Our blog post today comes from Food Action Committee volunteer extraordinaire, Katrina Ross. You can check out her blog at www.happybodyfoods.wordpress.com.
In my limited experience with preserving fruit, the only way I know how to do so without using a sweetener is by freezing or dehydrating. I guess there are a few exceptions such as preserved lemons in which salt is used. Both methods are very simple and easy to do – you are only limited by the space in your freezer.
1) Clean and hull berries
2) Place berries on a tea towel or between paper towel until dry
3) Lay berries on a cookie sheet in a thin layer, making sure that berries are not clumped together as they will freeze this way.
4) Freeze for 1- 2 hrs. Some people layer their baking sheets with parchment paper. I have not done this in the past and have not had a problem.
5) Put berries in a large freezer ziplock bag (make sure it is suitable for the freezer) and try to get as much air out of the bag as possible.
6) Label with the date frozen and what the item is
Tips for non seasonal fruit
There are many times when organic fair-trade bananas are 50% off at the grocery store. Bananas can either be sliced into thin disks and dehydrated or peeled and frozen.
The only berries I have had success dehydrating are strawberries and cranberries. Any berry with lots of seeds like raspberries & blackberries will not dehydrate well at all (you end up with a bunch of seeds) and wild blueberries end up so small it is not worth it. High bush blueberries, which are much larger, may work but I have not tried them.
Strawberries should be rinsed, hulled and sliced. I usually slice the strawberry in about 4 slices. If they are sliced too thin they will be impossible to get off the dehydrating rack. You could leave the berry whole or sliced in half; it will just take longer to dehydrate.
Cranberries should also be rinsed and then put into boiling water until the outside skin “pops” or cracks. This requires more time than just blanching. I have tried this method once and the result were ok but not all the berries cracked and they took forever to dehydrate. The second time I dehydrated the cranberries I just cut them in half which decreases dehydration time. I do not soak the cranberries in apple juice or honey as I don’t mind the tartness of the berry.
Lay berries in a thin layer and set temperature to 135F and dehydrate for 12 – 24 hrs checking several times. I have found that it is better to lay the strawberries on a teflex sheet as in the picture as the berries are easier to remove. If you don’t have enough sheets parchment paper can be used.
Miscellaneous items that I have recently dehydrated:
Cherries – clean and slice cherries in half and dehydrate
Kale – wash remove thick stem and dehydrate (spices and tamari can be added for kale chips). I usually just grind up the dried leaf and use in powdered form
Stevia Leaf – Dehydrate and grind into a powder