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How to Dehydrate Fruit

Use a food dehydrator to dry fruits at home.

Dried fruits are very tasty and nutritious. The drying process removes most of the water from the fruit, leaving behind the concentrated fruit flavor (and sugars). Something to remember is that food dehydrators remove the water, but NOT the calories! Some types of fruit that are good dried are apples, mangos, apricots, plums, pears, grapes, bananas, cherries and all type of berries.

You're limited mainly by your imagination and the availability of produce in your area. While exactly how you'll dry fruit varies depending on the food dehydrator you buy, there are some basics you need to know:

First, make sure to inspect all the fruit before you begin. You want to make sure that it's all clean and undamaged. Any bruising that appears on the fruit could be cut out now.

Second, prepare the food that you want to dehydrate. Make sure that everything is peeled and cored before you go any further. This is the time to decide if you want your fruit dried in slices, strips, or if you want it dried in halves. Understand that the larger the piece of fruit is, the longer it will take to dry. Make sure to read the manufacturers directions that come with your dehydrator. They give good suggestions to follow when it comes to preparing the fruit.

Some fruits (such as grapes, blueberries, cherries, etc.) have a really tough and waxy outer-skin that needs to be broken before being placed in the dehydrator. You can do this fairly easily by placing them in boiling water for about a minute. Just leave them in long enough to soften and to crack their skins. Then place them into cold water to stop the cooking process, and drain thoroughly. (This is almost exactly like blanching vegetables). What this does is it allows the moisture to evaporate out of the fruit as it's dried in the food dehydrator. If you're going to slice them up before dehydrating, then you don't have to worry about cracking their skins.

Finally, keep in mind that light colored fruits such as apples, bananas, pears, etc. tend to turn brown when they're exposed to the air. This is called oxidation and if it is not stopped it can ruin the flavor and appearance of the fruit.

To help the fruit retain its color and flavor mix a small amount of ascorbic acid into 1 cup of water and sprinkle it over the fruit as you go. (You can find ascorbic acid at almost any store).

Another way to help fruit retain its color and flavor is by treating it with sulfur. The easiest way to do that is by soaking it in a sulfite solution. You do this by adding 1-2 tablespoons of sodium bisulfite to a gallon of water. (You can find sodium bisulfite at a health food store, or most wine stores. Or if all else fails, you can always buy it online.) Just make sure that its food grade because they do make sulfur for gardening and other uses. It has to be food grade! Soak the fruit in the solution for 5-10 minutes and then pat dry. (Don't rinse it). Then you can begin the drying process immediately.

Keep in mind that there are many ways to prepare and dry food, and when in doubt always follow the manufacturers' guidelines.

Grandma used to dry fruit all the time, and she never used anything other than ascorbic acid to preserve her fruit. She would peel and core her apples before slicing them into rounds. Then she'd sprinkle them with an ascorbic acid mixture and dip one side of the apple into a flavored gelatin. Then she'd dry them according to her food dehydrator guidelines. We never had to worry about the fruit spoiling, because they never lasted long enough to go bad.

After this last step, fruit is ready to be placed in the dehydrator and dried. Make sure as you put them on their racks that they are far enough apart that they don't touch each other. This will give the air a better chance to circulate between levels and dry the food more evenly. Keep in mind that fruit is generally sticky, and a good tip is to spray the trays with non-stick cooking spray before placing the fruit on them. It makes it so much easier when you have to turn the fruit over, if it doesn't stick to the trays! Follow the instructions according to your food dehydrator, and anywhere from 6-12 hours and you should be done.

You can check for dryness by cutting open the fruit and looking for any moisture. The fruit should be completely dry with no signs of moisture inside. You don't want to dry it past the point that it's still pliable.meaning an apple slice shouldn't snap in your hands like a twig! You should be able to bend it in your hands and have it spring (slowly) back into its regular position.

Once the fruit has cooled completely, you can store it in air-tight containers anywhere from 6 months to a year. Some people like to vacuum pack their dehydrated foods and store them in their freezers. This will add greatly to their shelf life, if you have the room for it. Dehydrated fruit should store anywhere from 6 months to a year, as long as no moisture gets into their containers and they were properly dried in the first place.

Dried fruits make great additions to cereals, muffins, and granolas. With just a little bit of effort, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor long past the golden days of summer.

Learn more by visiting our home food storage articles page or go directly to the following related articles: Dehydrating Vegetables or Dehydrating Meats.