Guess what I did! That’s right, I made my own prunes! Last weekend we went to Costco, and I apparently I forgot I was leaving on a 3 week long trip in a week, and bought a 5lb box of prune plums. Or maybe I thought I could eat 5lbs of prune plums in a week. Turns out that I cannot. Also turns out that I am the only one in the house who will eat them. Needless to say, Thursday rolled around and I was left with about 4lbs of prune plums. Always hating to be a waster, I figured I’d better do something with them. I figured dried fruit would be pretty easy, and I was right.
Our moms made dried fruit all the time – I know mine did. That and some beef jerky that was a major fail. Seriously – even the dog wouldn’t eat it! But back then, food dehydrators were all the rage. I don’t have one, and though they’re still available, I am definitely not ready to make an investment in another kitchen appliance that takes up so much space! Turns out your oven is all you need. BUT – it does take a long time, which means your oven will be occupied for hours on end, so make sure you don’t need to use it for anything else.
I decided to pit my prunes, since I find unpitted prunes indescribably annoying and inconvenient. A quick Google search didn’t lead me to any magical super fast method of pitting plums, so I used the old trial and error method. First try turned out pretty successful. All I did was cut a slit lengthwise down the prune, being careful not to cut it totally in half. Then I stuck my fingers in and pulled out the pit. It was actually really easy since these (maybe all?) plums are freestone. I thought it would took forever to pit those 4lbs of plums, but it actually only took about 15 minutes. I ended up drying them whole.
If you’re trying other fruits, you might try preparing them in the following ways:
Plums: pits removed (see above), whole
Cherries: pits removed, whole
Blueberries or cranberries: whole
Apples or pears: core removed, thin slices or rings
Bananas: thinly sliced
Strawberries: stem and core removed, sliced or quartered
Tropical fruit (mango, papaya or pineapple): thinly sliced
The next decision I made was whether to dry them straight on the baking sheet or a rack. I went with a rack. I decided it might be faster since the air could circulate better. Seeing all the juice that dripped of, and consequently burned onto the rack, I’m glad I made the decision I made. Otherwise they probably would have stuck on the sheet pretty good. If you’re using smaller fruit (like cherries or blueberries), you may not have that option, since they will fall through a rack. Try lining the sheet with a silicone liner or parchment to prevent sticking.
Drying should be done at low temperature – about 200°F. I also decided to use the oven in convection mode, in hopes the job would be made faster. Since I didn’t try regular baking mode too, I’m not sure if it was faster or not. But I do know that drying my plums, to the point of still being slightly soft and “juicy” took about 8 hours. My guess is that smaller fruits (like cherries or blueberries) would done slightly faster. Same for drier fruits (apples). Since all ovens are different, and the rate of drying will depend on the size and juiciness of the fruit, as well as the humidity in the air, keep a close eye on your fruit. I checked mine closely every hour to see how they were doing (and took pictures, see above). This means you need to be home and available the whole time they’re in the oven. Take them out when the fruit is as dry as you want it.
One thing to remember with homemade dried fruit is that it is preservative free, which means it will not last as long as store bought dried fruits. In fact, if you leave them at room temperature for extended periods of time, they will likely mold. If you know you won’t eat it quickly, store it in the freezer.
Dried Fruit in the Oven
- Fruit pits or cores removed (if applicable) and sliced (if applicable)
- Heat oven to 200°F, using the convection mode if available.
- Lay fruit onto a baking rack set over top of a rimmed baking sheet. If fruit is too small for a baking rack (like cherries, blueberries or cranberries), bake directly on a baking sheet that is lined with a silicone baking liner or parchment to prevent sticking.
- Baking time depends on the fruit you are using. Check on the fruit every hour or so. Remove fruit from oven when the desired dryness is reached. Allow fruit to cool, then store in airtight bags or containers. If you plan to store the fruit for a long period of time, keep in the freezer to prevent mold.