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We bought a food dehydrator to make dog treats with. Primarily we're dehydrating yams, apples and bananas. I'm not dehydrating these to crisps because I didn't think I needed to. The dehydrated yams that we buy as dog treats are still pliable and leathery, so I didn't think I needed to dehydrate them totally dry.

The problem I'm having is that these treats are going moldy in about 4 days. Again, the treats we buy never go moldy. I'm assuming they're adding something to the commercial version to stop this.

Does anyone have some hints on what I'm doing wrong or any idea what the commercial brand is putting on them to stop this. The apples seem to be the slimiest first... Should I be drying the apples to crisps?

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I feel for your poor dog. –  Sobachatina Sep 27 '11 at 15:21
    
Have you ever given a beagle dehydrated yams? Our dog park has an office counter that has dog treats at dog eye-level. There are various meat by products, ears, hooves, bully sticks, etc... He always lunges for the crinkle cut dehydrated yams! Always! –  Rikon Sep 27 '11 at 15:39
    
That's interesting. They do have a lot of sugar in them and they're a lot cheaper than meat sources. I don't have a beagle but I'll have to see if my dog likes them. –  Sobachatina Sep 27 '11 at 15:55
    
yeah, we were suprised he prefered yams over dehydrated chicken or whatever also... Also we try to give him carrots and yams as he is prone to pack on the weight :) (We don't bother to dehydrate the carrots) –  Rikon Sep 27 '11 at 15:57
    
Great answer.I have all my supplies but I felt I needed to do some reading first.Thanks for an answer I am sure I will need –  user15269 Jan 16 '13 at 20:08
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1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You get mold (and less visibly, bacteria) growth after 4-5 days because your water (humidity) content left in the deyhdrated food is greater than 5%. Typically dried apples (and other types of fiberous dried fruit) have humidity levels closer to 20% when you don't dry them to a crisp. That means the treats you make aren't shelf stable, but luckily this can be fixed with some experimentation.

Each food has it's own requirements for preservation. Here are some quick guidelines to try out on apples. For yams and bananas, I would try dehydrating them a bit more closer to being crisps.

Steps:

  1. Wash fruits thoroughly before dehydrating. I don't do this, but you could try using a "fruit wash" (product for washing fruit).

  2. Dehydrating isn't sterilization - the dehydrator isn't hot enough to sterilize the food, so some of these 'nasties' are left on there and waiting for their chance to grow. Commercial-grade food is always sterilized. Because a dehydrater isn't sealed well, I suggest you nuke the treats in your oven for 5-10 minutes on high heat AFTER you dehydrate the stuff, experimenting to make sure you don't dry them out too much in the oven. Also, be careful because the sugar is concentrated in dehydrated fruit, so it will burn easily. Wrapping the fruit in tin-foil before placing it in your oven is a potential trick because this effectively sterilizes the fruit in a steam bath. If you use foil, you'll need to cook them longer - start with 15 minutes.

  3. After the treats are dehydrated and sterilized, try storing them in air-tight containers and always away from light in a cool/dark place. They need 7-10 days to "equilize" the moisture between each dried piece of fruit. Make sure to shake the containers every once in a while so they don't all stick together.

BEYOND THIS, there are more advanced techniques that you can easily try - including conditioning the dried fruits and a number of fruit-baths that preserve the fruits with harmless chemical solutions, like Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C). Try reading more on this link from UC Davis:

http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8229.pdf

(Start Reading on Page 7).

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Excellent answer. –  Sobachatina Sep 27 '11 at 15:22
    
That is just an awesome answer! –  Rikon Sep 27 '11 at 15:40
    
Awesome, super helpful. Thanks @Jamison. –  Katey HW Sep 27 '11 at 18:20
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