As one of the oldest methods of food preservation, dried and dehydrated foods have been around for centuries.
Although dehydrated foods do not retain the nutritional value of canned or frozen foods, they do make for excellent snacks and can be utilized in a multitude of recipes.
For now, I'm going to concentrate on dehydrated fruit as the the topic of choice and show you how to make this terrific snack food for a health-conscious lifestyle.
For my fruit snacks I've decided to use a variety of apples, pears and kiwi which are as follows:
- 2 red delicious apples
- 2 golden delicious apples
- 1 fuji apple
- 2 honey crisp apples
- 2 granny smith apples
- 2 bosc pears
- 2 anjou pears
- 5 kiwis
After cleaning, peeling, coring and slicing the apples and pears, I soaked them in a bath of 1/2 fresh lemon juice and 2 cups cold water for 2-3 minutes. This is done to prevent oxidation. The discoloration doesn't alter the flavor of the fruit, and if oxidation doesn't bother you, it's fine left as is. The choice is yours.
You can actually use almost any type of fruit juice to prevent discoloration; juices such as pineapple or orange juice work fine, but remember, the fruit will pick up the flavors of the bath. Another option you can utilize is ascorbic acid, which can be purchased in most supermarkets.
Though using an oven on low heat is completely acceptable, I'm choosing to use a Sunbeam food dehydrator with five racks. These can be bought at most appliance stores and and various brands range from about 30 bucks on up.
I placed my pears on the lowest rack where naturally, where there is more heat, to again help with drying time. I prepared about a tray and a half of the Bosc and Anjou pear slices.
After peeling and slicing the Kiwi to about 1/4" thickness, I prepared a little more than a tray full of these deliciously sweet little fruits. I used six kiwi to do this (they were actually quite small).
Next, came the apples. I want to clarify I used small to medium size apples here. I wanted the variety of many flavors, but I also wanted them to fit in the racks of the dehydrator.
Most people who dehydrate food; especially meats and vegetables, coat the foods with some type of flavoring - usually in the form of sugar, salt, spices, herbs and marinades.
Me? I wanted the essence of the fruit mainly but in keeping with my variety of flavor theme, I sprinkled some apples lightly with brown sugar, others with cinnamon and some, I left plain.
When all five racks were full of fruit, I put the lid on tightly and turned it on. As a note - you should never turn a dehydrator on before all racks are filled and you are ready to begin.
I let the dehydrator do its thing for approximately ten hours or so.
Checking the fruit for proper dryness is easy. You can begin with the finger test. Remove a piece of fruit from the dehydrator and let it cool; if it feels dry to the touch of your finger tips, then it is usually dry enough.
Another, more specific test can be applied by cutting a few pieces in half and checking for beads of moisture along the cut edges. If there is moisture present, return to the dehydrator.
Also, you can alter the dryness of the fruit until your satisfied.
Once they reached my desired level of texture, I removed them and let them cool. The batch I made above filled nearly two 32 oz. storage containers.
I like the plastic storage containers with the screw-on lids. They're inexpensive and keep unwanted smells out and freshness in. If kept in a cool, dry place, properly dehydrated fruit can last for almost a year.
I heard it said that dried fruits should also go through a conditioning period before they are stored. They should be loosely-packed in jars and shaken once a day for a week to ensure remaining moisture is distributed evenly between fruit..
I never use this conditioning step though. Why not? Well, dried fruit doesn't last a week with me. I'd need a crate full to have enough to store. I simply make it and enjoy it. So should you.
Facts About Dried Fruit
- The fiber content of fruit remains relatively the same after dehydration.
- Foods dehydrate faster at the outer edges of the trays than in the center.
- Fruit can be dehydrated easily and put into other meals. Dehydrated apples in oatmeal is delicious.
- If you rehydrate fruit, use it quickly before it spoils.
- Dehydrated fruits are lower in fat but higher in calories per serving. This is a direct result of the density.
- Eating half the amount of dried fruit is about the same calories of twice the amount if eaten fresh.
- The higher the water content of a fruit, the larger it can be sliced because it will have more shrinkage during the dehydration process.