Monday, February 21, 2011

Dried Fruit Thoughts

I dried a lot of new fruits this past summer. New to me anyway. I figured maybe some readers would be interested in how they turned out, and what we'll be doing different next year.

Apples - This one wasn't new. We dried a bag or two of crisp tasty apples. The only thing we'll do different next time is to dip them in some citrus juice to avoid the browning that occurs naturally. (Although, I think I say this every year, and every year I'm always just too stinking busy to mess with the extra step.)

Pineapples - I forget how we ended up with excess pineapple. There's a price point above which I won't buy them, and that means we usually only have a couple of pineapples a year. Must have been a fire sale or something. Because one got dried last year. It turned out really good. I'd never had any before, and they looked odd, so hubby had to push me a little to try it. I'm glad he did. I was pleasantly surprised. We dried them as chunks.

Plums - one of the new ones. I really like dried plums. Yes, they are also called prunes. Prunes just had terrible PR, and dried plums sounds much nicer. These were a wild plum. So they dried smaller and tarter than any prunes you'll ever buy. I really like them like that. Hubby has a bit more trouble with them and has demanded that we marinate them in sugar before we dry another batch. :-D

Raspberries - A neighbor has a long row of raspberries. She was nice enough to gift us several pickings from them. We ate plenty of them fresh and made a bit of jelly. There were still enough to dry a batch, so I did. They dried all crunchy and tart. I love putting them in oatmeal. I had to use the herb screens I made for the dehydrator, as once they are dry, most are small enough to fall through the wide grid of the trays. Those screens are nothing but window screen material, cut in a circle a little smaller than the trays.

Blue Berries - These are like the pineapples in that we usually only get them 1 week a year when the price drops below my limit. We eat plenty fresh for that week, but I always buy enough to dry some. Again, oatmeal and pancakes are livened up by these little gems.

To round out our supply of dried fruit, I buy large quantities of raisins and in smaller quantities I buy dried apricots and cranberries.

Besides my favorite applications in oatmeal and pancakes, there are a couple other things we do with our dried fruit.

Yummy 7 layer bars. Choc, coconut, dried fruit (chopped small), evaporated milk, all layered on a graham cracker crust. Mmmm

Stewed fruit. Or fruit compotes. This has the benefit of being a good use for both the dried fruits and the storage apples that are past their prime.

Dried fruit sampler snacks. :-) Instead of a piece of fruit for snack, we occasionally mix things up and have a cup of various dried fruits. Rowen eats raisins like there's no tomorrow, and little else. Hubby and I like the variety though. Add in some cheese chunks, and a bit of hummus with bread and you end up with a reasonably well rounded quick meal.

Hubby made some "garbage" cookies that had bits of several dried fruits in the dough.

There's a pork chop dish I occasionally cook that calls for dried apples and raisins.

Anybody have something new for me to try? :-) Chime in with a comment!


Jess said...

We were wanting to dry some plums last fall, but didn't get around to it. I have to know, did you pit them? Ours are rather small native plums too, but the pits are too wide to go through a cherry pitter and I'm trying to come up with a reasonable way to pit them.

We do apples every year, and we do soak them in orange or pineapple juice. It adds a nice extra bit of sweetness to them. Besides the sticky mess in the kitchen, it doesn't add too much time to the process.

Hopefully we'll have enough raspberries next year to dry some, but I'm really looking forward to freezing a bunch of those.

We haven't been successful at growing them ourselves (yet), but when watermelons go on sale cheap we dehydrate them in thick strips. Dried it's almost too sweet for me, but my hubby and kids go crazy for it.

Jennie said...

Hi Jess,
Yes, I pitted them. I don't have a pitter tool, so I used a knife and my fingers. I cut a slit in the plum, got my thumb and forefinger around the pit and tore it out. A lot of the time that process would split the plum in half, but all those halves dried fine. I only did one batch of prunes, so this didn't take tooooo long. I think I fit in during a play time or something when I was just sitting around waiting for the 2 year old to tire. lol

I'll have to try the OJ next year. Do you drink it afterward? :-D

Ugh, I hate the really sweet dried fruits. But hubby would probably adore it. I might give that a try.

Chile said...

I'm not crazy about eating dried plums by themselves but prune puree is a great fat replacer in baking. There's lots of recipes online or you can just wing it like I do. I put a handful in the blender with just enough water to blend and process until they are chopped up pretty well. Then I slowly add more water and blend on high until it's a nice smooth puree like baby food.

For a fat replacer, just use prune puree instead of whatever oil or butter is listed in the recipe but use only half as much. If you don't want a completely fatfree recipe, use half the oil and sub prunes for the other half (in 1/4 the total amount of oil called for).

I've done this for cakes, pancakes, muffins, cookies (but they need to be cooked as bar cookies if fatfree), and quick breads.

Kate said...

One of my favorite things to dry is bananas. They stick in your teeth something awful though. One of the grocers I go to sells them cheap when they start to go brown so I scoop them up for bread or drying. I dry pineapples and just love them. I don't dry fresh though because that seems like sacriledge so instead I buy one of those monster cans and try them. Have you ever tried making fruit leathers? Another fave. As for eating them they always get eaten up before they have a chance to be added to anything other than granola on top of yogurt or mixed with nuts as a snack.

Chile said...

Oh, I've got to chime in here on the fruit leathers, too! I always thought they were kind of silly when I saw the commercials for them, but then I tried homemade. Oh my!

My combination was prickly pear syrup and pureed Sharlyn (a green somewhat sweet) melon. I should have just used prickly pear juice probably 'cuz my stuff came out like candy!

Jennie said...

I don't have the right drying trays for fruit leathers. So, I've never done them.

Chile, very cool info about the pureed plums, I'm definitely going to keep that in mind.