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The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest

By Carol W. Costenbader

Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook
By Mary Bell

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How to Dry Fruit

For apricots, peaches, apples, berries and more, seven easy steps from selection to storage

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, from which these instructions for how to go about drying your own are drawn.

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.

3. Pretreating

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 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 cup bottled lemon juice.

4. Drying

Sun Drying
a) Spread on screen for two to four days, turning slices over half way through the drying process.
b) Bring inside at night to keep dew from collecting on the fruit.
c) This method works best in climates with 100 degree heat and low humidity. Otherwise use caution, or try the oven.

Oven Drying
a) Place fruit directly on racks or first spread 100 percent cotton sheet or cheesecloth over oven racks.  b) Preheat oven to 145 degrees, propping door open with wooden spoon to allow steam to escape.
c) Allow 4 to 12 hours to dry the fruit.
d) Food should be dry but pliable when cool. Test a few pieces to see if the batch is ready

5. Pot Drying

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.

6. Pasteurize

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

7. Storage

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.

Copyright 1998 Seasonal Chef