I went to an awesome class last week about dried fruit and I loved all the tips and dips. So I thought I would share for those dried fruit lovers out there. Sorry I didn't take any pictures.....BUT OH THE FRUIT WAS GOOD!!!!
Dried fruit is a great, portable snack. I keep some in my purse most of the time. My husband takes it to work and has become rather popular with his coworkers who like it too. Our family now eats more dried fruit than canned. Many instructions can be found online but I’ve included things that I have used over and over for our family.
To choose fruit to dry, use ripe, but not over-ripe freshly picked fruit. It’s not worth your time to use sub-quality fruit! Wash well and remove blemishes.
For apricots, prunes and plums, cut in half, remove pit and pop the back to expose middle to more surface to the air. Place evenly over dryer tray with a little space in between each piece, with skin side down.
For sweet cherries, cut in half and pit. Place on tray skin side down.
For berries and grapes, dry whole. Strawberries can be sliced. Grapes and waxy-skinned berries will need to be blanched first in boiling water to crack the skins. Drain well before putting on trays.
Remove skin from apples (they become tough), and peaches, remove center and slice into ¼” slices. Nectarines and pears do not need to be peeled. They may be dipped first to prevent becoming too dark. (Dips described at end of page). Bananas are also treated this way.
Leathers are blended fruits mixed with sugar or honey. Bananas are great for thickening the fruit puree and adding sweetness. Taste the mixture to decide how sweet you want the leather to be. Nuts or coconut may be added before drying. Cover tray with plastic wrap, then pour puree into center (about 1 ½ to 2 cups), carefully spreading to make the center thinner, as it dries more slowly, and edges a bit thicker as they dry more quickly. Don’t spread all the way to the edge of the wrap.
Finished leather will be shiny and non-sticky to the touch. Remove from plastic wrap and roll it in a fresh piece of wrap to store. I keep mine in a gallon zip-loc bag in the freezer.
Sliced fruit dries in 7-15 hours depending on humidity in the air, while whole or half fruits may take up to 20. Check periodically and rotate trays 180 degrees halfway through drying cycle. Fruits dry at appx. 135 F.
Finished fruit will be leathery but not hard except apples which are a bit crispy. If it’s squishy in places (especially the half-fruits) it’s not quite done. Remove the fruits that are dried all the way then put the others back into the dryer. They can be stored in bottles, plastic containers or zip-loc bags.
Dips can keep fruit from becoming dark and can also be used to sweeten more tart fruits such as apricots or apples.
Ascorbic Acid or Citric Acid dip can be bought in canning sections of stores. Follow directions on container. I use lemon juice mixed with water for most fruits: 1 cup juice with 1 quart water. Soak prepared fruit for a few minutes, drain well then place on trays. I never soak prunes or plums.
Honey dip: dissolve 1 C. honey with 3 C. hot water. 1 C. lemon juice may also be added. I’ve also added cinnamon when drying apples.
Other miscellaneous things to try:
Vegetables may be dried then added later to soups, or reconstituted with water. Peas, pumpkin, squash and yams, should be steamed first. Summer squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, mushrooms and even potatoes may be sliced and dried like fruit.
Herbs are cleaned, snipped and dried for use as you would those you buy. Both dried vegetables and herbs may be blended into powder form and mixed.
Jerky may be made at home. Lean meat works best as the fat-marbled kind will go rancid more quickly. Flank, round and sirloin tip cuts are the best to use when making beef jerky. Deer, and elk meat are also great to use.
It is recommended to use a meat slicer to get a uniform cut, but a sharp knife will work. Cut across the grain if the meat is a little tough. A tender cut may be sliced with the grain. A dry cure means salt and seasoning mixtures are rubbed into the meat surface. A brine cure is a marinade that the meat is soaked in for a few hours. Either way, the meat is cured in the refrigerator for 6-12 hours or overnight. Make sure the meat is thoroughly coated.
To dehydrate, shake off extra cure and spread the meat strips in a single layer on the trays. Dry at 145 degrees for approximately 4-6 hours, occasionally blotting off any fat droplets that appear on the surface. To test for doneness, use a cooled piece and bend it. Properly dried jerky when bent should crack, not break.
Store in a dry, dark, cool place.
Please know this is just one persons opinion