dried cherry botch

bbstxAugust 4, 2012

DD would like some dried cherries, but she has found that the commercially prepared packages contain sugar. She is trying to avoid white sugar. We do not own a dehydrator and I would have no other use for one.

Last night, DD pitted a bunch of cherries, cut them in half, and put them in the oven on a baking rack over a sheet pan on 200 degrees using the convection setting on the oven. At 3 a.m. (the 6 hour mark) she checked them and left them in. At 5 a.m., I checked them. They were still rather moist, I thought, so I turned off the heat but left the convection fan running and propped open the oven door with a wooden spoon.

When we got up several hours later, the cherries were slightly burnt and most were very crunchy.

We will try another batch this afternoon/evening. Any tips or tricks to help us?

Below is a link that we more or less followed.

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Dry Fruit in the Oven

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The temperature is too high for drying cherries properly, as you experienced.

When properly dried they should be PLIABLE and LEATHERY, much like a raisin. Test to see if they are dried by removing a sample and allowing it to come to room temperature BEFORE testing it. Pull a test cherry apart and give it a squeeze to see if there are any pockets or beads of moisture.

How to dry cherries:
Select fully ripe fruit. Wash well. Remove stems and pits. Dip whole cherries in boiling water 30 seconds to
crack skins. I'd also suggest a dip in ascorbic acid or other antimicrobial solution for 10 minutes (1 quart water + 1 t. ascorbic acid powder OR citric acid powder OR Fruit Fresh). Remove and drain well. Arrange in single layer. Dry until tough, leathery, and slightly sticky.

Using an oven is a very inefficient way to dry fruit - dehydrators take so very little energy in comparison, and work more efficiently for the task. Find a friend who owns a dehydrator and borrow one, or you can always purchase unsweetened dried cherries on-line for the cost of the energy to run the oven for that long period of time.

If you decide to try again I'd suggest lowering the temperature (if possible) or leaving the oven door cracked a bit (I have one source that suggests drying temperature at 115-degrees F - which should take about 24 hours; and another source suggests 160-degrees F for 2-3 hours then reduce the temperature to 130-degrees F until leathery).

The time it takes to dry fruit properly is relative to the amount of moisture in the fruit, size (1/2 cherries will take less time than whole cherries - and if you don't split the skin in the boiling water when drying whole cherries, they won't dry properly at all), relative humidity, drying temperature and air flow. In other words, it's done when it's done. A suggested time for drying is just a good (or bad) guess.

It's always better to increase the air flow rather than increase the drying temperature when dehydrating (it's about expelling the moisture, not cooking it), so you don't encounter case hardening. That's when the outside of the fruit dries too quickly leaving the inside of the fruit moist. If the inner moisture can't expel through the hard surface, the dried fruit will mold during storage.

When the cherries are dried you will need to "condition" them to make sure they are properly dried and to evenly distribute the moisture left in the food. Allow the cherries to come to room temperature, but don't let them sit out longer than that or they can rehydrate from humidity in the air. (If you jar warm fruit the moisture from the warm fruit will cause the fruit to mold during storage.)

Place the cooled fruit in a jar leaving plenty of head-space (fill about 2/3 full), and tighten the lid. Daily, for 5-7 days, shake the contents of the jar to remix the contents and check for condensation on the lid or in the jar. If you see condensation forming, the fruit is improperly dried and you need to finish drying it.

Alternatively, just freeze your dried fruit. Freezing will prevent mold and bacteria growth. Moisture in the fruit while stored at room temperature can result in mold growth. If you notice any mold on your fruit, toss the whole container. The mold spores are throughout the container of food.

There is a special method called "dehydrofreezing" where the food is partially dehydrated (fruits dehydrated at home normally have about 80% of the moisture removed, but when dehydrofreezing you remove about 70%), and then you MUST store it in the freezer. Some benefits of dehydrofreezing - the fruit has more flavor and better color. If you are interested in reconstituting the dried fruit, it takes about half the time.

Hope that gives you some ideas you can incorporate the next time.


    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 5:08PM
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oh, wow, GL, thanks for all the information. I think storing in the freezer is going to be DD's best bet for home-dried cherries.

She travels a lot. Maybe I'll buy her some online to take with her on her trips. Any particular websites you would recommend?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Sorry, I don't have a source for you - check Amazon.com for starters - they seem to have everything. I would (and do) dehydrate my own cherries, but dehydration is my favorite food preservation method now that it's gotten too expensive to do home canning.

Has your daughter ever tried dried Goji Berries? I use them in baked goods and trail mixes. I like them better than dried cherries or cranberries these days because they are high in protein and much lower in carbs - and no sugar added. They taste a little like a cross between dried cherries and cranberries. Not as sticky as other dried fruit, so probably better on teeth. I order them from Live Superfoods (link below). They are on sale just now and I ordered 3 pounds of them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Live Superfoods - Goji Berries

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:01AM
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I would be surprised to discover that she hasn't tried Goji berries. She is an athlete (runner - marathons and ultras) and is usually pretty aware of super-foods.

She works out of town all week, living in a hotel and eating in restaurants. She is always looking for (1) food she can take in her carry-on bag; and (2) cooking projects for the weekends, especially the weekends when she comes home for a visit. I think trying to dry cherries fits both of those categories.

She has made her own Larabar-type energy bars (pureed dates and some sort of ground nut mixed and formed into a bar). The Goji berries might be good folded into some of those.

I will suggest the Goji berries to her. Thanks for the website!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:48AM
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