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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. StorageStore 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
Albert “Afghanus” Rasch
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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