Drying fruit to preserve it
Drying is a method seldom used by home cooks but is relatively easy and provides a valuable extra resource to preserve surplus fruits and provides an enjoyable long keeping product that is suitable for most fruits. Apples, Pears, Plums, Apricots, Peaches, even strawberries can be dried. Here are the basics involved:
The fruit is dried over several hours in an oven set at a very low heat. 110-120 degrees is ideal, a little less in fan assisted ovens.
Make sure the fruit is cut into portions of a similar size. You can slice thinly or quarter and half, but remember that the bigger the pieces, the longer they will take to dry.
A good time scale is 12-16 hours depending on size and texture of the fruit. It’s a good idea to prep the fruit and leave it in the oven overnight. Only use good quality fruit as this will reflect in the end product.
Dip the fruit in lemon juice or asorbic acid [a vitamin c solution sold in health food stores] prior to drying this will help keep the fruit bright in colour and prevent in going brown.
Make sure the fruit is thoroughly dry otherwise it will spoil in storage; but don’t overdo it unless you want a fruit-crisp type texture. Aim for a similar end product to the dried fruits that are sold in health food shops. You can allow the fruit to cool a little before determining whether it is ready; it should give and be a bit flexible but if there are still wet spots it needs more time in the oven.
The dried fruit can be stored in plastic bags or large jars in a cool dark place. It should keep 3-4 months at least if properly dried. It can also be frozen if you want to keep it longer.
Aside from using a conventional oven, if you want to dry fruit regularly every year and in quantity, it might be worth investing in a dehydrator which makes the whole process simpler and provides more predictable results.