Humans have been drying fruits for long term for thousands of years and for good reason. The combination of nutritional value and enjoyable taste is the reason dried fruits have been popularly considered a healthy food for millennia.
Dried fruits are naturally resistant to spoiling. They are easy to store and transport as they weigh a fraction of what a fresh fruits weigh and take up minimal storage space. Dried fruits are a nutritious, low cost way to increase the amount of fruit in your daily diet. Below are a few basic nutritional facts on dried fruits:
-Dried fruits are practically devoid of fat, trans-fats, saturated fat and cholesterol.
-Dried fruits have extremely low sodium content.
-Dried fruits are high in dietary fiber and potassium. On a per serving basis (1/4 cup) dried fruits are among the top 50 contributors of these nutrients among all foods in the American diet.
-Dried fruits provide essential nutrients that are otherwise low in today’s diets, such as vitamin A (apricots and peaches), calcium (figs), vitamin K (dried plums), iron, and copper.
One of the only drawbacks to dried fruit is that unfortunately, we have tried to improve on it. Aside from some health food stores, most dried fruits commercially available are infused with added sugar. These “store bought” brands are also may contain Sulfur Dioxide.
Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is used in production of most light colored fruits in order to counteract natural reactions that would cause them to brown and lose their appealing light color. SO2 is completely safe by most people according to the FDA, but it can cause allergic reactions to some people and it can bring on an asthma attack.
Most people would never think to do it, but you can still dry your own fruit, and while it takes time it is really a simple process.
How to make your own dried fruit:
-Fruit of your choice
-1/2 cup lemon juice
-1/2 cup water
Special equipment needed:
- Remove oven racks; preheat oven to 145ºF.
- Prep fruit: wash thoroughly, and slice into uniform pieces. Remove any seeds, pits, or stems. I cut small fruits like berries or grapes in half, and larger fruits like apples or peaches into quarter-inch rings or slices. This is where your mandolin slicer comes in quite handy as you can slice through all of your fruits in a matter of minutes. The thinner you slice the fruit, the quicker it will dry.
- Mix lemon and water together. Then dip fruit slices into this mixture. The acid in the lemons helps preserve the natural color of the fruit.
- Cover the removed oven racks with cheesecloth and place the sliced fruit in a single layer onto the covered oven racks. Carefully place the racks back in the oven.
- Be sure to leave the oven door slightly ajar. This will allow steam escape while drying the fruit.
- Bake fruit anywhere from 4 to 12 hours
- Rotate the racks while baking to ensure that the fruit dries evenly.
- Check the temperature regularly to make sure that your oven doesn’t vary too widely in temperature.
- The fruit will look dry and/or leathery when done. (Taste testing is a must!)
- Transfer finished fruit in an airtight container or bag, and store in a cool, dry place.
*If you have this skill on hand but don’t have power or gas to run your oven, you can still dry your fruit provided that you have a hot sunny day.
Simply follow the steps above but place the racks inside your car (preferably on the dash). This will more than likely take a lot longer than the oven method, but it is beneficial in a grid down situation or even when you are camping.
Regardless of whether you are drying your own fruit for long term food storage or simply to use as a healthy snack for yourself, drying fruit is a fun and handy skill to have.