We recently scored a huge bucket of sour cherries from a local farm, and after we'd made all the pies and ice creams we could stand, we decided to experiment with drying our few remaining cups. Our only problem? No dehydrator! Instead, we turned to the oven.
This turned out to be remarkably simple. We turned on our oven as low as it would go - about 200° for us - and spaced the cooking racks evenly apart. We covered a few baking sheet with silpats and parchment (not enough silpats to go around!), and spread the fruit out in an even layer. To see if it made a difference, we tried drying some of the fruit directly on the baking sheet and another batch with the fruit suspended over the baking sheet on a wire cooling rack.
Then we popped the sheets in the oven and set the clock!
At about the four-hour mark, we started to see signs of shriveling. The fruit on the wire rack was done after about 6 hours, and the fruit on the baking sheet was done after 8 hours. By the time they were done, the cherries had shrunk to the size of raisins and turned deep purple. We left them a tad chewy, but they seemed dehydrated enough that they should keep for a few months in an air tight container.
We call this experiment a success! It took a good chunk of our day, but it's almost entirely hands-off. Drying the fruit on a rack suspended above the baking sheet definitely shaved off some time, so we'll go that route in the future. If we dry larger fruits like apple slices or apricots, we'll probably still flip them a few times for even drying.
We're glad to know that we don't necessarily need a dehydrator to dry fruit. Using the oven is less energy efficient, but if we're only making a few batches of dried fruit a year, we don't see the need to add another gadget to our collection. Plus, if we can find a few extra oven shelves, we can dry several batches at once.
Do you dry your own fruit? How do you do it?
Related: For Cherry Pies, Use a Cherry Pitter
(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)
(Originally published August 12, 2009)