them tightly. A regular window screen used in many modern homes today will work nicely. Just be sure to wash them thoroughly first. Next you will want to take some peppers or whatever you want to dry and slice them into long then pieces if needed and place them in between two of the screens. For peppers, I would slice them down the middle long ways. Next clamp the screens tightly together to keep bugs out. Now place the screens in the direct sunlight and suspend them in the air or set them between two saw horses to dry. This process usually takes about three or four days to complete and be sure to bring them in at night to prevent dampness and animals from getting to them. After they are completely dry, remove them from the screen enclosure and place them in a sealed jar or zip lock bag for later. By doing it this way they will retain more of their flavor and natural oils for when you need them. When you are ready to use them remove the amount you need and grind them with a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. If you don’t have spice grinders then place them between two pieces of clean cloth or in a pillow case and beat them with a hammer or a large rock. I have actually used this method before and it seems to work pretty well.
Another method for drying these and even meat is to place them on a dark pan and place the pan on the dashboard of a car with the windows rolled up. You will want to leave a very small crack in one of the windows to allow for air flow, but not so large as to let bugs in. Be sure that the car is facing the sun for best results. Again, this process will take about three days for small vegetables and up to 7 days for meat. If you are doing this to dry meat, then please be careful and make sure that the meat is thinly sliced and is completely dry as moisture will cause the meat to spoil faster, after you remove them. The only drawback that I have found to this method is that some of the oils from the peppers will evaporate and attach to the windshield of the car and will need to be cleaned afterwards or before using the car. This is best done using vinegar and a clean cloth to remove any residue left by the drying process. If you have an old non-running vehicle that can be sealed up, then it makes a good food dryer. Just think about how hot it gets in an enclosed car in the summer and you will understand why they make such an effective food dryer. Some people even hang racks in them for drying meat and large items like plants that are used for spice like dill or sage. I have never tried that myself, but they say it works really well.
A third method is to dry them by hanging them upside down from a string so they can dry naturally in the sun. This method is preferred by many people for drying Herbs and flowers. For this method, you will want to leave the peppers whole and not cut up. This method can also take longer, so if you are not in a hurry then you might want to give it a try as well. (Do not use this method for drying meat!) I am sure that there are other way to dry these that I have not covered here and some of which I have never heard of as well.
All of the above methods require heat from the sun, and are not intended to be done in the winter, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done in the winter depending on where you live. The Indians of the plains would place their spices and vegetables on a large rock in the sun to dry. It is a process as old as time it’s self and is still very effective today. Well I hope I may have given you a few ideas on how to dry spices and meats after SHTF hits and that it will benefit you when the time comes and you actually need to use it. Until next time remember to keep on prepping!
– The Sargent –