Much to my dietitian dismay, my daughter LOVES fruit snacks. These are often given as a snack at school and every time she eats them all I can think about is the sugar that is sticking to her teeth and immediately forming cavities! That being said, I decided to try my hand at dehydrating fruit to see if I could convince her that these are a great replacement.
Dehydrating is a great method of food preservation because it doesn’t require any electricity to maintain the food item – no freezing involved. Purchase fruit when it is in season for peak nutrients and less cost. Much of the nutrients can be preserved if the drying is done correctly. It is best to work fast and dry the food continuously rather than stopping overnight and resuming in the morning. Some light-colored fruits like apples, pears or apricots are better pretreated with equal parts of water and lemon juice to retain their color and prevent loss of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Dehydrating can be done in the oven or with a dehydrating machine. I use a machine, which was relatively inexpensive (around $50) and is very easy to use and clean.
Fruit is optimal for drying because it is naturally high in sugar and is high acid, which makes it less likely to spoil. Fruit can be dried plain or made into fruit rolls – apples are an easy choice for either option. It is best to avoid drying different fruits together because fruit varies in how long it takes to dry and it may alter the taste when combined (peaches may end up tasting like bananas). So far I have only mastered apples but the summer has just begun. Now I just need to figure out how to get these apples into fun character shapes so I can truly convince my daughter that these are better!
Turn on the machine and dry away! Most food dehydrators will come with a guide to tell you a general range of time to expect each fruit to dry. Apples generally take 6-12 hours but this varies depending on the type of apple, humidity, temperature of the air, altitude, or thickness of cut. Check the apples periodically; the apples are dry when they are pliable but not tough. There should be no moisture beads and the fruit should not be sticky.
Enjoy immediately or store. If storing the fruit, make sure to label with the date and keep the fruit in a dark, cool area. Around 60 degrees is the ideal storage temperature, I keep mine in my basement in a dark container.