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Make the Most of Fall Fruit – Dry It!

August 25, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADehydrating fruits is a great way to provide nutritious snacking at a much lower cost than commercially processed fruits. While many households bemoan escalating food costs the humble food dehydrator often sits unused or – worse! unaware of – which can be a loss to your kitchen pantry!

Dehydrating fruits makes sense on many fronts. It is a nutritious snack on the run and, as finger food, even kids often will pick sweetened naturally fruits over candy. Because most orchards have a once per year harvest it allows for a relatively short harvest time, at which the small orchard is swimming in fruit that the unprepared lose to spoilage. For larger commercial orchards in season is the best time to get the best deals on the freshest fruits.

Although drying food is not difficult to do drying fruits can be perhaps the most “trial and effort” of all. This is because by nature of drying we’re striking that balance between leaving enough moisture to be chewy and tasty to eat with removing enough moisture to slow spoilage and extend preservation life of the food. Additionally there are a variety of ways to prepare from large fruits to smaller fruits like blueberries.

Fruits are also a food that you can make use of on the overripe mark down items, but in a different way of processing. Generally speaking choose fruits that are fully ripe for the best flavors. Peel, cut and treat which will depend somewhat on the fruit.

Ascorbic is recommended to dip some fruits in and reduce the unappealing appearance of the dried fruit pieces. Sliced fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches, bananas and pears dipped in ascorbic will appear much more appetizing than those not treated before drying.

Another possibility is treating in a solution of a cup of sugar, a cup of honey and 3 cups warm water dipped and drained well. If this is too sweet try pineapple juice in place of the water. Slice, pit and prepare apples, apricots, bananas, peaches and pears then treat and put evenly in the dehydrator. Arrange the trays as full as can be but without the pieces touching each other for best air circulation. Bananas can be dried to the crisp stage but most like the others a leathery appearance.

Berries, figs and grapes should have the skins split or pierced before drying. Persimmons, plums, rhubarb and strawberries can all be easily done. Cherries should be pitted and chopped then dried to a hard appearance. Pineapple slices dried to the chewy stage are a favorite of many. Ideally a temperature of about 115F should be maintained while drying the fruits.

Fruits that are well ripened or overripe and needs used *now* are even easier. Peel, core and process the raw fruit either by type or in mixtures as desired into a puree. Process until smooth with no chunks or pieces, pour in a plastic wrap covered tray and gently tilt the tray around to evenly cover the tray. Ideally you want about 1/8 inch deep puree all over the tray. Set your dehydrator at 120F and put the trays in for 6-8 hours, pull it out and turn the fruit over, peeling the plastic from it, then dry another 4 hours or so. It will be sticky when you remove the plastic but when done will be pliable and easy to handle. Homemade, all natural fruit roll-ups or fruit leathers. You can even try combinations like banana-nut, peaches-banana or strawberry-rhubarb. You can also easily make apple-cinnamon using applesauce as a base puree to start. You can even use fillings or other variables according to personal taste.

When you get a chance at part of a bumper crop of fruit this fall be thankful and make the most of it!!

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