Mar 15, 2013

Dehydrating Cherries

Summertime seems a long way off, but now is a great time to start thinking about how you're going to handle those big harvests of fruits and veggies. Dehydrated cherries are a favorite in our family for lunchbox snacks and energy on the go. Now is the time of year to pull out your dehydrator, make sure it's in good working order, and wash all the trays if you didn't last fall. 

My American Harvest Snackmaster Elite has served me well over the last 20 years, but I'm secretly yearning for an Excalibur. This might be the year...

In most parts of the United States, summer means cherry season. The farmer’s markets and grocery stores are filled with bins of red, black and bing cherries and it is practically impossible to not pick some more up on each visit.

Cherries are a good candidate for preserving and there are many ways to do that including canning and freezing. The easiest method, however, is drying them in a food dehydrator. They will last for at least a year in a dark cupboard or practically indefinitely in the freezer.

How to Dehydrate Cherries

Start with the freshest cherries you can find in season. The skin should be shiny with no dimpling or wrinkling. Avoid cherries with many scars or scabs. These likely sustained hail damage during their growth and will not last as long dehydrated.

Wash the cherries thoroughly with a small amount of dish detergent dissolved in cool water, then rinse with plain water. Allow the cherries to dry in a colander or laid out on a clean dish towel. The wetter the cherries are, the longer they will take to dehydrate.

There are two ways of preparing cherries for the dehydrator. If you own a cherry stoner, you can use that to push the stones out. Then, cut each cherry in half and arrange on a dehydrator tray cut side up. Alternatively, you can simply cut the cherries in half to the stone, then remove the stone. Using a stoner really does not save significant time here, so keep it simple.

Dehydrate for 10-12 hours, checking close to the end for doneness. The dried cherries should be leathery, neither wet nor crisp. If your dehydrator does not have a fan to circulate the warm air, rotate the trays half way through to make sure that the cherries are drying at the same rate.

Store the dehydrated cherries in a clean dry Mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keep in a dark cupboard or in the freezer.

Rehydrating Dried Cherries

There are several ways to rehydrate cherries, depending on the application. For muffins and other baking, it is not necessary to rehydrate the cherries at all- they have the consistency of raisins. For other baking or ice creams and sauces, rehydrate in warm water or orange juice until the cherries are plump and soft. Drain before using.  For more adult cherries, rehydrate in Grand Marnier or dark rum.

Uses for Dehydrated Cherries

Once cherries have been fully rehydrated, they can be used almost anywhere you would use fresh cherries. They are especially good over ice cream or made into a sauce to top cheesecake.   


Langley Cornwell said...

I love cherries so I'm definitely doing this when the cherries come in. I'm yearning for an Excalibur too. Quick question - do you think it's vital to have a timer on your dehydrator?