Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Nov

How to Make Dried Fruit

Dried fruit? Isn’t that kind of high in sugar? Well, the short answer is yes, but the long answer is that in small doses – such as in a nut-based snack mix, or sprinkled on top of a high-fat plain yogurt (e.g. Fage Total) for a sweet dessert – dried fruit can be a welcome addition to the Primal eating plan. With that said, it is called Nature’s candy for good reason, so be careful not to overdo it.

Before we get started, let’s first address why you should be drying your own fruit – especially when dried fruit is available just about anywhere (and by that we mean even the grimiest of gas stations are stocking it these days!). According to the folks over at Wikipedia, some commercially available dried fruit products are first treated with sulfur dioxide to enhance the color of the product after drying. The problem? Sulfur dioxide can trigger asthma symptoms in those with the disorder. You can avoid purchasing sulfur dioxide-treated fruit by always opting for organic dried fruit products.

Ok, now on to the good stuff – let’s dehydrate some fruit in 10 easy steps!

1. Fruit Finder

The first step? Deciding what type of fruit will work for drying. The obvious are apricots, apples, bananas, berries, coconut and plums, but be sure to give cherries, citrus peel, figs, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, papaya, peaches, pears and pineapple a try! An even more off the wall – yet no less delicious option? Cantaloupe – it tastes just like candy!

2. Pick a Candidate

When selecting candidates for fruit dehydration, you’ll need to employ the same stringent eye you would use in the grocery store. As such, you should be picking up fruits that firm, blemish free and ripe, but not overly so (which means using fruit dehydration for the forgotten contents of your fruit bowl is not going to prove successfully!)

3. Slicing and Dicing

Preparing fruit for dehydration is no different than preparing fruit for consumption. You’ll want to wash all fruits thoroughly, particularly if the fruit you are going to use will be eaten with its skin, to remove any dirt and lingering pesticides. If necessary, pit and slice the fruit into equal-sized pieces. For larger berries or cherries, for example, you’ll want to cut them in half. Apples and Pears should be cored and then sliced into ½ inch thick slices. The key here is that all of the pieces are of similar size so that they dry at an equal rate.

4. Proper Pre-Treatment

Remember how we mentioned that store bought dried fruit often contains sulfur to make the fruit look a little more appealing? Well, there is a simple, no chemical way to pre-treat fruit that also has the benefit of restoring a portion of the vitamin C that is lost during the dehydration process. The easiest way to do this is to dip the fruit slices in an ascorbic acid dip made by combining 2 tbsp ascorbic acid – or the equivalent of 5 grams of crushed vitamin C tablets – in one quart of water. Another method is to blanch the fruit by putting slices in a steamer for five minutes then transferring them to an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Though this process is really only good for a few fruits, such as apples, pears and apricots.

You know how they say there’s more than one way to skin a cat? Well, there’s also more than one way to…errr…dry a fruit! Here are a few of our favorites:

5. Sun Drying

By far the most environmentally friendly method, sun drying is really only a viable option for those living in climates with 100 degree heat and relatively low humidity…and where you can guarantee that this fine weather will last two to four days. To do, line a cookie tray with sides with cheese cloth or a fine netting. Arrange slices on the tray and place in direct sunlight. Turn fruit once a day to promote equal drying. Some fruit drying aficionados recommend positioning a fan close by to boost air circulation and also suggest that you bring the trays indoors overnight to prevent dew from forming on the fruits.

6. Oven Drying

Yes, the oven is on for a long time, but it’s on at such a low heat, that it really isn’t that bad on the environment (or, lets face it, the electricity bill!) To dry fruit in the oven, line the racks with cheesecloth and place fruit slices on top. The oven should be set at its lowest setting, reaching a temperature of no higher than 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and the door should be left slightly open to allow any steam to escape (again, experts recommend positioning a fan close by to keep air circulating).

7. Electric Dehydration

If you’re planning on making a habit out of dehydrating fruits, it might be smart to invest in an electric dehydrator. They’re more economical than running your oven for that long and, unlike an oven, you don’t have to stay home when the dehydrator is going! Plus, it’s the fastest way to get the job done, meaning you’ll get your prunes pronto!

8. All Done

Although drying times vary based on the type of fruit, how it is prepared, and how you dry it, there are a few simple tricks you can use to test when it is done. A good way to test whether the fruit is “cooked” is to first touch it – it should feel dry but not brittle, almost taking on a leathery yet pliable texture. Then, tear a piece apart and look along the tear. If there are moisture beads, you’ll need a little more time.

9. Dried-Up

You spent all that time doing the dehydrating, the quickest way to reverse all your hard work? Store it improperly. To keep the (dried) fruits of your labor in tip-top shape, store them in a Ziploc bag or other airtight container that is then wrapped in a brown paper bag or other covering that will keep the fruits protected from sunlight. Then, store the package in a cool, dry place. If you must keep the fruits in the fridge, take extra steps to ensure that the package is airtight so that the cool moisture of the fridge doesn’t spoil the fruit.

10. Pass the Pasteurizer

Not going to get to your dried cantaloupe pieces any time soon? There is a way to extend the life of your fruit: Pasteurizing. There are two options to do this: The first is to heat the dried fruit in an oven at 175 degrees for 10-15 minutes. The other requires you to freeze the fruit for several days at zero degrees. It should be noted, however, that you’ll need a deep freezer to do this (the one attached to your fridge just won’t stay cold enough!). Once pasteurized, follow the same storage protocol as detailed above.

Final Thoughts: Fresh and dried fruit is a welcome addition to the Primal eating plan. In moderation, dried fruit can be a healthy, sweet treat. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t reiterate that, especially with dried fruit, you may want to keep an eye on consumption if you’re trying to keep your carb count within the healthy Primal range. Check out FitDay’s nutrition facts panels for select fruits here.

jalalspages, S and C, massdistraction Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Best Fruit Choices

Make Your Own Primal Energy Bars

How to Make Your Own Jerky

10 Delicious DIY Salad Dressings

National Center for Home Food Preservation – Drying Fruits and Vegetables (PDF)

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. I am a fan of dried fruit. My mother used to make dried apricots when I was a wee lad. I try now to do more fresh fruit though. Truth be told, a fresh apple will last plenty long and is almost as transportable as dried apples so even though I like dried apples, why not stick to fresh? I still use dried fruit for some things though. Example: Dried currents are an essential part of my primal energy bars. Thank you for the post Mark!

    The SoG

    Son of Grok wrote on November 18th, 2008
  2. Hey Mark,

    Great post! I usually just buy all of my dried fruit, which can be kind of expensive, so these ideas are perfect.

    Thanks for the post!

    All the Best,

    Andrew R

    Andrew R wrote on November 18th, 2008
  3. Another fruit which is just coming into season and is fantastic dried: persimmons. It’s worth questioning everybody you know to find out who has persimmon trees, because lots of folks don’t know what to do with their excess and just let them rot on the ground. A great source of FREE, organic food.

    dragonmamma wrote on November 18th, 2008
  4. Okay, I’m going to try to dry pomegranate beads. Anyone ever done this? Exactly how small do they get?

    Jennifer wrote on November 18th, 2008
    • I WANT TO DRY POMEGRANATE SEEDS…HOW DID YOU DO IT AND WAS IT WORTH IT?

      PATTY SENN wrote on November 9th, 2010
  5. Dried cantaloupe and kiwi, those are the only 2 i haven’t yet tried, sounds real good!

    Donna wrote on November 18th, 2008
  6. Dried Michigan tart cherries are one of my greatest vices! So delicious and so hard to only eat a few at a time! I usually do this as part of a trail mix with dark chocolate and raw almonds.

    Jennifer, I have never dehydrated pomegranate beads myself but I have had them with a dark chocolate coating. If you are able to successfully dehydrate them I would highly recommend trying that as a combination to curb any sweet tooth you may have.

    derek wrote on November 18th, 2008
  7. Hey, I was gonna write something about persimmons but dragonmamma beat me to it!! I have a local food coop, run privately out of someone’s house nearby, that sells the best and freshest organic only sun dried fruits. She gets small quantities directly from orchards–no middlemen!! Anyway, I stopped by today and she had some persimmon. I had a few and they were amazing.

    I used to dry my own fruit quite often, in a dehydrator, when my kids were little. Now the temptation is too great for me to eat em all myself as the kids arent home much anymore:-(

    But why do your recommend dipping the fruits. I never was affected or minded the slight discoloration in the apples or such? Sometimes, I do recall dipping in lemon water tho!

    sarena wrote on November 18th, 2008
  8. Pineapple is another good one. But I definitely add my dried fruit to other ingredients (i.e. nuts) because, otherwise, it’s just way too easy to loose track of consumption!
    Good post… loving the DIY!

    Holly wrote on November 18th, 2008
  9. I bought a dehydrator at Christmas. I am not sure what I was trying to achieve – I just had the idea that I would be able to dehydrate anything and everything and take extremely lightweight but highly calorific food packages on long hiking trips. The reality was that the dehydration process took a long time and the available space in the device meant limits on volume. I was disappointed by the need to add copious quantities of salt when drying fish and also by various stipulations about how fresh it should be.

    I also think there is an art to getting fruit and veg just right because I ended up with a lot of shrivelled efforts which did not resemble the pictures in the book!

    Long story short, it ended up on ebay within the month. The moral of the story – look into the reality of using a dehydrator before shelling out for one! But don’t let this put you off – I think I had unrealistic expectations and made an imetuous purchase….

    Methuselah - Pay Now Live Later wrote on November 18th, 2008
  10. what an excellent idea! i use dried fruit in my bircher muesli – it never occurred to me to do it myself. this would be a great way to preserve this season’s delicious egremont russet apples!

    monica wrote on November 18th, 2008
  11. Jennifer,

    This is just a guess, but there cant be much of a pomegranite seed left after dehydration! They are small to begin with and are mostly liquid.

    Son of Grok wrote on November 18th, 2008
  12. I have a dehydrator and have not been pleased with the results. I’ve tried a lot of different ‘recipes’ and fruits and have rarely gotten anything worth the effort. For the amount of effort and time and clean-up that is involved, I’d rather eat my fruit fresh or purchase high quality dried from someone else. The space that is used by my dormant dehydrator on the shelf is definitely not worth it.

    new_me wrote on November 18th, 2008
  13. Under the pre-treatment section, did you mean blanch for 5 seconds? It says minutes…

    katherine wrote on November 19th, 2008
  14. i thought it will be easy for me to find your website, but instead of finding some information about real thing. thank god i found your website.

    derrick wrote on December 3rd, 2008
  15. This is very informative and I am intrigued bythe idea of dried kiwi and cantaloupe!

    Deborah Dowd wrote on December 10th, 2008
  16. thank you, I love fruits…. very useful information

    diabetesnotes wrote on May 7th, 2009
  17. thanks for the information. has anyone good ideas on the max time you can keep properly dried apricots? Months —-years——?

    Donald wrote on July 20th, 2009
  18. Dried veggies are great for snacks and dippers too! There’s a lot less worry about over-carbing.

    I love zucchini chips with sea salt or spicy powders!

    Grok wrote on November 15th, 2009
  19. thanks for this awesome info! i love dried fruit in yogurt and in oatmeal, but the kind you buy at the store has SO MUCH added sugar, it’s ridiculous! yes, fruit by nature is high in sugar, but if you don’t add sugar to it, you’re still eating healthy because fruit (even w/ the natural sugar) has other health benefits, like vitamins, minerals and fiber. this makes it a much better option than a sugary processed food any day!

    jennifer blanchard wrote on December 10th, 2009
  20. Contrary to popular belief, ascorbic acid is not the same as natural vitamin C and is not harmless. Please take a look at the possible side effects at http://www.drugs.com/sfx/ascorbic-acid-side-effects.html. Since I am one of the people who has serious reactions to this substance, I’m trying to disseminate this information about it at every opportunity. I have dried a lot of fruit in my time and have never had to use it or sulfur.

    Judith Hainaut wrote on January 28th, 2010
  21. I just started dehydrating all types of fruit. The first thing I made was bandanas. I think they could have been dried a little longer. I stored them in a mason jar & the quantity reduced to about half by the next day.I ate several pieces & the next day my stomach hurt and & I felt ill? Could this be from the under dried bananas??? Not sure?

    kathy schroeder wrote on July 20th, 2010
    • I think the problem is that you were eating bandanas. Try bananas instead, it might be easier on your stomach.

      Vince wrote on July 20th, 2010
      • Funny stuff:)

        kathy schroeder wrote on July 20th, 2010
  22. hey, you can build a solar dehydrator too! it’s really simple, requires no electricity and can be easily made for free…

    it’s just a box with some shelves and a roof, a hole in the bottom and top for air circulation and some old window screens…

    this will protect yr food from being leached of nutrients by uv and will protect yr soul from using energy when you don’t have to

    DIY REVOLUTION WOOP WOOP

    know wrote on July 19th, 2011
  23. For how long should the fruit oven-drye??

    marianne wrote on April 7th, 2012
  24. What are your thoughts on sulfur dioxide if you don’t have asthma? Can it cause any other problems?

    Heather wrote on March 16th, 2013

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