Blog,  Food Preservation,  Recipes

January is for Drying Apples

Have you ever tasted pure, dried apples?

Not the “chips” from the bag. Real dried apples that the only ingredient is “apple”? Have you ever tasted dried pineapple? Pineapple that was only pineapple? How about strawberries? Or blueberries? Or bananas? If you haven’t, you would be amazed at the difference between the dried version from the bag vs. home dried fruit.  I can hardly describe how delicious and satisfying pure, homemade dried fruit is. And drying your own fruit will save money! January is the perfect month for drying apples because they are often on sale during this season and are still fresh. 

Why would you want to dry them?

Lots of reasons. First, it makes a perfect mid-afternoon snack. Second, it beats the artificial stuff called apple flavor in your hot cereal. Add some dried apple pieces to oatmeal for a hearty breakfast. Add a few chopped walnuts, a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and it’s to die for. If you don’t like oatmeal, dried apples might change your mind.

So, why January?

January is a good month to find apples at a good price. Look around in your produce department and see if you can find “Juicing” apples. These apples are not perfect and are usually a better price. You might find organic juicing apples too. Be sure to inspect the apples in the bag-remember, these are “juice” apples because they aren’t perfect. My grocery store will actually trade out any bruised apples to make a full bag of good apples, so don’t be shy about asking. Now the fun part begins-preparing the apple for the dehydrator. It’s so easy.

One appliance to add to your kitchen is a dehydrator.

There are lots of different kinds to choose from. I was able to purchase mine used. One day, I went on Facebook and asked anyone if they might have a dehydrator they weren’t using and would be willing to sell. I actually got a response and bought it for around $35.00. (You can also try the online yard sales.) Mine came with 6 layers of racks. I went online and found the inserts for smaller fruit and herbs and purchased those at the best price I could find. A few weeks later, there was one at a Goodwill Store for $10.00! What a steal! It not only had several racks, but it also had several inserts for fruit leather. I’m glad I got both because there are times that I have both going.

Keep in mind that it’s important to slice your fruit thin so that it will dry thoroughly. Fruit that is not sufficiently dried will spoil if you store it in a jar. As a general rule, I slice all fruit about ⅛ inch thick with the exception of pineapple which I slice ¼ inch thick.

An apple peeler/corer/slicer is a great time saver for apples.

It takes only 10 minutes to get a 7-pound bag done and into the dehydrator. But if you don’t have one of these handy tools, the chore can still be finished quickly. Here’s how: 

  1. Quarter the apple
  2. Slice out the core of each quarter
  3. Peel if you want, peeling is purely a personal preference and not necessary (note: I learned to peel after quartering because it’s faster.)
  4. Turn the quarter on its side and lay on the cutting board
  5. Slice with your favorite knife for this kind of project. I use a chef’s knife.
  6. Lay slices on the screens. They can be crowded but not on top of each other

Set the dehydrator to the recommended level on your dehydrator.

Fruit is usually set at 135℉. If you are using this kind of dehydrator, I recommend that you rotate the racks every two hours of so. It won’t take long. If you are forgetful and/or busy like me, be sure to set a timer to remind you to do it. 

Quart jar of dried apples on hand crocheted tableclothNOTE: Some fruit can be dried whole, but I have not had success with that. Blueberries that I had dried whole began to mold by about six weeks.

Can I dry apples in the oven? 

First of all, you have to have a screen for the air to circulate on all sides. Secondly, oven temperatures start at 225℉, which is too high. If you live in a dry climate, I have heard of being able to dry food outdoors in the sunshine. It doesn’t work here, in the sub-tropics.

Once you try freshly dried fruit, I think you will be inspired to look for sales and deals in the produce department to do it again! You may even research growing your own fruit. It’s a great habit to form! Your taste buds will thank you for it.

Debbie

 

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