This post is part of an ongoing series very informally called the “Dehydrator Chronicles”. Yes, I got a dehydrator about a month ago and I’ve been playing around with a few different things. I made some raw almond bread, dried apricots, beef jerky, and right now the house is filled with the pungent aroma of cashew-miso kale chips (another three hours to go!). I strongly urge you to get one. At about $60 for a basic dehydrator, you can have a great tool for making all kinds of healthy stuff. If you’re a raw foodist or a vegan or vegetarian or if you just want to broaden your skill-set in the kitchen, making dried fruit and other snacks is very easy, kinda fun (especially if you’re project-oriented like myself), and it helps foster in yourself or your family a deeper understanding of what and how we eat and the connections food has to our physical and psychic health. I make a lot of our food at home, and I absolutely love knowing our food was fresh when I cook it and highly nutritious when we eat it.
I love the idea of making snacks and I love dried fruit. Dried cherries are particularly nice — the natural sugars get concentrated and the resulting fruit is sweet, tart, and super-chewy. The apricots I made last week were so delicious that when I saw these beautiful Rainier cherries on sale I snapped up nine pounds. Fresh, the cherries were plump and moist and sweet and just lip-smakingly delicious!
I’ve never dried cherries before, but I anticipated that prepping the cherries would be a pain in the ass! And it was. First I rinsed the cherries and drained them well. And then I had to deal with pitting them; it took me about an hour to remove all the cherry stones, even though I enlisted the aid of my eight-year-old, who pitted several hundred cherries and ate a good 15% of his product. I paid for his labor in cherries, and both employer and employee were happy with the arrangement.
In addition to underage child labor, I highly recommend getting a cherry pitter. There are certainly very good hand-held pitters to be found (on the web or at places like Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and Surfas), but for quantities like this you need what I’ve got pictured below. It’s got a suction base (which even worked on my wooden table) and you simply stem the cherries and put a few in the trough up top. A cherry rolls into place underneath the spring-loaded pit-plunger and you press down with your hand firmly. As the plunger returns to its original position the stone-free cherry rolls out into a waiting bowl. In all honesty I found this particular pitter only about 92% effective (a few cherries still had pits in them), but still very helpful. It was around $40 and very much worth the price. I’m already envisioning other cherry dishes I can make. Cherry pie, anyone?
After pitting all the cherries I cut them in half and placed them cut-side up on the dehydrator trays. I set the dehydrator to 135ºF and continued drying them until they were no longer moist or soft. They were chewy and sweet and yummy. These cherries took about eight hours to fully dry, although many factors can affect drying times (humidity in the air, the amount of sugar and moisture in the fruit, and the effectiveness of your brand of dehydrator) so don’t be surprised if yours take a shorter or longer time to dry. Just check them periodically.
The only surprising thing about drying the cherries is how much they shrink! Nine pounds of fresh cherries (minus a half-pound or so lost in the pitting process) turned into four cups (packed) of dried cherries. We ate them in less than a week.
Was it worth the labor and time making homemade dried cherries? From my standpoint, absolutely! I encourage you to make the effort.
Other tales in the Dehydrator Chronicles: