Home Time Travel Techniques: DIY Dried Fruit

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Storing the season can be done in many delicious ways, but I have to say, dried fruit is one of my favourite ways to do it.

In Summer, it’s pears, nashis, peaches + strawberries.

In Autumn, it’s all about the apples.

In Winter, it’s citrus, and kiwi, and banana.

And in Spring… well, you’ve got lots of dried fruit to eat, don’t you.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good bottled apricot as much as the next person. But my cupboard is only so large. And my time is only so much. So sometimes, drying the surplus is the thing.

Central to this process, of course, is a fruit dryer.

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You can go solar, or air dry if you have a warm dry place, or generate heat by something funky like a rocket stove and push it through a drying box and regulate it somehow…

Or there’s the good ‘ol electric buy-it-from-a-shop dryer options, which are not to be sneezed at either.

For us, an electric dryer fits the bill. We use an Excalibur, which I would recommend to anyone as a kick-ass all-round dryer for fruit, nuts, meat and herbs.

So in the name of storing the season, making the most of what you’ve got (when you can get it) and general home-made goodness, here’s what we love about home-dried fruit as a food preservation technique.

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Things that are great about drying fruit:

Setup time – to fill our dryer takes under 30 minutes of slicing and arranging and then, boom. Come back in 8 hours, you’re done.

Lunchbox ready – dried fruit. It’s not slushy. This means my kiddo eats it, no matter how much his lunchbox has been jonked about by the rigours of the day.

No-energy storage – minimising energy consumption wherever you can is a fact of life, if we want to continue to have an inhabitable planet. Once the food is dry, it’s into the airtight jar, and that’s it for energy inputs for preserving this food. Yay.

Capacity – while our dryer is pretty darn large (it can take about 5 kilos of apples at a time), it seems to be of a complimentary size to most of the fruit hauls we obtain. Which is usually less than what would warrant a big preserving-in-jars session.

Year-round goodness – home-grown organic bananas don’t come around every week (at least where we live) – so when you get them you want to make the most of it, and make them last so we can munch them beyond their season. Time travel in a jar!

No-sugar preserving – no extra sugar needed – the sugars in the fruits take care of the sweetness of the final product.

Space-efficient storage – obviously, since you’ve removed the water in the drying process, dried fruit takes up less space to store. Sometimes we re-hydrate them before use in half-and-half apple juice and water. A fine breakfast fruit compote for your porridge.

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Tips for drying great fruit + other things too

Get a good dryer setup – this will depend where you live, and how much space you have – if you’re in a high-heat low-humidity environment, this might be as simple as making a screened box with wire racks in it. Or, it might mean buying a decent electric dryer.

Use almost-ripe fruit – you want the sweetness, without the smush. Almost-ripe fruit is less likely to bruise during processing, which is a good thing.

Keep your slices thin + even – this might seem obvious, but if you don’t, you’ll be picking through your trays eliminating dried slices from not-yet dried slices and then re-drying and possibly over-drying and…. yeah. Keep those slices even, kids.

If you’re slow-drying, consider citric/ascorbic acid – if you have a method of drying your slices to crispness in 8 hours flat, I wouldn’t worry about this – but if you’re sun drying, or slow drying – which takes 12 – 48 hours, dipping your slices in (or spraying on) a water/citric acid (or ascorbic in the case of the vitamin c tablet) mix will prevent browning.

You can make up a mix of 1/2 lemon juice 1/2 water, or crumble a vitamin c tablet in some water to make up a simple acid mix.

Browning of fruit is not a problem for the fruit itself, it’s mostly an aesthetic thing – but whatever works for you.

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Our favourite fruit for drying

This section could be summarised by saying DRY EVERYTHING, which is what I prettymuch do. However, there are some things I would not dry again, either because they turn out mangy, hard or were so goddamn fiddly to do that I would rather not repeat the experience. Also, we live in a temperate bioregion, so don’t get many tropical fruits, which I why I haven’t tried drying lychees + starfruit. Yet.

Summer: nashi pears / peaches / nectarines / strawberries / mangoes / bananas

Autumn: Apples (so many apples) / small pears

Winter: oranges / kiwifruit / bananas / cumquats / turmeric / ginger (yes I know these last two aren’t fruit but hey we dry them)

Things I wouldn’t dry again include:

Cherries:  (too fiddly – chuck brandy over them in a jar instead and cap till you can stand it no more, then eat them)

Blueberries / Rasberries: (see above, + they go quite hard + seedy when dried)

Large pears: due to the shape of the fruit, the slice sizes are inconsistent and it takes ages to dry them all correctly. Small pears can be dried in halves, big pears we bottle.

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The sugar factor

Ok let’s talk about sugar. Naturally, most home dried fruit is full of it, because that’s what fruit largely is, once you remove the water. And it’s sticky, too, so little teeth (and big ones also) get bits of it stuck around them.

I’m going to struggle not to go on a tangent here but last week my deprived, lolly-free kid was given FOUR lollipops at school throughout the week for such varied accomplishments as going to library, spelling something right, and two other times that don’t seem to have been any reason at all.

And of course, he was pretty stoked. Because, sugar. He loves it. He’s a kid.

Long story short, we do our very best to not do refined sugar, or any other refined or packaged food for that matter, at home. Mostly, we rock it. We like our food real and our ingredients to be identifiable, simple, wholesome and delicious.

For me, DIY dried fruit is a great and awesome part of that pantry. Its real, I know where it came from, I knew who grew it, and of course you don’t eat a bucket of it a day.

Therefore, I’m more than happy to include a bit of dried fruit in our kiddo’s lunchbox each day. His sweet tooth gets a hit (with a much slower energy release than refined sugar) and I know that his fructose intake is coming from something decent with zero artificial or weird-ass anything.

And he gets to time travel! A lunchbox full of Nana’s summer peaches on a rainy winter’s day, or apples and banana, anytime of year, without needing to lean on supermarket supply chain long-term cold storage one bit.

It’s the little things in life that make the awesome.

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Dried fruit resources:

What fruit do you dry? Got any hot tips, recipes or techniques to share?

See the comments

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Comments

16 responses to “Home Time Travel Techniques: DIY Dried Fruit

  1. Interesting to see you dry your citrus and kiwi with the peel/skin on- is this a processing time thing? I have kilos and kilos of citrus and kiwi just sitting here and I’d love to dry some but can’t imagine my kids eating the skin, maybe I’m not giving them enough credit? I imagine a slice of dried orange or lemon would be delish in a pot of tea!

    1. yeah I leave it on as a time + aesthetic thing, also it helps the slice hold it’s shape – if the eater doesn’t actually eat the rind, no worries, fine with me 🙂

  2. Do you mean you take the skin off kiwi to eat them? A fully ripe fruit picked fresh, then a light rub onto a cloth (think trouser leg in the garden) to remove hairs, is delicious to eat with the skin intact. Can’t do it with store bought ones which were harvested while still green and ripened some other way.

  3. Excalibur driers are probably the best. I researched mine a lot in 2008 before purchasing it. Before that I had a homemade solar drier which worked fine for years then unfortunately one quite humid and wet summer I just couldn’t dry fruit and it kept going mouldy. It was home grown fruit but still a loss so I had to look else where. Now I do 15-20 buckets of apricots a year, 2-3000 figs apart from peaches, nectarines, apples, bananas, blackberry, raspberry, boysenberry and herbs like basil, vegetables such as carrots, parsnip, beetroot, and other things including tomatoes, capsicums and chillis.
    My bananas only come when they are $1/kg in the shop. At that time there are usually many kilos of them so drier is the way to go.
    To do berries, I put them in a boiler and slowly cook them for several hours to reduce their moisture content and make them jam like. Spread them out on the leather sheet on the drying tray and dry. Absolutely beautiful leathers very rich and dark and sweet. I also do the same with over ripe apricots which can occur in a flush so the jam like material can remain in the frig for a couple of days until you catch up again.
    Some of my fruit can take up to 18 hours to dry depending on type and how much moisture in them.
    I eat several handfuls of dried fruit every day of the year, all home grown and dried. The bananas are a treat on rare occasions or for the grandchildren. I also eat heaps of fresh home grown fruit for about 10 months of the year. The best I have been able to do is eat 15 different varieties of fruit on the one day.

  4. We have an old dehydrator that didn’t have a timer. Using a simple Christmas light timer solves the problem of running overnight.

    Rehydrating strawberries overnight or until lunch time in yoghurt is a favourite.

  5. I’ve had success with pears by slicing them horizontally and dividing the top slices from the bottom slices.

    I also dry turmeric and ginger every winter by slicing it thinly, spreading it on a paper towel in the bottom of a baking dish and putting it on top of the cupboard. Winter heating dries the air nicely and I have lovely turmeric flakes for porridge (along with coconut milk and cardamon), and plenty of dried ginger for tea and curries.

      1. One of the great joys of retirement is TIME. I’m not raising small children and running a business. Your time will come. <3

  6. Perhaps one of you can answer a question I’ve long had about dehydrating fruit, veggies and/or herbs outdoors. I live in Southern Arizona where the average summer day reaches 115 degrees. Could I dehydrate food in my car? It’s a mini oven sitting out in the sun, and it would trap heat and speed up dehydrating time, more so than simply leaving food outdoors. Also, I live in a rural area, so leaving any food outdoors attracts massive javelinas, who can smell delicious fruit from miles away! I try to avoid attracting them since I have two young daughters and a bunch of chickens.

    So, is my car dehydrator idea a feasible or crazy idea? Thank you ahead of time!

    Be well,
    Tracy S.

    1. I’ve heard of people doing it… I would be a bit concerned about the plastics if it’s a new car, the older the car the more the VOCs will have already dissipated.

      If you do it leave the windows open a bit to get good airflow. It’s no good just getting them hot they need to have fresh dry air coming in to dry them properly.

  7. What do you do with dried citrus as pictured in this artcle or in any manner? I have so many oranges and mandatins. I would love some ideas on how to dry and use them.

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