A lot of people love dried fruit, but often companies will add extra and unnecessary sugars during the process. Here’s how to make your own at home.
Prep your fruit: Choose ripe or just overly ripe fruits and berries. Wash in cold water and remove any blemishes.
Remove pits or stones from stone fruits, and any stems from berries, and remove the skins. Some fruits, such as peaches, nectarines, and apples, dry better if the skin has been removed. Score the bottom of each piece of fruit by making a shallow “x” with a paring knife. Bunk into boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to a basin filled with ice water. The skins should slip right off.
Cut and slice fruits evenly so that they will dry within the same time frame.
To keep fruit looking pretty and minimize discoloration, soak the slices in lemon juice and water for 10 minutes, drain and blot dry with a lint-free towel.
Drying: Preheat the oven to 130-160 degrees F. Use a lower temperature for thin sliced fruits such as apples or peaches. Strawberries and other whole berries love the higher heat.
Place parchment paper onto sheet pans. Arrange fruit in a single layer, and do not allow pieces to touch. Top fruit with a pizza screen or silicone pan liner to keep them from curling up as they dry.
Place fruit into the oven and rotate pans every 2 hours.
How do you know if it’s ready? Dried fruit should feel like leather but still be pliable.
Fruits like pears, peaches, plumbs, Bananas and Apple should generally cook for about 6 hours. Others like Grapes and Citrus fruits need anywhere from 8 to 10, and Cherries, Apricots, and Strawberries can take as long as 12 hours.
You can up the temperature of your store to 230 F to cut drying times a little, but it’s not recommended if you’re working with thinner pieces of fruit. Save the higher temperatures for thicker sliced fruits.
Curing: When the fruit is ready, remove it from the oven and place in glass or plastic containers to “cure.” Leave the container open for 4-5 days so that any moisture left from the drying process can evaporate. Shake the container every day or so to move the fruit around.
Seal the containers after 5 days and enjoy dried fruits until next harvest season, about 10 months.
Tip: You can use this method to dry vegetables too. Give it a go with tomato skins, they make great crunchy but thin and healthy replacements for things like croutons on salads or in pastas. Just remember cooking times will vary.