Since I have a dehydrator (This one by Excallibur), I decided that I might as well dry some of natures bounty this summer to use over the winter. BTW my AWESOME hubby bought me this for my birthday present this year!
We had been buying stupid amounts of fruit from the Farmers Market over the course of the summer as it came into season, most notably strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches, and each time I made sure I put some in the dehydrator.
All turned out well (sadly I only have pictures of the dried blueberries and peaches – the rest got devoured by the Gannets (aka the kids) before I could even get the camera out!
But I have also dried kiwi, pineapple, papaya and even orange slices (all bought from the regular grocery store). Another fruit I have dried in the past is bananas… And the dried grapes were delicious! Home-dried raisins Mmmmmmmmm!
And now that fall is rolling around, I am looking forward to drying apples and pears. And cranberries when they have them for sale cheap after both Thanksgiving and Christmas – did you know that store bought cranberries such as the Craisin brand are sweetened with sugar?
Drying fruit is really easy with a dehydrator – all you do is prepare it in an appropriate way – for a lot of fruits it just means cutting in to small slices. Apples, pears need the core removing. Pineapples need peeling, and the core removing. and papaya needs the seeds and peel removing. Bananas I simply peeled and sliced, and for the orange slices I didn’t even bother peeling them – I dried them peel and all. Kiwis I just peeled and sliced. Peaches I removed the stones and sliced… I didn’t want to make huge pieces as I am planning on these being a snack. Blueberries were the easiest of all… they just needed washing! The grapes I cut in half because I wanted to speed up the drying time, but I suspect I could have treated them just like the blueberries…
You then arrange the fruit on the dehydrator trays and pop them in at a temperature of around 135F/57C until they are dried and crisp… I found that for thinner slices this took around 24 hours. Blueberries took a bit longer
Once fully dried, store in mason jars until required.
The thing about drying your own fruit is that it means that you are confident about the quality of the dried fruit you are using – far too many dried fruits are sprayed with dubious ingredients – everything from sugar to waxes and even canola oil. I don’t want to eat dried fruit with these ingredients! By making my own, I know exactly what has gone in them.
In addition, I can take advantage of seasonal savings and special offers at the farmers market – I know the fruit I am using is, if not always orgainic, IS local, and is grown in a sustainable manner. I can ask questions about fertilizer and pestcide usage on the fruit. And because I am taking advantage of special offers, it saves me money! YAY for being frugal!
I know quality dehydrators cost a fair bit, but I am sure that we use ours enough to recoup the cost over the next couple of years (I also make fruit leather/fruit roll-ups, jerkey and dry veggies in there as well). And besides, if you don’t mind them not lasting as long, there are cheaper dehydrators out there… or you could try drying them in the oven or even sun-drying them if you live in sunny-climes.
And what do you do with all your home-dried fruit?
Use them in recipes.. add them to anything that could use a little sweetness. Stir them into your morning smoothie, or even just enjoy a small handful of sweetness once in a while as a snack. Pack them in your kids lunch boxes as well!
We let the kids mix up their own trail mixes from the various dried fruits that we have around, a few nuts and maybe some coconut slices.
And in some cases, the kids ate them right out of the dehydrator! This was the reason why I have no pictures of the raspberries!