Dried fruit is easy to make, easy to carry, and tastes great. It’s a perfect snack for a busy lifestyle. Dried fruits that haven’t been candied are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, and they can help increase energy. From raisins and craisins to dried apples and banana chips, most of us have a favorite dried fruit.
Drying your own is an ideal way to take advantage of the seasonal pricing of fresh fruit at the grocery store or the farmers market. Whether you buy it ready-made or you make your own, the question eventually arises, how long will dehydrated fruit last?
Drying prevents spoilage for a long time if the fruit is stored properly. Bacteria, yeast, and mold require moisture to live, so they can’t colonize dehydrated fruit. But dry fruit has other advantages.
Since water is the only thing removed during the drying process, dehydrated fruit retains essential nutrients for a healthy diet. Plus, it’s lightweight and there’s no juicy mess to worry about while snacking. And it can be easily reconstituted for a variety of recipes by adding water, juice, spirits, or other flavorful liquids.
Improperly stored dried foods are susceptible to spoilage from insect damage or by reabsorbing moisture from the air. Proper storage will virtually eliminate these problems.
As soon as the fruit has cooled to room temperature, store dried fruit in airtight containers, such as vacuum seal bags, freezer containers, or canning jars. Pack them in as tightly as possible without damaging them, in quantities that will be used up all at once. Store the sealed containers in a cool, dry, and dark location.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, dried fruit lasts from 4 to 12 months when properly stored, but the quality of stored food does degrade more quickly in warm temperatures. It can also degrade each time a container is opened, exposing the food to the air and moisture. Most dried fruit can last up to a year when stored at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. At 80 degrees it will last up to six months.
Check on stored dry foods every two or three weeks to ensure that it’s still dry. If moisture gets inside of clear packaging like a canning jar, it’s easily visible on the sides of the container. If anything has absorbed moisture, use it up right away. If it’s moldy, discard it.
Packaged dried fruit, like raisins and prunes, have a printed expiration date. This is the date before which the product may be sold. If unopened, it will stay viable for an additional time period afterward. Again, storage temperature matters –– the cooler the better.
Raisins, craisins, prunes, dry cherries, dry apricots, dry mangoes, and dry blueberries will last up to a year in the pantry, unopened. Dry dates, dry figs, and banana chips will last at least three months in the pantry beyond the sell-by date. Refrigerating these items extends their shelf life by as much as two years. If they’re frozen, they’ll last indefinitely.
Drying fruit for storage at home is made simple with an electric dehydrator. First, wash and dry the fruit. Peel off any inedible skins. Slice larger fruits, such as apples, into quarter-inch or half-inch slices. Smaller fruits like berries may be halved or left whole. Make the pieces as close to the same size as possible so they’ll dry at the same rate.
Mist the fruit with lemon juice to keep them from browning. Then, spread the fruit into single layers on the racks of the dehydrator. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for time and temperature settings.
Fruit is suitably dry when it has about 20% moisture content. Depending on the specific fruit, it will likely have a leathery texture, like raisins or prunes.
When the dried fruit first comes out of the dehydrator, the moisture will be dispersed unevenly, so the pieces should be conditioned for a week or two, loosely packed in a sealed container. Gently shake the container every few days. During this time, drier pieces will absorb excess moisture from the others. After two weeks, if there’s condensation on the sides of the container, dry the fruit a bit longer in the dehydrator before packing it for long-term storage.
After a long while, or if the seal is broken and penetrated by moisture, dry fruit can go bad. Learn to recognize the symptoms, so you don’t consume dried fruit that’s spoiled. The obvious signs of spoilage are the presence of mold or a foul smell. Also beware of discoloration, loss of flavor, or hardness that can develop over time. When in doubt, throw it out.
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