Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Drying and Preserving Fruit

© 2011 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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Quick Facts on Drying Fruit...
  • Successful drying depends on heat, air dryness and good air circulation.
  • Select fresh, fully-ripened fruits.
  • Pretreat fruit pieces by dipping in an ascorbic acid, citric acid, or lemon juice solution.
  • When dry, allow fruit to condition for four to 10 days before packaging for storage.
  • Package dried fruits in tightly sealed containers and store in a cool, dry place.

Drying has to be the simplest, most cost efficient, and most natural method of preserving food. I was able to get the basics on drying fruit from Carol W. Costenbader, the author of The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest.  Drying is a creative way to preserve foods and use home-grown fruit, extra produce (e.g., ripe bananas) and roadside market specials. Like all methods of preservation, drying causes some nutrient loss.

Here are seven easy steps from selection of the fruit, to storage of your dried treasure!
1. Select the Fruit
Use only blemish-free fruits that are fully ripened. Immature produce lacks flavor and color. Overmature produce can be tough and fibrous or soft and mushy. Drying does not improve food quality.

2. Prepare the Fruit
Thoroughly wash and clean fruits to remove dirt or spray. Sort and discard any fruit that shows decay, bruises or mold. Such defects can affect all foods being dried. Now, pit and slice the fruit again discarding any pieces that do not meet quality expectations. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will dry, but keep all pieces uniform in size so they’ll dry at the same time.

3. Pretreating
Pretreating fruits prior to drying is highly recommended. Pretreating helps keep light-colored fruits from darkening during drying and storage and it speeds the drying of fruits with tough skins, such as grapes and cherries.

As indicated below, some methods work better for some fruits than others.

Blanching (apricots, apples)
Put slices in a steamer (or a colander suspended in a pot of boiling water) for five minutes then place fruit in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry on towels.

Ascorbic Acid Dip (all fruits)
Ascorbic Acid Pretreatment: Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is an antioxidant that keeps fruit from darkening and enhances destruction of bacteria during drying. Pure crystals usually are available at supermarkets and drug stores. Stir 2 1/2 tablespoons (34 grams) of pure ascorbic acid crystals into one quart (1000 milliliters) of cold water. For smaller batches prepare a solution using 3 3/4 teaspoons (17 grams) of pure ascorbic acid crystals per 2 cups of cold water. Vitamin C tablets can be crushed and used (six 500 milligram tablets equal 1 teaspoon ascorbic acid). One quart of solution treats about 10 quarts of cut fruit. Cut peeled fruit directly in ascorbic acid solution. Soak for 10 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon, drain well and dehydrate. Research studies have shown that pretreating with an acidic solution enhances the destruction of a host of potentially harmful bacteria during drying, including E. coli, Salmonella species and Listeria!

Pectin dip (peaches, berries, cherries)
Mix 1 box of powdered pectin with 1 cup water. Boil together for 1 minute, then add ½ cup sugar and enough cold water to make 2 cups.

Honey dip (bananas, peaches, pineapples)
Mix 3 cups waters and 1 cup sugar. Heat and then add 1 cup honey. Stir well.

 Juice dip (peaches, apples, bananas)
Combine 1 quart pineapple juice, 1 quart lukewarm water and ¼ cup bottled lemon juice.

4. Drying

Sun Drying
a) Spread your sliced or cubed fruit on a screen for two to four days, turning slices over half way through the drying process.
b) Don't forget to bring your screens inside at night to keep dew from collecting on the fruit. (Or coons stealing them!)
c) This method works best in climates with 100 degree heat and low humidity.

Oven Drying
a) You can place fruit directly on the racks or first spread cheesecloth over the oven racks.
b) Set the oven to 145 degrees and prop the door open with a wooden wedge (about a half inch) to allow the moisture to escape.
c) Give it anywhere between 4 to 12 hours, checking regularly to see how the fruit is drying.
d) Food should be dry but pliable when cool. Test a few pieces to see if the batch is ready.

5. Curing
When done, place your dry fruit in an open bowl in a warm and dry location where there is some air movement. Cover it with a piece of cheese cloth to minimize dust or insects landing on your dried fruit. Flip it around once or twice a day for a couple of weeks.

6. Pasteurize
You need to pasturize your dried fruit in order to store it for any great length of time; this will insure that you destroy any insect eggs. When drying is complete and you have cured your fruit slices, freeze the fruit for several days at zero degrees in a deep freeze. It must be a deep freeze as a regular refrigerator cannot get the temperature down far enough. Alternatively, heat in a 175 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

7. Storage
Store in airtight ziplock bags or glass containers kept inside paper bag to protect from light. Store in cool dry place. Since a refrigerator is cool and moist, keep the dried fruit there only in the heat of summer, but make sure the package is air tight.

There you have it my friends. Simple process that yields yummy and nutritious results. It is a great way to preserve fruit, take advantage of sales, and generally speaking is a great skill to have.

Other Posts of Interest:
Planting Fruit Trees
TROC II: Drying and Preserving Fruit

Best Regards,
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
In Afghanistan

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Scott Croner Albert A Rasch Albert “Afghanus” Rasch Albert A Rasch Scott Croner Nebraska Hunting Scott Croner, Merriam's Turkey Hunting Albert A Rasch Scott Croner Albert A Rasch Albert “Afghanus” Rasch Albert A Rasch Scott Croner Nebraska Hunting Scott Croner Merriam's Turkey Hunting Albert A Rasch


Wild Ed said...

Great article Albert. I dried some peppered beef and homemade summer sausage this week in the oven with a wood spoon stuck in the door to allow the moisture out and it works great. I usually do fruit in my dehydrater but may try the oven on it also. ET
Wild Ed's Texas Outdoors

Gary Thompson said...

This is one of those projects I've wanted to undertake for some time. It's right behind learning more about mushrooming. I'll have to put this one in the archives for a while, but am anxious to give it try. Who knows, with winter in full swing, maybe I should rearrange my priorities.

Nebraska Hunting Company said...

Great stuff Albert! Do you know anything about other tree products like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and such?

All the best!
Scott Croner, Merriam's Turkey Hunting