During the waning weeks of summer, it seems a perfect time to preserve favorite fruits of the season by dehydrating them to enjoy later in the year. My dear friend, Ruth, an expert in dehydrating fruit and other foods, says the process is all about removing the moisture that causes decay. No water means no bacteria and no spoilage, she affirms.
Ruth explains that dehydration occurs best when the drying temperature is between 95°-140°F, with low humidity, and a constant movement of air (that helps evaporate the moisture). Fruits are especially interesting to dry because many change character entirely after dehydration. For example, dried plums are turned into prunes, and dried grapes become raisins after the drying process.
Although there are several methods for drying food, we’ve picked three of the most popular ways for dehydrating fruit and other foods:
1. Sun Drying
Sun drying is the most ancient way of dehydrating fruit and other foods. Patience and a solid protective cover for the food is important in this process. Slow drying fruit in the sun can take up to 5 days or more, depending on weather conditions. If you aren’t in a hurry and want the true old-fashioned experience of dehydrating fruit and other foods, sun drying is a satisfying (and green) choice.
2. Convection Oven Drying
With convection ovens able to stir the air and keep a controlled temperature, oven drying is another viable option for dehydrating fruit and other foods. Many do-it-yourselfers like using their existing convection ovens for dehydrating fruit and other foods because it is one less appliance to purchase, store, and maintain. Convection oven drying can provide an adequate finished product for home consumption.
3. Drying by Food Dehydrator
A food dehydrator appliance acts much like a convection oven (except your large oven can still be free to use while the dehydrator does its work). The basic parts of a food dehydrator include a fan, air vents to allow air circulation, a heating element, and food trays (screens). Food dehydrator appliances are perhaps the most popular way for dehydrating fruit and other foods. You pretty much set it and forget it, and come back hours later with perfectly dried fruits and other foods.
Slice sweet apples (like Fuji or Delicious) or sweet ripe peaches into thin slices. Dip in cold water with ascorbic acid or lemon juice and place in single layer on dehyrator rack. Check your progress every few hours for dehydrating fruit and other foods. You can also make fruit leathers by pureeing fruit in a blender and spreading them on a flat dehyrator pan
Dehydrating is really easy. I always think of the old backpacker’s original trail mix called GORP (get out the raisins and peanuts) when I think of dehydrated foods. I like to dehydrate fresh herbs, too. Right now I have a Concord grape vine loaded with grapes.
So, I guess its either harvest and dehydrate, or harvest and make jam. I’ll have to check my family cookbook and recipe box for my grape pie recipe. Granny used to have a really good Concord Grape pie recipe, but that’s another story.