When you’re cooking at home, one of the best ways to get the best result is to use fresh ingredients. For most foods available at stores, though, fresh ingredients just aren’t practical in terms of shelf life and maintaining food safety. That’s why commercial food industry producers have long relied on dried ingredients to give their end products the kinds of flavor profile that consumers demand and expect. Many people don’t realize that dry ingredients are often used as flavoring agents that can impart even more flavor than their fresh counterparts.
How Are Dry Ingredients Produced?
The goal of a food processing facility like Silva’s is to take raw natural ingredients and transform them into an air-dried food product that meets high standards for quality, food safety, and flavor. The first phase of this process is sourcing the raw materials from farms around the world; selecting the right growers involves a detailed evaluation of the many different factors that can affect the supply chain. While different food ingredients can require different processes, the following are the basic steps for how dried ingredients are produced:
- Cleaning and sorting: Raw agricultural products usually need to go through a sophisticated cleaning and sorting process before any other step. Any inedible parts are first removed before the raw produce goes through an extensive cleaning process to eliminate dirt, debris, or surface contaminants. In some cases, different parts of the plant are sorted in order to be processed differently.
- Cutting to size: Prior to dehydration, the produce must be cut into pieces that ensure a consistent moisture level.
- Dehydration: The purpose of dehydration is to remove the moisture from raw produce through various styles of air drying equipment. The benefit of dehydration is a longer and more gentle process where the food retains the flavor, color, and nutritional value of a vegetable or fruit while greatly increasing its shelf life and transportability.
- Dry Cleaning and Sorting: This cleaning and sorting step is a critical stage in the product of the finished ingredients and to ensure protection of your brand name. Various cleaning and sorting steps are used, which are different in set-up depending on the product. Here, more about the various processing steps.
- Cutting, Milling, and Blending: Dried and cleaned raw material is then sized into various flake and granulation for piece identity required. Additionally, milling is also conducted to achieve the desired end powders. Once the desired finished products are produced, blending is available for any mixes that require a number of different vegetables that need to be combined in a uniform way. (At Silva, we can also blend in outside ingredients to provide a larger pre-mix to your facility.)
- Treatment: Depending on the type of product and its intended use, the produce may also go through heat treatment or sterilization. All of Silva’s raw material also goes through a ZerOx all-natural insect treatment to ensure maximum food safety.
- Packaging: Finally, once the dehydrated produce has gone through the whole process, it is ready to be packaged in a way that preserves quality and freshness even after being shipped and distributed all over the country. Packaging options include paper bags, poly bags inside corrugated boxes, super sacs, and corrugated totes.
Are Dry Ingredients as Healthy as Fresh?
A somewhat common misconception is that dehydrated ingredients have less nutritional value than fresh ingredients. In truth, though, the dehydration process allows the produce to retain almost all of the original nutrients; only vitamin C and some of the B vitamins don’t hold up as well by the end of the process. Even so, any vitamins or minerals (like potassium, magnesium, and calcium) can easily be added in during the blending process to make sure the final product maintains its natural flavor at the same time as any inherent health benefits. In addition to providing amino acids and other nutrients the body relies on, these ingredients often also include compounds like antioxidants that are known to lower the risk of many diseases.
How Do Dry Ingredients Enhance Flavor?
Of course beyond adding nutrients or dietary fiber, dehydrated vegetable ingredients are also an important way to impart savory flavor to any recipe. In fact, the drying process can actually concentrate the flavor of a particular vegetable so that it really can come through in the final product. This kind of flavor concentration also allows a smaller amount of dehydrated vegetables to be used to get the same flavor. Below are some other ways dry ingredients are food additives that enhance flavor and improve food products:
- Umami flavor: Certain vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions are rich in compounds that convey umami; umami is one of the five basic tastes and is often described as savory or even “meaty.” Soy sauce is a liquid condiment that is a classic example of umami flavor.
- Longer shelf life: Having a longer shelf life may seem like it’s just about lasting longer before a product goes bad, but it also means extending the amount of time when the flavor is still strong. Longer shelf life also allows vegetables that only grow in certain seasons to be made available all year long.
- Enhanced aroma: A significant part of flavor actually comes from the smell of the food, and so dehydrated ingredients can also add flavor by retaining as many of the natural aromas as possible. Aromatic sensations can elevate the overall sensory experience of a dish by enticing the senses even before the first bite.
- Easily incorporated: Whereas fresh vegetables often require specific preparations before they can be used in a recipe, dried ingredients are much easier to incorporate. They can be quickly rehydrated or added directly to various recipes to add flavor without having to develop a new formulation.
- Versatility: Dehydrated vegetable ingredients can be used in a variety of dishes, from soups, stews, and broths to marinades, seasonings, and spice blends. Their concentrated flavors provide a convenient and versatile way to add depth of flavor to both classic and new products.
Examples of Dry Ingredients Used to Enhance Flavor
Most people probably aren’t even aware of how many foods they eat that contain dehydrated vegetable ingredients. Sometimes even the most common vegetable can improve the aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and texture of a recipe. Below are some great examples of everyday foods that rely on dry ingredients to make them tasty and popular:
- hot sauce: usually a series of spicy peppers and a mix of herbs like parsley, lemongrass, and cilantro
- snack foods: baked or fried chips start with a main vegetable but may have a number of other herbs and spices added in
- instant noodles and rice: pre-mixed starchy items like pasta and rice are a natural fit for dehydrated vegetables such as peas, carrots, broccoli, and onions
- trail mixes: though trail mixes have traditionally used grains and dried fruits, vegetables like kale and beets are becoming more common additions
- bouillon: usually in the shape of a cube, many types of bouillon are made with dried vegetables, sea salt, and sometimes MSG (monosodium glutamate)
Silva: Premium Source for Dehydrated Ingredients
At Silva, we are passionate about delivering only the best dehydrated ingredients for our customers. No matter what kind of recipe you have in mind, we are confident that you’ll get the right ingredients to make your end product delicious and healthy. We have been perfecting our production processes over many years, and it allows us to be flexible and versatile in working with your needs. Contact us today to learn more about our products or how Silva can help you discover your next new product.