Letter Re: Home Dehydrating and Home Vacuum Packing

As a “very long time” survivalist, I read everything I can get. I also enjoy your website as it is the most informative one out there! Now for my problem: I was diagnosed with what is called Celiac Sprue. This is a horrible allergy to anything that contains Gluten, such as wheat, barley, and rye. What this means is that if I were to eat anything that contained Gluten I will come down with extremely bad cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and fever. Basically, It feels like I have the flu but ten times worse. As you can see this makes buying large bulk items for long term storage difficult and costly. My question to all is this: Can I get a dehydrator and an automatic sealer and vacuum to make my own MREs? I am talking about things like Thai noodles (various flavors, all Gluten free), hydrate and cook them and then turn around and use a dehydrator to make them dehydrated, or, just seal them in a pouch minus the air and use them as long term pre-packaged/MRE type food? Does anybody have any experience in doing just this? Thanks, – Thunderchief

JWR Replies: Home dehydrators are very useful! Over the years, we have used ours for everything from drying venison jerky and apples, to “reanimating” silica gel rust preventative packets. Dehydrators easy to find used for reasonable prices, via a newspaper “want” ad, or a localized web service like Craig’s List. Dehydrators are a bit bulky to buy via mail order, so try to find a local source first.) If purchased new, they can be quite expensive. The one that we use at the Rawles Ranch is an Excalibur brand, with a variable temperature control. They are very sturdy and typically have lots of trays, so they can hold a lot. Ours is circa 1980, and still going strong, with no maintenance. They require AC power, so in anticipation of he grid going down, you should already have a backup solar dehydrator, or at least all of the materials that you will need to fabricate one, after TSHTF.(See: http://www.standardtimes.com/daily/08-02/08-31-02/c02li087.htm and http://www.pathtofreedom.com/pathproject/offthegrid/solarfooddryer.shtml, and http://www.herbdatanz.com/sia4_dehydration_apparatus.htm. OBTW, rolls of window screen are great to keep on hand at a retreat, just on general principle. For build ing a dehydrator, a spring house, or a meat house, they will prove invaluable!) You can use the trays from your Excalibur in a properly dimensioned DIY solar dehydrator if you don’t get it too hot.

As for a vacuum sealer, the brand that we like and have used for more than 10 years–is the Tilia Foodsaver Compact. Yep, it the one that you’ve seen on those late night “infomercials.” They really do work, both for evacuating and sealing plastic bags, and for evacuating Mason-type jars. To save money, it is probably best to buy one of these used, through eBay. Just be sure that the seller guarantees it against being DOA. Test it thoroughly, immediately after you buy it. Be advised that they are only designed to seal one particular thickness of plastic bags, and they have a limited maximum width.You should shop around for bags and bag material on the Internet as prices vary dramatically!