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May '08

Food Preservation Part I: Blueberries, Cranberries, Raspberries, & Blackberries

As part of this week’s special two part series on food preservation, here’s the first installment: How to Dehydrate Blueberries, Cranberries, Raspberries, & Blackberries.

NOTE: The numbers in the photo above correspond to the instructions below…Enjoy your berries!

Why Dehydrate Berries Yourself?

Home dehydration is an easy way to preserve the taste of berries (and other fruits and vegetables) year round, whether you stock up on them on sale, or harvest them yourself. Unlike other methods of food preservation (ie. freezing and canning), dehydration allows you to preserve those tasty jewels with almost no loss of flavor or nutrition.

Note: This recipe also works for cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. but to keep things simple I will be referring to blueberries throught this recipe.

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits for the beginner to dehydrate well. Unlike some other fruits and vegetables they need almost no advance preparation (blanching, etc.) and require no added sugar, sulfites, or other preservatives. This makes them a truly great fruit to dehydrate.

Store bought dehydrated blueberries are often hard to find and expensive and usually contain sulfites (which are completely unnecessary for blueberries) as well as added sugar.

Blueberry on Foodista

Uses: Dehydrated blueberries are great added to muffins, scones, and pancakes, as well as sprinkled in your cereal. They are also great as part of a healthy trail mix if you are a camper, hiker, long distance biker, or mountain climber.

Equipment: To get started, all you need is your fruit, a knife to cut the fruit, a colander, and an electric multi-tray dehydrator. (Depending on your local weather and climate, you can sun-dry many fruits and veggies but an electric dehydrator is quicker in most cases.)

1. Start with fresh, high quality blueberries. Hand wash them with water in a colander, then shake out as much water as possible and put in a bowl.

2. You can dehydrate whole blueberries as easily and as well as halved blueberries, but halving cuts down on the dehydration time quite a bit (about 40%), so I suggest first halving all the blueberries.

3. Lay your halved blueberries cut side down on the dehydrator trays, leaving at least half a blueberry’s thickness sized space between each berry (approx. 1/16 of an inch).

4. Place your first filled dehydrator rack in your open dehydrator.

5. As you continue to fill dehydrator racks with berries, stack the completed racks on top of each other.

6. When you are out of blueberries to stack on racks, put the cover on your dehydrator and turn it on!

Food Renegade: Fight Back FridaysTime: Like microwaves, different dehydrators take different times to do their job. Blueberries take between 8-12 hours to dehydrate; my old Wearever dehydrator takes 11 hours to do 6 racks of blueberries. The important thing to remember is that you want the finished blueberries to be leathery but still chewy; like very dry raisins.

Tip: I like to set my dehydrator up a few hours before I go to bed so it can work while I sleep, but you can also set it up just before you leave for work and come home to a batch of preserved berries!

At the 7 1/2-8 hour mark you might want to check on your blueberries to see how they are doing. The blueberries on the bottom racks will dry out sooner than the ones in the top racks as they are closer to the heat source, so you might want to see if they need to be “harvested early”.

Tip: Get a cheap plug in appliance timer and set it for 8 hours and plug your dehydrator in it so your dehydrator turns itself off if it is the kind of dehydrator that doesn’t have a time off option. Dehydrators with built-in timers often cost quite a bit more than those that don’t and it isn’t really worth the extra expense.

After you “harvest” your blueberries, allow them to cool a little before storing them in resealable bags, mason jars, or cannisters to preserve their freshness.


Hugging the Coast Blog Fast ForwardPlease join us tomorrow to read our newest feature on HuggingtheCoast.Com, Food Preservation Part II: Fun With Garlic Scapes (Plus, Make Your Own Garlic Scape Spice!).

Hugging the Coast Blog Fast Forward

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