Raisins are so ubiquitous that we barely notice them. But have you ever dehydrated grapes to make your own raisins? The end result is an unexpected pleasure.
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is a cost-effective, space-saving way to preserve the harvest. But it’s also a preservation technique that isn’t as popular as canning and freezing. This is a shame, because it’s easy to dehydrate produce.
One of my favorite dehydrated products is grapes. I know, you are thinking, “Why grapes? Raisins are plentiful and cheap!” You are correct. Raisins are plentiful and inexpensive. Not to mention really tasty. But my mind turns to raisins, and thus grapes, this time of year for two reasons:
Variety: Unless you purchase gourmet raisins somewhere, most raisins are simply dehydrated green seedless grapes. Yes, even the dark colored raisins. Dark raisins are just green grapes that have been slowly dried in the sun – which turns them brown.
Yellow raisins are from the same green grapes, but they are dried using a dehydrator and have been dipped in sulfur dioxide to retain their color.
Can you imagine only eating vanilla ice cream? Vanilla ice cream is good, but there’s a whole array of other options, why would you stick to just vanilla? It’s the same with grapes; green seedless are good but there are other varieties. I have made several batches of raisins recently using generic black seedless table grapes, and a few batches using red grapes. Each type has its own distinct flavor.
Fruitcake and Flavor: Yes, I am one of those people who makes fruitcake from scratch. Spiced orange fruitcake, cranberry fruitcake, tropical fruitcake, royal wedding fruitcake – they all include raisins along with other dried and candied fruit. I tend to dehydrate as much of this fruit as possible myself as it gives a fresher flavor.
In my experience, home dehydrated grapes are sweeter, with a more intense flavor than their commercial cousins. They also have a tangthat sings on your tongue. Once you have tried the home preserved variety, you will be hooked. There are a few steps though, so let’s get started!
Step 1: Remove grapes from the bunch, and discard any soft or molding grapes.
Step 2: Wash grapes and let drain.
Cracking the Skins
Step 3: Fill a large saucepot with water and bring to a boil.
Step 4: While waiting for the water to boil, fill another large pot with cold ice water.
Step 5: Submerge grapes in a wire basket into the boiling water (or just dump them into the boiling water).
Step 6: Let water to return to a boil and cook for 1 minute.
Step 7: Remove grapes from boiling water (or drain) and immediately plunge them into the ice water.
Step 8: Let sit in ice water for 1 minute. This process is called cracking the skins. You will notice that the grapes now have “cracked” skin in a few places.
Dehydrating the Grapes
Step 9: Drain, and then spread on dehydrator trays. Dehydrate at 135 degrees until soft and pliable. This process can take anywhere from 6-20 hours, or maybe even longer. Humidity, grape size, how well the skins were cracked, and even how plump the grapes are, all affect how long the dehydration process will take.
Condition the Fruit
Step 10: Remove from the dehydrator and put all of the fruit into a container like a zip top bag or a glass jar, for conditioning.
Step 11: To condition, shake the container every day for 2-7 days. This evens out the moisture content. Then place the container in the freezer for 48 hours to make sure that all the insect eggs have been killed.
Step 12: Your new raisins can be stored in the freezer until you use them, or can be kept on the shelf to use for baking or snacking. I tend to keep my home dehydrated fruit in the freezer as added protection against insects and mold.
Find out more about how to dehydrate fruits in this free tutorial.
Or check out my Dehydrate the Harvest article in the recent copy of Grit Magazine.
Or sign up for my Dehydrating 101 class, part of the Mother Earth News Fair Online offerings!