The first thing to note is that home-dried fruit is not the same as what you find in the supermarket. Most fruit has been sulfured in order to keep without completely drying the fruit, allowing it to be softer, some fruit even has sugar added. Some other dried fruit, such as what you find in most cereals (besides raisins) is freeze dried which gives it a crisp, airy texture.
Fruit dried in your home dehydrator comes out chewier, tougher because it has to be more dry to keep well. Sliced apples can be dried til they are crisp like a chip – a great snack!
Any fruit is good to dry. Simply cut it to desired size – not too thick or it takes to long to dry, and as uniform as you can for simplicity – they will all be dry at the same time! Strawberries cut in half, blueberries and raspberries whole, everything else in slices, thickness up to you. You can even get special mat for your dehydrator so you can make fruit leather – pureed fruit dried, cut into strips – really tasty!
Simply follow your dehydrators instructions and store in an air-tight container. To ensure they keep, store in the fridge or freezer.
General Fruit Preserves
We have found that your best bet is to use the recipe that comes with your pectin! And we recommend Sure-gel over Certo for it’s reliability. You can find other low-sugar and sugar-free pectins online if you are interested.
It is also important to remember that fruit has lots of it’s own pectin and that is reflected in the recipes that are specific to each type of fruit. That said, the riper your fruit the less pectin it has, so be sure you are picking a range of really ripe and tasty fruit as well as slightly underripe to maintain you pectin levels, and avoid soupy jam
Be sure to prepare your fruit as necessary – pealing, pitting, hulling, whatever is appropriate. After that, its up to you how chunky or not you want your jam or preserves to be. We usually use frozen fruit which allows a lot of juice to come out, making a stick blender an easy and very quick option. Pulse around in your pot until your desired texture is reached. You can also opt for chopping either by hand or using a food processor (you can also use the slicing attachment if your machine has one). Or even a potato masher works well if you prefer crushing the fruit, less chunky but plenty of texture – especially good when using fresh strawberries, raspberries and peaches.
Never jammed before?
We have found raspberries to be the most reliable berry to jam, a great place to start for those first-time jammers! Raspberries have lots of their own pectin and we have never had a soupy jar! Any jam that turns out soupy can be used as a great fruit sauce for anything from Pancakes to ice cream and much more. You can find more info on how to fix a batch of jam that did not set with a simple search on the internet. (though I would ‘suffer’ with the sauce and start a new batch, I don’t care to over cook my fruit!)
Don’t think you have time or the ‘knack’ for it?
Try freezer jam! Talk about easy, all you have to do is boil enough water to dissolve the pectin, crush fresh fruit and measure sugar! No cooking required. It is the BEST tasting jam and very versatile. You store it in the freezer and take it out as needed. Very kid friendly!