Drying fruit
June 13, 2005 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Well, it's that time of year again: my Apricot tree is starting to fruit, and I'd like to try drying some of the fruit to enjoy all year around. I tried it last year, but the results weren't good: the fruit got mouldy and icky. Any pointers or links to good guides on drying or preserving fruit?
posted by baggers to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What method have you already tried?
posted by rxrfrx at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2005

You might want to take a look into food dehydrators. They also *usually* come with instructions for different kinds of food/fruit preservation (if you don't have any recipes lying around).
posted by raygun21 at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2005

The best way to preserve apricots is to turn them into chutney and jam. Both are lovely flavoured with fresh ginger.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:15 PM on June 13, 2005

Response by poster: I used a food dehydrator (the Ronco model that is first on the list) after soaking the fruit in some sort of preservative ('friad I don't remember which: it may have been ascorbic acid)...
posted by baggers at 5:44 PM on June 13, 2005

Best answer: I have five old apricot trees, which in a good year produce a ton (literally 2000 lbs.) You likely have a drier, but for those who don’t, here’s WGP's design:

Buy about six canvas stretchers about 16 X 24 at your local art supply. Stretch and staple over them some open weave monofilament fabric, as you would use for silk screening. (Don't use fibreglass window screen, since it will release particles into your food.) Build a plywood box (completely closed with a hinged door on the front) fitted with shelf supports to accommodate these stretchers laid horizontally, like trays, with about three or four inches separating them, and a bit more (6 inches or so) at the top and bottom. Buy a 120-volt electric car heater with a fan (like they use in cold climates to warm the interior of the car overnight), and trace an outline of the business end at the bottom of one of the sides and at the top of the opposite side. Cut these out with a jigsaw, so you can insert the front of the heater in the bottom cut-out, and the warm air will percolate up through the apricots and out the top cut-out (which you should screen to keep out flies).

Don’t sulphur the apricots, because it's a pain, and IMO makes no difference. I suppose you could sprinkle them with ascorbic acid if yours turn brown, but I don’t, since apricots are extremely high in vitamins A and C.

Now here's the trick: Halve and pit the apricots, lay them skin down, then make a half dozen or so chops (scores) on each half with a sharp knife almost through to the skin. The idea is to increase the surface area so the drying is more even, and much faster. The apricots will dry in about a day with little wave-like peaks, but you shouldn't get the mushy inside /crispy edged / brown variations you would without scoring the apricots. Store them in the freezer.

You can also freeze apricots effectively without drying them. Halve and pit them, then lay them on a cookie sheet to freeze quickly before bagging, as you would with blueberries, etc. They are great Cuisinarted (don't thaw) into vanilla ice cream, or in smoothies. You may want to take the skin off first, or screen it out of the smoothies.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:56 PM on June 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

Make fruit leather. Peel, cook till soft with a few tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice per 4C of fruit until barly soft, puree and pour onto plastic wrap on a cookie sheet. Put into an oven at the lowest setting with the door cracked open until just dry. Roll the plastic and fruit up and put into the freezer, will keep a year or so.
posted by plinth at 6:48 PM on June 13, 2005

How do you regulate temperature, wgp?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 PM on June 13, 2005

These car heaters are not adjustable, but they have a thermostat to cut the element in and out and keep the temperature constantly warm (like a hair dryer on low). They're designed to place directly on the floor of a car without burning it. Just find a clean area outside to run it--you don't want it sucking dust or leaves into the box.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:01 PM on June 13, 2005

The other day I was bemoaning my expensive addiction to dried apple slices, when my friend recommended a method for (very small scale) home drying: halve the apricots, run a string through them, and then hang them in front of a radiator. If you're drying small batches at a time, this method might be useful. Haven't actually tried it myself, tho.
posted by ori at 10:25 PM on June 13, 2005

Incidentally, steer clear of the pits. I know they sell them in health stores, but here's a quote from a medical text:
"The seeds of apple, cherry, peach, apricot, plum, jetberry bush, and toyon contain cyanogenetic glycosides such as amygdalin that release cyanide on digestion. The fatal dose of these seeds varies from 5 to 25 seeds for a small child. They are only dangerous if the seed capsule is broken."
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:19 PM on June 13, 2005

wgp is talking about the outer edges of the Laetrile controversy. Some wikipedia info here.

If the older studies are to be believed the dangers are minimal but there's no payoff to using the stuff anyway.
posted by phearlez at 9:17 AM on June 14, 2005

The DIY dryer could be improved with the addition of a HEPA filter. 3M sells Ultrafiltrate (sp?) branded filters that are micron-effective.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:41 AM on June 14, 2005

Best answer: Your apricots may be getting mouldy and icky because you're picking them too ripe, baggers. Apricots don't need to be tree ripened--in fact they're better picked yellow with a blush of orange, and left to ripen on a countertop, like bananas. They will develop full colour and flavour, but not be mushy.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:43 AM on June 14, 2005

Response by poster: THanks all! I shall try the early picking, fruit scorin' approach suggested by you....
posted by baggers at 12:38 PM on June 14, 2005

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