( Originally Published 1917 )
A dehydrated dinner. Suppose you were invited to a dehydrated dinner. Would you not be half afraid to accept? No doubt many would hesitate because they would not know what sort of a dinner to expect.
Dehydrating is a process by which the moisture is drawn from food, without taking anything else with it. For instance, from a dehydrated strawberry all moisture has been taken nothing else. It has the same color, skin, smell, and taste as when fresh. When the moisture is returned it will have the same appearance, smell, taste, and color it had before dehydration.
But if you were to sit down to a dehydrated dinner, what could, you have? You could start with that wonderful pea or lentil soup used by Or perhaps you would prefer a different kind of dehydrated soup, powdered mock turtle or tomato bisque, for instance or maybe bouillon made from a cube.
Yes, you could have a dehydrated relish and a dehydrated salad. In these you would find dehydrated peppers, onions, celery, horseradish, and garlic.
Do you like omelet? Very well, then, you could have carrots, cauliflower, onions, and asparagus tips!
Your dehydrated dessert might include bananas, peaches, pears, apples, cranberries, strawberries, or raspberries or there might be a pie made of dehydrated rhubarb or cherries, or a cake which would contain dehydrated eggs and which would have been mixed with dehydrated milk.
In your powdered coffee you would use condensed or evaporated cream. Finally you might take some ice cream made from ice cream powders, flavored to suit. All this dinner you could easily carry in one pocket. Or, you could take an entire meal in the shape of one dehydrated chocolate cube or a malted milk tabloid.
Dehydrating foods. Now let us see what these dehydrated foods are and how they are prepared. Let us begin with potatoes, which are put into a large hopper, with a revolving file-like wheel at the bottom, to scrape off the skiris. At the same time they are scoured in running water. From this hopper they pass on a traveling belt between rows of girls who remove the eyes and parts of skin which the machine failed to get. The belt next carries the potatoes through a long tunnel-like box where sulphur fumes thoroughly sterilize them, killing any germs which might cause them to rot or turn black. From the sulphur box the potatoes are passed to the slicer, where they are sliced. After this process they are placed on trays and put into the dryer, where the dehydrating takes place.
The first process in dehydrating is to draw all the moisture from the air in the dryer. This is done first by passing the air over ammonia coils, like those used in cold storage plants. This chilling causes the moisture in the air to condense and collect on the coils. After the air has passed over these coils it is absolutely dry, but cold. The next step is to heat that air. This is done by passing it over hot coils, which bring it to a temperature of from 80° to 180° F. The temperature depends upon the kind of food that is to be dehydrated.
With the aid of a strong blower the hot air is forced through the compartments containing the potatoes or other products, and this draws the moisture from them. This ends the process. Dehydrated potatoes are sometimes powdered and made into potato flour.
Peaches and berries. The process of dehydrating peaches is very similar to the dehydration of potatoes, except that, instead of being sliced, the. peaches are cut in half, and the pits are removed. In dehydrating berries, such as cranberries, straw-berries and raspberries, washing takes the place of peeling and slicing.
Powdered milk. Probably the making of powdered milk or milk flour is the most interesting of all dehydrating processes. Fresh milk is forced by compressed air through fine nozzles, so that it is sprayed out in a mist. Directly below the nozzles are openings sending up very hot air. The instant the milk mist strikes this hot air it is turned into steam and carried up through a funnel shaped cone into a large room or cupola. The sides of this room are hung with screens of woolen fabric or mill gauze, through which the hot air and steam pass. But the solid particles of the milk are caught by it and drop into bins.
Condensed or evaporated milk. At the outset, it is well to understand the difference between powdered or dehydrated milk and condensed or evaporated milk. We learn that milk contains about 90 per cent water. For making condensed milk, the milk is first strained, skimmed in centrifugal separators, and then heated to a temperature that will drive off the gases of the milk and destroy the germs. Next it is strained, and, if the condensed milk is to be sweetened, a quantity of granulated sugar is added. The milk is then placed in an enormous egg-shaped copper vessel from which all the air has been pumped to form a vacuum. The vessel, which has a capacity of about 1,500 gallons, is heated by steam and evaporation takes place in from an hour to an" hour and a half. Thd vessel may be thus filled and emptied six or seven times a day. With condensed as with powdered milk, only the very highest quality of milk is used. It is furnished to the condensing plants by farmers who make it their business to supply this demand. This is done under rigid inspection. Like the other condensed foods, evaporated milk will keep indefinitely.
Other concentrated foods. There are still other concentrated foods, with which you are no doubt more or less familiar. They are put up in tins, in capsules, in essences, in tabloids, and in paste. Chicken gumbo, meat tablets, beef capsules, tea tablets, date-and-nut paste, and mushroom powders from France. are among the less familiar concentrated foods.
A boon to explorer, hunter, soldier. There are many reasons why foods are put up in this manner. One reason is the economy of space and weight. For long exploring and hunting trips and for armies they are very valuable. One man can carry enough powdered and dehydrated food to nourish him for months.
If you have ever gone camping, fishing, or hunting in a remote part of the country you will know that it is often impossible to secure fresh foods of any kind during your stay, with the possible exception of fish, game, wild berries, or wild plums. It is difficult to carry fresh foods, such as vegetables and eggs, on such an expedition. Then condensed foods are a great boon, for 'even canned foods are heavy in comparison with the dehydrated varieties.
Other important reasons for the use of condensed food are that it will keep indefinitely, and that it can be put up in clean, cheap, and convenient packages. The condensing of food makes it easier and less expensive to handle.
It is but natural, then, that the governments of the various nations should be heavy buyers of this kind of food. In a dash for the North Pole, you can easily imagine the saving in space and labor which a small jar of powdered eggs would offer over three or four dozen fresh ones. Moreover, danger of freezing or spilling would be done away with. What a wonderful thing it is for the explorer to be able to carry the equivalent of many gallons of soup in a small, convenient package. For the use of soldiers it would be difficult to overestimate the value of condensed foods.
Use of condensed foods. Of condensed foods the three great staples powdered milk, powdered eggs, and powdered potatoes or potato flour are sold almost entirely to the big users. They are seldom handled over the retail grocer's counter, save at the most remote outposts of civilization. Dehydrated fruits and berries are growing in favor, because we are able, by adding a little water to them, to make products very much like the fresh article, with little loss of flavor or nutriment. Chemists and other scientists have proved that man can live entirely on these concentrated foods and be properly nourished. In European countries concentrated foods have for years been used and they will no doubt win their way into favor in this country.
While we have learned most of what we know about preparing these condensed foods from the Germans, American manufacturers have sold many thousands of pounds of condensed foods to Germany.
Polish foods. In Poland, in Central Europe, fruit extracts are made from plums, apples, and pears. The people of that country do not have a great variety of fruit and what they have is consumed . almost entirely at home. They have little or none for export. They have a rather peculiar method of preserving prunes. They make a prune paste, somewhat similar to that which we import from Bohemia in barrels, and put it up in round loaves lightly rolled in flour and allowed to harden. It will keep in this manner for a long time, and is usually eaten in slices like cheese with bread.
The Poles have an equally original method of putting up beets. The beets are cooked, skinned, and then placed in large vats or tubs with vinegar and spices and allowed to ferment. These, too, will keep indefinitely and are considered a great delicacy. These sour or fermented beets are known by the name of barscz. Almost every nation, province, or state has its own peculiar foods, of which this is a good illustration.