We try to save money on our food bills but, with a family, that is a trick in itself. Fresh fruits and veggies seem to cost more and spoil sooner. If you and your family love to eat fresh fruits, one way to be sure they won’t spoil is to dry them.
Dried fruits can serve as a healthy alternative to candy. Instead of reaching for chocolate or a piece of hard candy, the kids should reach for a dried pineapple or apple slices. The sweetness of the fruit is concentrated when it is dried and bursts forth with every bite.
Learning to dry fruit is a fairly easy process. You don’t need to buy any fancy equipment. Investing in a few sealing jars would be nice so that storing the fruit will be easier, but it isn’t a necessity. Sealing jars can be found fairly inexpensive at many supermarkets or dollar stores.
To start, gather all of the fruits you want to dry. Most fruits make good choices. Some of the more common ones are: pineapples, apples, plums, grapes, apricots, and tomatoes (yes they are a fruit!). If you favor lemons, limes, or other citrus fruits, you will be drying the peels and not the fruit itself.
All fruit and equipment need to be clean and thoroughly dried before beginning. Drying racks are needed if you plan on air drying outside, or using an oven. Some pieces may be done before others, so rotating the trays in the oven gives you a chance to remove any fruit that is already dried and replace with another.
Slice the fruit into small pieces. Apples need to be cored and peeled before slicing. Tomatoes can be cut into slices or quarters and salted before drying. Grapes and plums are okay as is, because the skin doesn’t affect their taste.
If you prefer to use the microwave to dry your fruit, place small batches in the microwave on the turntable tray. Fruit pieces should be evenly spaced to allow for air circulation while drying. Set the microwave to the defrost setting in order to dry the fruit. It will take about 30 to 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and gradually add time as needed. It is not recommended that tomatoes be dried using the microwave, because they should be dried at approximately 120 degrees for about 24 hours.
You can eat some of these tasty treats as soon as they are dried or you can save some for later. If storing for later, let the fruit cool before placing in sealing jars or plastic bags. Dried fruits will keep for up to two weeks in a cool dark place. However, these fruit treats are so scrumptious they may not even last for that long.
Dried fruit has a multitude of uses. It can be eaten as is or as a flavorful addition to ice cream, salads, pizzas, and more. Drying your fruits will save you money because it makes the fruit last longer than normal, avoids spoilage and gives you a reason to eat more of it.
1-pt box of fresh strawberries, washed, drained and hulls removed
2 1/2 cups of fresh pineapple, peeled and finely chopped
7 cups sugar
2 pkgs (1 3/4 oz) powdered pectin
1 cup cold water
4-pt freezer containers with lids
Place strawberries in a large mixing bowl. Crush the strawberries with a potato masher. Measure out 2 1/2 cups strawberries and place in a separate bowl. Add the pineapple to the strawberries. Slowly add the sugar and stir until well combined. Place the cold water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the pectin. Stir continuously until water begins to boil. Boil 1 minute. Remove from heat. Pour the water mixture into the fruit. Stir well to combine. Continue stirring 4 minutes. Pour into the pt freezer containers and cover. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Freeze after 24 hours. Jam will stay good in the freezer for up to 6 months. To use, remove from freezer and allow to come to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.