For some time now it has become very common to see stalls in markets selling dried fruits. It is also not uncommon for them to be sold in other establishments or packaged in hypermarkets. However, although it may seem something new, the truth is that we are talking about a technique that is lost at the dawn of time and that you may have practiced in your youth (or your parents have). After all, it is fairly easy to dehydrate a fruit at home.
Why dehydrate fruit?
The main reason for obtaining dehydrated fruit is that is preserved for a longer time without losing any of its properties, except those provided by water. In fact, this process consists of leaving only between 4% and 8%Since, on average, fruits and vegetables (let’s not forget that these can also be dehydrated) can be made up of more than 80% water.
As you well know, the most common fruits to dehydrate are grapes (they become raisins), plums, apricots (the popular dried peaches), dates and figs (In what town have they not put figs to dry to enjoy in autumn with some roasted chestnuts?); however, this process can be carried out with many other fruits.
Before going on to see how it can be done, it should be noted that dehydrated products they are not the same as freeze-dried. We are talking about two different procedures. While the former are subjected to heat to dry, the latter are subjected to vacuum freezing in specially designed machines. In this way they maintain a more flavor and they have another texture.
Dehydrate in the sun
This is the most obvious and oldest technique, as can be expected, and it consists of letting food dry in the sun when the temperature is high, of course. The first thing to check is that the maturation of the piece fruit or vegetable is at its perfect point, since only in this way will the full flavor be achieved.
Then it will break into pieces removing both the seeds such as those areas that are damaged or imperfect. Remember that these portions should not be very small, since when a food with so much water becomes dehydrated, it loses a good part of its volume. It is also recommended scald the pieces Because in this way, with a quick cooking, the small organisms that could cause it to rust will be eliminated. All these steps should be done in any of the techniques, not just drying in the sun.
Once everything is prepared, the fruit and vegetables are placed on trays that have a grid underneath, so that pass the air and come straight through the bottom. Another option is to hang the pieces when it comes, for example, figs, since they can be tied by the «tail».
Then you just have to let the solar action do its job. In this case, the best climate is the one in which the humidity is less than 60% and it is hot, so summer is the optimal time (if the temperature drops at night, it is better to put the fruits at home and take them out again in the morning).
Also, if there is a possibility that insects are going to perch, you can place gauze or mosquito net so that they do not contaminate the fruits. In a few days the pieces will be dehydrated and ready both to eat them and to store them in glass jars with airtight seal that you should keep in a dry place, at room temperature and without sunlight (any closet or pantry).
Dehydrate with the oven
An option for any time of the year, much faster and without the danger of insects appearing, is to dehydrate fruits and vegetables in the oven. Of course, it entails a greater outlay for the energy expenditure. In this case, the same processes are carried out until it is time to put the pieces of food on the rack that is put into the oven. Once inside, we heat them to a 55 degree maximum temperature (there will be models that may not have such a low range) and there we will have them between two and four hours, depending on how we see them. In addition, it will be necessary turn them around every half hour. During drying, do not vary the temperature. When finished, and when they cool, you will have the fruits and vegetables ready to eat or to store as previously explained.
Similar to the oven is the use of microwave, although in this case the process is more complicated to control, since they will have to be heated on a rack prepared for these equipments for 30 to 45 minutes in the defrosted function, that is, at a low temperature.
Using a dehydrator
The last way to get dehydrated vegetables is to buy a device prepared to carry out this work. The dehydrators They are perfect for those who usually consume food in this way, as it will save them time and achieve better results. After all, they are devices designed to perform this function. Of course, they are more practical and safe.