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Drying Fruits

DRYING FRUITS -3- Dried fruits are unique, tasty and nutritious. Begin by washing the fruit and coring it, if needed. For drying, fruits can be cut in half or sliced. Some can be left whole. See the table “Drying Fruits at Home” later in this publication for specific directions for preparing each fruit. Thin, uniform, peeled slices dry the fastest. The peel can be left on the fruit, but unpeeled fruit takes the longer to dry. Apples can be cored and sliced in rings, wedges, or chips. Bananas can be sliced in coins, chips or sticks. Fruits dried whole take the longest to dry. Before drying, skins need to be “checked” or cracked to speed drying. To “check” the fruit place it in boiling water and then in cold water. Because fruits contain sugar and are sticky, spray the drying trays with nonstick cooking spray before placing the fruit on the trays.

After the fruit dries for one to two hours, lift each piece gently with a spatula and turn., Pretreating the Fruit Pretreatments prevent fruits from darkening. Many light-colored fruits, such as apples, darken rapidly when cut and exposed to air. If not pretreated, these fruits will continue to darken after they have dried. For long-term storage of dried fruit, sulfuring or using a sulfite dip are the best pretreatments. However, sulfites found in the food after either of these treatments have been found to cause asthmatic reactions in a small portion of the asthmatic population.

Thus, some people may want to use the alternative shorter-term pretreatments. If home dried foods are eaten within a short time, there may be little difference in the long- and short-term pretreatments. Sulfuring – Sulfuring is an old method of pretreating fruits. Sublimed sulfur is ignited and burned in an enclosed box with the fruit. The sulfur fumes penetrate the fruit and act as a pretreatment by retarding spoilage and darkening of the fruit. Fruits must be sulfured out-of-doors where there is adequate air circulation. (For more information contact your county Extension office.) Sulfite Dip – Sulfite dips can achieve the same long-term anti-darkening effect as sulfuring, but more quickly and easily. Either sodium bisulfite, sodium sulfite or sodium meta-bisulfite that are USP (food grade) or Reagant grade (pure) can be used. To locate these, check with your local drugstores or hobby shops, where wine-making supplies are sold.

Directions for Use – Dissolve 3⁄4 to 1 1⁄2 teaspoons sodium bisulfite per quart of water. (If using sodium sulfite, use 1 1⁄2 to 3 teaspoons. If using sodium metabisulfite, use 1 to 2 tablespoons.) Place the prepared fruit in the mixture and soak 5 minutes for slices, 15 minutes for halves. Remove fruit, rinse lightly under cold water and place on drying trays. Sulfited foods can be dried indoors or outdoors. (This solution can be used only once. Make a new one for the next batch.) Ascorbic Acid – Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) mixed with water is a safe way to prevent fruit browning. However, its protection does not last as long as sulfuring or sulfiting. Ascorbic acid is available in the powdered or tablet form, from drugstores or grocery stores.

One teaspoon of powdered ascorbic acid is equal to 3000 mg of ascorbic acid in tablet form. (If you buy 500 mg tablets, this would be six tablets). Directions for Use – Mix 1 teaspoon of powdered ascorbic acid (or 3000 mg of ascorbic acid tablets, crushed) in 2 cups water. Place the fruit in the solution for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove fruit, drain well and place on dryer trays. After this solution is used twice, add more acid. Ascorbic Acid Mixtures – Ascorbic acid mixtures are a mixture of ascorbic acid and sugar sold for use on fresh fruits and in canning or freezing. It is more expensive and not as effective as using pure ascorbic acid. Directions for Use – Mix 1 1⁄2 tablespoons of ascorbic acid mixture with one quart of water. Place the fruit in the mixture and soak 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the fruit well and place on dryer trays. After this solution is used twice, add more ascorbic acid mixture. Fruit Juice Dip – A fruit juice that is high in vitamin C can also be used as a pretreatment, though it is not as effective as pure ascorbic acid. Juices high in vitamin C include orange, lemon, pineapple, grape and cranberry. Each juice adds its own color and flavor to the fruit. Directions for Use – Place enough juice to cover fruit in a bowl. Add cut fruit. Soak 3 to 5 minutes, remove fruit, drain well and place on dryer trays. This solution may be used twice, before being replaced. (The used juice can be consumed.) Honey Dip – Many store-bought dried fruits have been dipped in a honey solution. A similar dip can be made at home. Honey dipped fruit is much higher in calories.

Directions for Use –Mix 1⁄2 cup sugar with 1 1⁄2 cups boiling water. Cool to lukewarm and add 1/2 cup honey. Place fruit in dip and soak 3 to 5 minutes. Remove, drain well and place on dryer trays. Syrup Blanching – Blanching fruit in syrup helps it retain color fairly well during drying and storage. The resulting product is similar to candied fruit. Fruits that can be syrup blanched include apples, apricots, figs, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and prunes. Directions for Use – Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup and 2 cups water in a saucepot. Bring to a boil. Add 1 pound of prepared fruit and simmer 10 minutes. Remove heat and let fruit stand in hot syrup for 30 minutes. Lift fruit out of syrup, rinse lightly in cold water, drain on paper toweling and place on dryer trays.

Steam Blanching – Steam blanching also helps retain color and slow oxidation. However, the flavor and texture of the fruit is changed. Directions – Place several inches of water in a large saucepot with a tight fitting lid. Heat to boiling. Place fruit not more than 2 inches deep, in a steamer pan or wire basket over boiling water. Cover tightly with lid and begin timing immediately. See below for blanching times. Check for even blanching half way through the blanching time. Some fruit may need to be stirred. When done, remove excess moisture using paper towels and place on dryer trays.

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