With food prices skyrocketing, more and more people are growing their own fruits and vegetables. Others are trying to buy locally in season to save money on favorites. Even if money isn’t that tight, adding more fruit to the family diet is good insurance against the rising tide of obesity in the United States. The only problem is storing these foods so they will last more than a few days. Canning is one option, but another is dehydration. Drying a fruit like nectarines preserves their nutrition and can provide you with a tasty snack all year long.
Things You'll Need
- Oven or dehydrator
- Drying trays
- Sulfuring compound (optional)
- Lemon juice or ascorbic acid (optional)
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Peel and clean the nectarines. Select fully ripened fruit by giving the nectarine a squeeze. It should give slightly but not turn to mush when squeezed.
Remove the nectarine pits.
Separate your nectarines into halves or slices, as preferred.
Mix your desired pretreatment solution. Prevent browning and discoloration of the fruit by pretreating with ascorbic acid or citric acid/lemon juice. You can also use sulfur compounds, but be aware that these compounds cause an asthmatic reaction in some people. If using ascorbic acid add 2 1/2-tbsp. to 1 qt. of cold water and soak the fruit. If you choose lemon juice add 1-tbsp. to 1 qt. of water. If you choose sulfur, stir 1-tbsp. of sodium metabisulfite into 1 qt. of cold water. People used to use burning sulfur to prevent fruit for drying, but health and safety concerns make this method undesirable.
Slice the nectarines directly into this solution.
Let the nectarines soak for 10 minutes.
Place the nectarine slices in a single layer on the drying tray. Make sure the tray is made of a material that will not react with the fruit, such as galvanized metals. Try using cheesecloth or synthetic curtain netting stretched taut over oven racks, cake racks or a cookie sheet. Use some kind of clamp to pull the netting taut to allow air to circulate.
Dry the fruit using your preferred method. Sun drying, or drying outside can only be done on days when the temperature reaches 85 degrees Fahrenheit by noon and the humidity is less than 60 percent. Furthermore fruit dried outdoors must be pasteurized. The oven can be used to dry the nectarines by maintaining a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 36 to 48 hours. Check the fruit periodically and turn it to improve even drying results. You can use a food dehydrator. Place it in the dehydrator on single layer trays. Maintain a 140 degree Fahrenheit temperature and check the fruit often.
Check the nectarine slices on their progress. The fruit should be leathery with no moisture released if they are squeezed after they cool. This takes anywhere between 6 and 36 hours, depending on conditions.
Condition the nectarines after drying. Place the fruit loosely in glass or plastic containers; cover and store in a warm dry place for four to 10 days.
Package the nectarines for storage by sealing them in dried glass jars or moisture and vapor-proof freezer strength plastic containers. Pack in single serve containers and store in a cool dry place.