It was not exactly what we would call a kitchen. There were no water taps and sink, only pails and basins for carrying and heating water from the outdoor pump. There was no refrigerator or icebox…
Barbara Walter, The Little House Cookbook
It’s easy to take simple things such as running water and a refrigerator for granted, isn’t it? We go to the store choose from a wide range of fruits and vegetables and take them back to our homes without worry that they will spoil.
If you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie series, one thing you’ll be struck by is how much of the family’s life is consumed by hunting and gathering and preserving food. This is a particular concern as they approach the winter months when growing food is out of the question.
For today’s first post in my Adventures in Homesteading series, I thought I’d share a very simple technique for drying fruit. In sunnier weather, fruit can actually be dried in the sun or if you are a raw foodist, perhaps you own a food dehydrator. But in the spirit of keeping these posts easy and doable, all I’ll be using is some fruit and an oven!
The best part about this recipe is you can really dry any fruit you have on hand! I had some organic Fuji apples and bananas, so I decided to work with those. But according to what I was able to find online, pretty much any fruit will work well on this recipe – berries, pear, kiwi, pineapple, mango, apricots. Make sure that your fruit is cleaned well and removed of pits or seeds where possible. For my apples, I decided to leave the skin on.
Make sure to slice your fruit as uniformly as possible.
This way, you’ll end up with fruit that is done at the same time, with the same texture.
One site recommended a couple things at this point. First, you could steam the fruit for 3-5 minutes prior to drying. This will apparently speed up the process. I decided to do this with my apples. You can also let the fruit soak the fruit for a few minutes in water with freshly squeezed lemon.
I decided to give both my bananas and apples a quick lemon soak to prevent discoloration during the drying process.
From here, you’re going to lay your fruit on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Ideally you’d dry your fruit at about 90° – 150° in the oven. My oven wouldn’t even go that low, so I just put it on warm and it worked perfectly! You could also put it on warm with the oven door cracked a bit too.
Now comes the part that will suggest to you what pioneer living or homesteading is all about: TIME. We’ve become so accustomed to fast food, convenience items, microwaves, that we’ve entirely forgotten the process of preparing and creating fantastic food from scratch!
I checked my dried fruit after an hour…
And after two hours…
And I believe it was at about the three and a half hour mark it was done to my liking. Depending on the fruit you’ve selected, your oven settings, and the thickness you’ve sliced the fruit, your results may vary. Just check on it every 60 minutes the first couple hours, and then about every 30 minutes after that.
I finally decided they were done when they looked like the picture above – dried out, but still a little chewy. I’m glad I left the skins on the apples, by the way. They added to the texture and taste of the finished snack.
While these completed bananas might look sort of odd, let me tell you they were just about one of the best snacks I’ve ever made from scratch! No sugar, fat, or any fishy chemical added. Just plain bananas! I think the drying process did something to the sugars inside because they just popped with sweetness.
One Fuji apple and one banana yielded me an entire baking sheet full of dried fruit yumminess! Let your fruit sit overnight and then you can pop it in an air-tight container and it can apparently last for quite a few months! However, the result was so delicious mine didn’t last past the next evening. A few ideas I had for serving this snack: topped on yogurt or oatmeal, packed in your kids’ lunches, or chopped and added to your favorite homemade trail mix or granola.
Even if you’ve never done anything like this before or don’t consider yourself particularly talented in the kitchen, I hope you’ll consider trying this technique. It’s so easy and the result is worth it.
Join me on Friday for the next installment in this series.