Are your dehydrated powders clumping? Don't let your hard work go to waste! Learn five ways to keep dehydrated powders dry (and not clumping) and safe for food storage to enjoy year-round!
You might find that your dehydrated powders are clumping in that jar. Or perhaps you've ground them and found the produce wasn't as dry as you thought it was.
Can your dehydrated powder be saved? Or were there measures you could have taken when storing to stop the clumping from happening in the first place? I'll show you three techniques to keep your powder dry!
Last week, I ran into that problem. I dehydrated scallions. One of the powdering batches didn't turn out as I'd planned. Something hadn't completely dried, even though I had checked the batch. When grinding, I found powder was sticking to the bowl and clumping. So, I needed to re-dry the powder.
A quick note of process: always condition your dehydrated products.
It's more important with fruit since the humidity levels need to be around 20%, and you want to be sure to keep the whole of your fruit that way, and not a couple of pieces higher, making them more prone to molding. However, you want to do this for your vegetables as well (which should have about 10% humidity). I explain more about humidity levels and how to test them in this post.
Yes, even us seasoned dehydrating folks get a little ahead of ourselves and make mistakes. But there's a way to fix it!
What is conditioning?
Conditioning is the process of allowing your produce to come to room temperature after drying, and storing in an airtight container (don't vacuum seal it). Shake the container once a day, every day, for a week to ten days. If you see no issues of condensation (such as moisture on items, moisture buildup on the glass, plumper pieces of produce), you're free to put up for long-term storage as usual.
Ways to Keep Dehydrated Powders Dry aka Not Clumping
1. Store in Airtight Containers
I cannot stress enough the need for airtight containers for storing your dehydrated powders.
Never store your dehydrated products in only zip-top bags. While helpful for short-term food storage, plastic storage bags for food are not air-tight. Air can permeate the plastic over time, allowing your produce to being to reabsorb moisture and for oxygen to break down your produce.
You can store smaller portions in zip-top bags and then store all of those in a larger airtight container. It's how I store much of my long-term storage powders because I don't want to take the chance of dropping a jar and losing the whole batch. Having them in smaller bags helps keep them safe, and adds an extra layer of protection.
Airtight containers could be one of the following:
- Glass jars with tight-fitting lids - these can be canning jars, commercial food jars you recycle, etc.
- Kilner jars - glass jars with clamping lids and rubber seals
- Mylar bags
- Vacuum seal bags
- Plastic containers that do not allow air to move in or out of the seal (one good test is to use both hands to squeeze the container. If you can hear or feel air movement in the lid or closure, it is not airtight.
One caveat about using glass jars or other light admitting storage containers is that light also breaks down your dehydrated products, decreasing their shelf life. It's important to store your dehydrated products in a cool, dry, dark location when possible.
This is even more important with powders as more of the surface area of the dehydrated food is now exposed, so oxidation, moisture, light, and other factors play into your food degrading more quickly.
This video is one where I show you how I store my bulk mushroom powder. It can work for any bulk powders you have, or even a variety, if you don't have a vacuum sealer.
2. Store with Moisture Absorbers / Desiccant Packs / Silica Gel Packs
Think of moisture absorbers (desiccant packs) as dampness absorbing containers you can buy for your bathroom or basement - but food safe for your dehydrated products. They are small pouches full of silica gel that absorbers ambient moisture in a container.
This also allows you to get in and out of your jar of dehydrated powder and not worry about moisture build-up having your jar opened often. The desiccant pack will absorb whatever moisture is in the air once you've closed the jar.
A note about moisture absorbers/desiccant packs. These do not absorb oxygen. So these are not meant to protect long-term against oxygen in your storage (which is one of the culprits in food degradation in food storage). These work at keeping any residual moisture that may be in the air or in your produce at bay.
What is pressure clumping?
Clumping from pressure in storage is different than clumping from moisture. You might find that the bottom of your jar is clumped up while the top is fine. This is pressure clumping.
3. Use Arrowroot Powder
We're very used to our store-bought foods not clumping in their containers. Often it is because anti-caking agents have been added to them to help reduce the occurrence. But instead of using a synthetic chemical to help stop clumping in our homemade powders, you can use arrowroot powder.
It's traditionally used as a thickener, but also helps powders not clump together.
- Add 1 teaspoon of arrowroot powder to a pint-sized jar.
- Adjust based on color of powder or need for more.
Remember, this shold be done only after you've done the other steps of conditioning the powder, etc.
If I'm storing a fruit powder or something like bell peppers that tend to clump. I adjust up or down depending on color and if it is a powder that is prone to clumping such as fruits or tomato or bell pepper.
I don't use it in my green powder, vegetable powder, or mushroom powders.
Clumping doesn't just come from moisture (unless you've allowed moisture to build up in your jar), but from fine grains being packed into together or sugar. The arrowroot powder acts as both a mild desiccant and a means to help stop the compaction clumping from pressure.
Alternatively, you can use cornstarch. I prefer arrowroot powder in my kitchen.
4. Re-dehydrate your powder
Another way to dry your powders is to re-dry them. It seems crazy, right? But it really does work.
Just as with your regular produce, lay your powder out on a solid surface - whether you use parchment paper (baking paper), or a reusable nonstick dehydrating sheet, or a lipped silicone tray (I love these for Excalibur / square or rectangle machines, but you can use whatever fit your tray - just search for silicone jelly roll sheet), or even make your own.
With either of these methods, you can cut the sheets down to the size of your dehydrator. You can then make them into trays for drying powders or liquids.
How to Create Powder Drying Trays
Another option is to put your powders on a cookie sheet, and put the into your oven with the light on or pilot light active.
Or, preheat your oven to its lowest temperature, turn it off, and place the sheets into your oven for 15-30 minutes to allow the heated air to dry your powder.
5. Powder on Demand
Another way to ensure that you do not end up with clumpy dehydrated powders is to grind on command.
Generally, powders last between 6-9 months. Like spices, they begin to lose their viability from having been processed and exposed to light, oxygen, and moisture.
The rest are usually stored as dehydrated fruits or vegetables and I grind only what I need for a few uses. I then store them in small containers. As with spices, whole dehydrated fruits and vegetables keep longer than powders, so you might find it safer, in the long run, to store whole and grind on demand.
So, be encouraged to powder your dehydrated fruits and vegetables and make them more versatile for all of your cooking needs. It really is worth it! Just make sure to keep dehydrated powders dry with one of these four techniques to help keep your hard work last longer!