Real Food Kitchen: DIY Dried Fruit

persimmon-3

Dried fruit is often low quality, and laced with sugar, chemicals and preservatives. Plus, you don’t know when they were processed, and use-by dates are not very helpful. It’s easy to dry your own fruit using an inexpensive dehydrator, and the taste and nutritive value are much better than store-bought dried fruits.

My top reasons for drying my own fruit

  1. I control the quality of the fruit, and can ensure it was grown responsibly
  2. I can avoid chemicals and sweeteners
  3. I know when it was dried, and I use it while it’s still “fresh”
  4. If I have an abundance of fruit in my garden, drying is a great way to preserve it for later
  5. If you subscribe to a CSA, it’s an easy way to save fruit that would otherwise be wasted
  6. Dried fruit is an essential part of my emergency pantry stores, in case of earthquake (very likely where I am living now) or other natural disaster, or even if there is a prolonged power outage or road closure

What kind of dehydrator should you buy?

Some people will get good value out of buying an expensive dehydrator. Raw foodists use them all the time to create things like flatbreads and coconut “bacon.” For serious users, spending the money makes sense. But for basic drying, an inexpensive unit will work just fine. I bought mine at Costco for $35.

Last week my neighbor harvested apples from their tree and gave me a sack. I used some for juicing, and dried the rest. The fresh apples tasted kind of flat, but the dried version turned out really delicious and bursting with condensed apple flavor. They actually improved with drying.

I also put up some sliced bananas a few days ago, because I had bought too many and didn’t want them to go off. Today I am drying a bag of fresh cranberries and one very ripe fuyu persimmon that I’m not going to eat in time (sliced thinly and tossed with lemon, dried persimmon is not to be missed). It’s almost impossible to buy dried cranberries that have not been sweetened, so I’m glad to put some enembellished cranberries into my pantry.

I dry all of these fruits, plus herbs and veggies and sprouted nuts and grains, in my inexpensive dehydrator.

Some advice for drying fruit at home

  • If the fruit browns (oxidizes) when cut, toss the freshly cut fruit in a bit of lemon juice before drying. It enhances the flavor, but also keeps the fruit from turning an unappealing dull color. I do this to apples and bananas, for instance.
  • For cranberries, grapes or other berries with a tight skin, cut them in half and place them on a rimmed baking tray in an unheated oven for an our or two. Then use your dehydrator to dry them completely.
  • Cut fruit with a mandoline if possible. You need to get your slices as even and uniform in thickness as possible.
  • Store fruit in an airtight container. I avoid plastic whenever possible, so I usually keep mine in Mason jars in the pantry, away from heat and light.
  • Write the name of the fruit and the date of drying. Always label your containers! Dried apples look very much like dried parsnips, for instance…but dried parsnips do not improve oatmeal. Label it.
  • I hate the noise of the fan! If you have a safe place to put your machine while it’s in use that is out of earshot, do it. I often do my drying in the utility room. Don’t attempt to use your dehydrator outside, though.
  • Don’t like snacking on dried fruit? Me neither. But I am very happy to use dried fruit in cooking, baking and even pulverized into a powder and added as flavoring to sauces, condiments and even salad dressing. Adding dried fruit improves tagines, stewed veggies, cous cous, lentil salads, stuffing and more.


Comments

  1. Drying my own foods at home is something I’ve always wanted to try. My grandmother used to dry the fruits she grew on her property – it was always so much better than store-bought. Thanks for sharing – I’m totally inspired to buy an inexpensive dehydrator and give this a try! 😉

    • Hi Michelle,

      I’m so glad you are inspired to try this. My mother grew and preserved food from our suburban home garden. so I grew up seeing this but it took me a long time to finally do it myself. Now I can’t imagine not having a dehydrator. I think part of it was that I just didn’t want a lot of useless kitchen gadgets and I know in the past I’ve been tempted to buy something that seemed like it would be useful, yet it just ended up gathering dust. Also, I mistakenly thought I would have to buy a really expensive dehydrator, like an Excalibur. For my uses, the $35 Hamilton I bought at Costco serves me perfectly. In fact, I just harvested the last of my summer savory (a herb you must try if you’ve not yet done so!) which is in the dehydrator right now. My whole house smells like a sun warmed summer garden!

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