“Drying is by far the simplest and most natural method of preserving food,” writes Carol W. Costenbader, in The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest. These seven easy steps, from fresh fruit selection to dried fruit storage, are drawn from her book. These methods works for fruits ranging from apples and berries to stone fruit and other varieties.
1. Select the Fruit
Use only blemish-free fruits that are fully ripe but not overly ripe.
2. Prepare the Fruit
Wash, pit and slice the fruit. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will dry. But keep all pieces uniform in size so they’ll dry at the same time.
To preserve the color of the fruit, blanch or dip the fruit slices before drying them. There are several ways to do this. As indicated below, some methods work better for some fruits than others.
Blanching (apricots, apples)
Put slices in a steamer (or a colander suspended in a pot of boiling water) for five minutes then place fruit in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry on towels.
Ascorbic acid dip (all fruits)
2 tbsp ascorbic acid or 5 1-gram crushed vitamin C tabs and 1 quart water
Pectin dip (peaches, berries, cherries)
Mix 1 box of powdered pectin with 1 cup water. Boil together for 1 minute, then add ½ cup sugar and enough cold water to make 2 cups.
Honey dip (bananas, peaches, pineapples)
Mix 3 cups waters and 1 cup sugar. Heat and then add 1 cup honey. Stir well.
Juice dip (peaches, apples, bananas)
Combine 1 quart pineapple juice, 1 quart lukewarm water and ¼ cup bottled lemon juice.
- Spread on screen for two to four days, turning slices over half way through the drying process.
- Bring inside at night to keep dew from collecting on the fruit.
- This method works best in climates with 100 degree heat and low humidity. Otherwise use caution, or try the oven.
- Place fruit directly on racks or first spread 100 percent cotton sheet or cheesecloth over oven racks.
- Preheat oven to 145 degrees, propping door open with wooden spoon to allow steam to escape.
- Allow 4 to 12 hours to dry the fruit.
- Food should be dry but pliable when cool. Test a few pieces to see if the batch is ready
- Put food in a big dry open pot in a warm, dry, airy location. Stir once or twice a day for 10 days to two weeks.
If you want to store the dried fruit for any great length of time, it is best to pasteurize the slices to destroy any insect eggs. To do this, when drying is complete, freeze the fruit for several days at zero degrees in a deep freeze (the freezer compartment of a refrigerator won’t do), or heat in a 175 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.
Store in airtight ziplock bags or glass containers kept inside paper bag to protect from light. Store in cool dry place. Since a refrigerator is cool and moist, keep the dried fruit there only in the heat of summer, but make sure the package is air tight.