Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Cooking and Produce
Drying a great way to preserve summer berries
Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
Summer is a great time for berries. If you have extra berries that you’re not sure what to do with, consider drying some of them.
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension ranks strawberries as fair to good for drying. They are also fairly easy to dehydrate and, as a soft berry, they need no pre-treatment. Firm berries with a skin (e.g., blueberries, currents, gooseberries and cranberries) need to be "checked" before drying. This is done by plunging the berries in boiling water for 15 to 30 seconds, then into ice water to stop the cooking process. Then the berries need to be drained on paper towels.
To dehydrate, simply place whole berries in a single layer on dehydrator trays (so they do not touch) and dehydrate at 135 to 140 degrees F for 24 to 36 hours. For ¼ to ⅜ inch strawberry slices, dehydrate for seven to 15 hours or until dry, leathery and crisp. Other smaller, round berries should rattle when dry. After dehydrating, let berries cool for 30 to 60 minutes. Do not let dried berries sit too long, or they may begin to pick up moisture from the room air.
Next, condition the fruit. This helps distribute the moisture more evenly throughout the container to avoid moisture build up in any one part. If moisture does build up, mold and other spoilage could occur. Simply pack cool berries loosely in sealed plastic or glass containers and store for seven to 10 days, shaking daily to separate pieces. With each shaking, moisture distribution will even out more. If condensation shows up, re-dry and condition again.
Package dried conditioned berries in air-tight, moisture-tight containers and store in a cool, dry place (they do not need to be frozen).
Last update: Monday, June 20, 2011