Drying fruit at home is simple, and dried fruits are easy to store and use later. However, unlike the exact methods needed for canning and frezzing, finding the best technique for drying may require a trial and error approach. Follow the general guidelines, and make adjustments as the fruit dries.
Three basic principles should be applied:
Heat: controlled temperature high enough to force out moisture, but not hot enough to cook the food.
Dry Air: to absorb the released moisture.
Air circulation: to remove the moisture.
Fruit requires about 80% of the water be removed.
Use fresh, high quality mature fresh fruit. Dry during the peak harvest season, when the quality is high and the price is lower.
Drying does not stop the aging process entirely, so pretreatment may be desired. Dipping is a pretreatment used to prevent fruits such as apples, bananas, peaches, and pears from oxidizing (turning brown and losing some vitamins). Common antioxidants are lemon juice or ascorbic acid (such as Fruit Fresh).
- To use Lemon Juice, combine 1 cup of lemon juice to 1 quart of water. Soak fruit no longer than 10 minutes; drain before drying the fruit.
- To use Ascorbic Acid: Dissolve 1 tablespoon ascorbic acid to each quarter of water. Hold produce in solution no longer than 30 minutes before drying the fruit.
The Drying Process.
Temperature plays a key role in the drying process. If the temperature is high, food may cook and harden on the outside while trapping moisture on the inside. Generally, fruits are dried at 135oF.
The time it takes to dry fruit depends on many factors, including the amount of natural water in the fruit, the size and thickness of the fruit or slices, the relative humidity of the air on the days you are drying, etc. You can use the weight of the fruit before and after drying to ensure it has been properly dried:
- After peeling, coring, etc., weight prepared produce to be dried
(for example, peeled, cored and sliced apples may weight 10 pounds).
- See the recipe for the water content of the fruit
(fruit averages 80 – 90%, in this example, apples are 84% water).
- The total weight of water equals the weight of prepared fruit multiple by the percent of water content.
(10 lbs x 0.84 = 8.4 pounds of water to be removed)
- Most fruits need 80% of the water removed for safe drying and storage. To find the weight of water to be removed, multiply the total weight of water by the percent of water to be removed.
(apples need 80% of the water removed, so 8.4 pounds water x .80 = 6.72 pounds of water to remove).
- The produce will be “dried” when this amount of water has been removed, so to find the goal weight of fruit, subtract the amount of water to be removed from the initial weight of water.
(in this example, 10 pounds of apples – 6.72 pounds of water to be removed = 3.28 pounds of dried apples; so when the final weight measures 3.28 pounds, you are done drying the apples).
Store dried fruits in food safe air light containers that protect from air, moisture, light, and insects. Dried fruits may be stored at room temperature 6 – 12 months, or frozen indefinitely.