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Can’t find dried fruits without tons of added sugar? Drying your own is easy!
by Original Author: JoAnn Vann, Clark County | Adapted for Blog: Torrie Smith, Carroll County
I am always on the search for nutrient dense foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber while low in added sugars, unhealthy fats, and sodium. Fruits are a wonderful source of these nutrients, so it is no surprise that it is recommended for women to consume 1 1/2 -2 cups per day and for men to consume 2- 2 ½ cups per day according to My Plate.gov.
All sounds great, right?
But maybe you are on the go like me and taking fresh fruit along with you throughout the day results in a mushy, undesirable product even when kept in a cooler bag when left in a hot car for a few hours in the Arkansas heat.
I became frustrated with the waste of food and money spent on it in my quest to provide my body with the healthy foods it needs. Thus, began my search for a dried fruit alternative. I quickly discovered by reading labels on supermarket selections, that in many cases, the amount of added sugars in commercially prepared dried fruits did not meet the recommendation to limit added sugars.
Next, I searched online store offerings to discover a few no-sugar added products, but each had a lofty price tag that my frugal nature would not permit me to buy for a product that I could not see before trying to ensure it was as it claimed to be.
So, what to do?
I decided to dry my own! I choose to try drying blueberries first as they are my favorite fruit for mixing into overnight oats and my homegrown supply of frozen blueberries will be depleted in the next month.
Blueberries are full of antioxidants which protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals and Researchers are finding that blueberries contain an antioxidant thought to be important for preserving brain function. Visit this resource on our website for more information about blueberries.
Drying blueberries only takes a few steps and some time (about 24-36 hours).
Please note, due to the humidity in our area, whole fruits like blueberries need to be dried using a dehydrator instead of out-of-doors. Follow the drying temperature instructions for your dehydrator. For more information on dehydrating, contact your local county agent.
non-stick cooking spray
Step 1: Wash, drain, and sort blueberries. Remove any damaged blueberries or pieces of stem.
Step 2: Check the skins to assist with drying by dipping blueberries in boiling water for 15-30 seconds.
Step 3: Place blueberries in ice water to stop the cooking action.
Step 4: Drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry to remove excess moisture.
Step 5: Prepare dehydrator tray. Use non-stick cooking spray to lightly coat the tray to avoid fruit sticking. Load the blueberries on the tray in a single layer.
Step 6: One to two hours after drying, use a spatula to gently lift each berry with a spatula and turn.
Step 7: Check blueberries for dryness. They are ready when there is no visible moisture without stickiness.
Step 8: Condition the blueberries to allow moisture distribution. Pack loosely in plastic or glass jars for 7-10 days shaking daily to observe for sticking or condensation indicating the fruit needs additional drying.
Step 9: Store dried blueberries in containers to avoid exposure to air and moisture. Good containers include home canning jars, plastic freezer containers with tight lids, plastic freezer bags, or vacuum sealed bags. Store in a cool, dry, dark place away from heat sources.