Have you ever noticed how quickly fresh fruit seems to go out of date? By drying fruit, it extends the length of time during which it’s still suitable to eat – sometimes by up to a year. Dried fruits are great, tasty snacks, and they’re high in energy. You can dry almost any type of fruit, but the most common include apples, pears, apricots, strawberries and pineapple.
To begin with, some fruits need to be pre-treated before they are dried. These include common fruits such as pears, peaches, apples and apricots. There are many different techniques which you can use to pre-treat your fruit, but the simplest is by simply combining equal parts of water and lemon juice (from a bottle is fine), then placing the fruit in this mixture. It should be left for 10 minutes or so, before being placed on the drying tray. By pre-treating fruit in this way, it will give your dried fruit a much better color, and also reduce the amount of vitamins that are lost during the drying process. In addition, you will be able to store and eat your dried fruit for longer periods of time.
It isn’t strictly necessary to peel your fruit before drying it, but it can help with the process, as often the skin makes it difficult to remove moisture. Thinly, evenly sliced fruit works the best, as it will dry quickly and evenly. These sliced pieces of fruit should be placed on a tray inside a special food dehydrator, and make sure that none of the slices overlap. For the first hour, the fruit should be kept at a temperature of about 145ºF, after which the temperature can be reduced slightly.
There are several other methods which you can use to dry fruit, but using a dehydrator is by far the easiest and most reliable method. You can use your oven, as long as you’re able to set it to the correct temperature; convection ovens work effectively, as their fans move the air inside the oven around. Drying fruit outside of an oven at room temperature is possible, but very tricky, as the levels of humidity, temperature and air flow all have to be finely balanced. The same is true for drying fruit in the sun, as humidity levels may mean that there is too much moisture in the air for the fruit to dry properly.
Nevertheless, once your fruit has dried, it should be conditioned before being stored. Conditioning is the process by which all the remaining moisture within the fruit (which should be at about 20%) is distributed evenly amongst all the pieces. To do so, it is simply a case of packing it loosely into a glass jar for around a week to 10 days. By shaking the container daily, you will help to distribute the moisture evenly, but if any condensation does appear then the fruit will need to be dried some more.
Once your fruit has been properly dried, it can be stored in home canning jars, or plastic bags or containers for freezing. Luckily, dried fruits require less storage space than home canned foods, as well as less effort!
As you can see, preserving fruit by drying it is such a simple technique. With minimal effort, preparation and storage, you now have all the tools you need to create a delicious, healthy snack which will last for ages!