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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dried fruit resources:
- Drying apples + nashis
- Drying strawberries
- Drying turmeric
- Excalibur 9-tray dryer with timer – I can’t actually remember where we got ours from now as it was years back, but here’s a supplier and here’s another one and crikey they’re everywhere now, even on Amazon. We like ours a lot.
What fruit do you dry? Got any hot tips, recipes or techniques to share?