Saturday, May 19, 2012

Drying Strawberries

Before refrigeration, homemakers dried berries to use throughout the fall and winter.  Because the flavor of berries is concentrated when dried, they make a good snack—few may be left for other uses.  Strawberries are easy to dry and yield excellent results.

To dry strawberries, select one of the sweeter varieties that are firm, ripe, uniform in color, and free of defects for best drying results.  Wash the strawberries and remove caps.  Berries may be cut in half lengthwise or sliced about ¼ inch thick.  Dry skin side down to prevent sticking to the drying racks.  Sliced berries will dry faster but the cut side may stick to the rack. 

Turning the berries over halfway through drying helps to prevent sticking.  Small berries may be dried whole.  However, they will take longer to dry because the skin reduces area for moisture evaporation.  The ideal drying temperature is 130 to 140°F.  Use a dehydrator or dry in an oven if you are able to set the oven temperature low enough. 

The drying time depends upon the size of the berry pieces, exposure of air to cut surfaces, temperature, air circulation, and method of drying.  Berries may take anywhere from 9 hours for small slices to 36 hours for whole berries.  When sufficiently dry, strawberries should be pliable and leathery with no pockets of moisture.  If desired, berries may be dried further until almost crisp.  Unlike other fruits, strawberries should not be rehydrated because they will lose their firm texture.

Store dried strawberries in an air tight or a vacuum sealed container to avoid rehydration from humidity in the air.  Dried berries will maintain excellent quality if stored in the freezer.

Besides snacking, sprinkle dried strawberries on dry or into cooked cereal; use them in puddings, ice cream, milk shakes, or yogurt.  Add to pancake or muffin batter or into quick breads.  Combine with granola for a one-of-a-kind treat. 

A variation of drying strawberries is to make strawberry leather.  Refer to the blog entry on making “Strawberry and Other Berry Fruit Roll-ups.