Two scoops of raisins and more
Through the years, we have used our dehydrator for drying a lot of different kinds of foods including herbs, apples and other fruit, tomatoes and other assorted vegetables, beef jerky and even watermelon.
This year we decided to make our own raisins. We had several pounds of seedless grapes left over and decided to give it a try.
It just so happened the amount of grapes we had was enough to fill nine of the 10 trays in the dehydrator, without overcrowding the fruit.
Grapes have a thin, waxy cuticle covering the surface of their skin. This wax helps keep the grapes from drying out prematurely on the vine. But it also retards the movement of water out of the grapes when dehydrating.
Many online sources suggest blanching the grapes in hot water for a half minute or so before drying. The idea is to cause the skins on the grapes to crack, allowing water to escape more quickly. I remember decades ago, when one expert at that time recommended that each and every grape be pin-pricked before placing them into the dehydrator. Talk about tedious!
Large raisin producers have developed several methods to enhance drying, some of which involve treatment with caustic chemicals. Some types of grapes however, are not treated at all and are left to dry naturally on their own.
Because of the abundant sunshine and dry weather, just about all of the raisins produced in the United States are from grapes grown and dried in California. There, the producers dry most of their raisins in the sun inside long tunnel-like structures. Michigan’s climate may be conducive to growing certain kinds of grapes but we don’t have the warm weather, low humidity and sunshine that other states have for economically drying them.
We decided to skip the blanching step entirely. After washing the grapes while still on the bunches, we picked off all the sound grapes and placed them directly on the dehydrator trays. Any seriously under-ripe, squishy and otherwise damaged grapes were set aside as treats for our chickens.
We set the dehydrator to 135 degrees F and placed the filled trays inside. Our dehydrator is one the better types that has heating elements and fans in the back of the unit to distribute the heated drying air evenly.
The grapes were put in on Saturday and by Monday we had raisins. They have a wonderful, slightly tart raisin flavor that is noticeably different from store-bought ones.
Since we originally planned on storing them for a while, perhaps for years, we dried them to a lower moisture level than supermarket raisins. They're so delicious though, I think we’ll end up eating them all well before that.