I started with 24 lbs. of carrots that were on sale for 99 cents per 2 lb. bag. That's a really good price for my area. If they were carrots I had grown myself or had bought at the Farmers Market, I would have just scrubbed them clean. But commercially grown produce often has been treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting between field and market, so I peeled them.
Next the carrots were cut to fit my Vidalia food chopper. For canning I often slice carrots, but the diced ones hold up better in soup, so I chopped them into 1/2 inch dices. I ended up with 18 quarts of diced carrots.
These were going to be dehydrated. You can dehydrate carrots without blanching, but they rehydrate faster if blanched for three minutes before drying. And they hold their color better.
Dehydrated vegetables shrink down considerably, so I use plastic mesh inserts on my trays to prevent the small pieces from falling through. I have 14 inserts, so I filled 14 trays, using 15 quarts of the diced carrots. The other three quarts went into the freezer. I set both dehydrators at 135 degrees. I am not sure how long the drying process took. The length of time depends a lot on humidity. Vegetables dry faster on clear days than on rainy ones. I started these early in the afternoon and just let them run all night. They carrots were completely dried by noon the next day. The 15 quarts of diced carrots dried down in volume to about 1 - 1/2 quarts.
There are several ways to store dehydrated vegetables. Some use mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Others use canning jars and still others use Food Savers to remove the air in the bags and to seal them. I have tried the Food Saver method, but often dehydrated food has sharp edges that can easily puncture the bags. And canning jars take up too much shelf space. I found that if I store the dried vegetables in freezer bags, sometime using double bags if there are a lot of sharp edges, that works just fine. I am not recommending this method - just saying what I do. Air and light are not the friend of dehydrated foods. So I bought a bunch of those cardboard bankers boxes with the lids - the kind that can be found at most office supply stores. If you have read previous posts here, you know that I whine a lot about my lack of storage space. But I have one of those heavy duty plastic, snap together shelving units that fits nicely behind my bedroom door. Each shelf holds 3 boxes. I can fit 15 boxes on the shelves - 18 if I stack the top boxes two high. Each is labeled with the contents, and that whole setup works well for me. I have used dried vegetables that are 5 years old, with no difference in looks or taste from those recently dried.
If I want carrots as a vegetable for a meal, I will use my canned carrots. But if I am making soup, which I do often in the fall and winter, I use the dried carrots. I don't have a recipe. I just put two or three quarts of water in the crock pot, some bouillon for flavor, a pint jar of whatever canned meat sounds good to me, and several handfuls of whatever vegetables I like. The biggest problem is remembering that a large handful of carrots will rehydrate into at least a pint of carrots, so I need to use them sparingly.
I really like having the dried vegetables in my pantry. They work so well for soups and stews and, if soaked in boiling water, most will rehydrate well enough for use as a side dish. And it just gives me another option for food storage without taking up as much space as the canned vegetables do. Works well for me.
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