Isn’t it funny — in a not-really-that-funny-at-all sort of way — what kids will and won’t eat? Take pears for example: If I try to give my darlings a lovely fresh pear, they recoil in horror. On the other hand, if I hand them leathery dried pears (or any fruit), they devour them and come back with their hands open for more. What’s that about?
Anyway, I do buy dried fruit occasionally, but recently my organic box has been overflowing with pears (and, alas, being September, I seem to have too many less-than-fabulous peaches these days) so, because I detest wasting food, I decided to try oven-drying some myself.
(On a side note, I am serious when I say I don’t like wasting food. I even thought about starting a new blog about how to not waste stuff, especially food — churlishfoodie.com anyone? — but decided against it because I get that it can be annoyingly bossy to scold people about tossing their bread crusts — which do make excellent croutons, by the way.)
So, it was super easy to dry the fruit, and I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious the results were. My daughter has been eating the dried peaches like candy, and the pears were fabulous chopped in a salad with roasted beets and goat cheese. Here’s a primer on how to do it, no dehydrator contraption needed.
Oven-Dried Late Summer Fruit
First, make some light syrup in a pan: Dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in about a cup of water. Then add 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Next, wash the fruit and cut it into halves or quarters. I peeled the pears because they were kind of bruised; I didn’t peel the apples, but I might next time as the skins do get tougher. I also peeled the peaches because it seems like it would be a little weird to dry peach fuzz. The easiest way to peel peaches is to blanch them first in boiling water for about a minute. Then the skins come off easily.
Using tongs, dip the cut fruit into the syrup (or you can just dump it all in the pot if it’s big enough; just make sure the burner is off so you don’t cook the fruit), then place directly on a rack in the oven. My peaches were from a neighbor’s tree and fairly small, so I put them on parchment paper on the rack. Place a cookie sheet on the lower rack to catch any fruit juice that drips while drying. Turn on the oven to its lowest setting (mine is 175) and leave the oven door slightly open so you don’t get any steam or moisture buildup. Let it go for about 6 hours; then you can probably turn off the oven and just use the heat from the pilot to continue drying the fruit. I left mine in the oven for about 12 hours total. Just make sure you leave the door open.
The final product was difficult to photograph but very tasty. It keeps well, by the way, since it’s dried. And it makes a nice, portable snack for kids’ lunches or after school.