Dried fruit in the making

Here is my new Winter hobby, an amazingly fun and tasty discovery: buying certain types of seasonal fruits, slicing them and drying them with the help of “Fruit Dehydrators”.  You would be surprised how rewarding the result is, as you come up with a mound of inexpensive & healthy delicacy snack.  Before sharing my tips for drying fruits, let’s look at some of the nutritional facts brought up in Globe and Mail article 

“Many people think that dried fruit is loaded with calories because it’s high in sugar. Neither is true. Because drying fruit removes its water content, the portion size shrinks by about three-quarters. If you dehydrate one cup of fresh apricots, you’ll get 1/4 cup of dried apricots. (1/4 cup of dried fruit is considered one food-guide serving of fruit.)

As for calories and sugar, they’re pretty much equivalent. One cup of fresh apricot halves has 74 calories and 14.5 grams of naturally occurring sugar; 1/4 cup of dried apricots halves has 78 calories and 17 g of sugar. Of course, if you eat more than one serving (1/4 cup) of dried fruit, the calories will add up.”

Exactly the point! They are so easy to eat: so be careful not to eat a lot more than you would fresh fruit. That’s all! I mean, even if you do exceed, they are much healthier than junk food, such as potato chips and chocolate bars, right?  Also to be noted:  “The nutrient content is similar between fresh and dried fruit. The main difference is that the dried version is often lower in vitamin C. That’s because the vitamin deteriorates when exposed to the dry heat necessary for dehydration.”

Now let’s get to the points I want to share with you.

Machine: You could buy “fruit dehydrators” with a built-in fan, which is a bit pricier but more efficient, or the ones without fan, which takes a bit longer to dry your fruits with heat alone , but still does the job. The picture above shows the latter type with 4 trays.

Choosing fruit types: Basically, you can dry any type of fruit and vegetable. In my opinion, though, citrus family is not appropriate for this purpose.  Go for sweeter fruit types, such as pine apple, banana, pears. And among a given fruit variety, go for the sweeter type.  For example, apples are excellent candidate for dehydrating, but take a note that green apples are not as sweet as red or yellow ones.  Having said that, do experiment with unusual fruits, such as Kiwi and boiled beets, to add some diversity and color to your serving dish.

Choose ripe, but not over-ripped, fruits for dehydrating. Also, seasonal and inexpensive fruits obviously make more economic dried fruits than fancy and pricey ones.

Preparing your fruit: Wash and completely dry your fruits. Some fruits, such as apple and pears do not peeling. Slice your fruits super thin to get crispy dried, or medium thin to get chewy dried fruit. But in any case, try to slice them in equal sizes. If you have a cutter, the task would be much easier, but don’t worry if you don’t. With a little patience and practice, manually sliced fruits will look just as great.

Time: The time required for drying fruits varies depending on the type of fruit, the thickness of each slice, and the degree you want it dried. Pineapple, for instance, takes more time to dry because it contains more water/juice than, let’s say, apple.  My slow machine takes about six hours to give me crunchy apples when I spread them on the first try closest to the heat, and about eight hours to give not –too-thin-and-dry pineapples.

Use and Storage: If you’re making these for your own or family consumption, I suggest making them in small batches, especially if you live in a humid climate. Keep them in sealed plastic containers and serve in small bowls (a good technique to avoid over eating!)

Dried fruits are healthy, delicious and inexpensive when made at home.  Take them with tea as dessert and/or as snack.  They make great gifts too once placed in fancy empty chocolate containers. And one last thing: in the process of drying and afterwards, your house will smell like fruits! Refreshing and pleasant. I love that part as much as the dried fruit itself!

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