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How to Dehydrate Berries for Long-Term Storage

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Loaded down with fruit this fall? Using a dehydrator to dehydrate berries and other fruits and veggies for long-term storage is easy and saves space!

Harvest season is usually the busiest time on the homestead – not just because there is so much food to harvest, but also because you have to find the time to prepare/store/preserve it as well. One of our favorite ways to preserve many fruits and vegetables for future use is dehydration. Dried fruits and veggies not only keep for a long time without refrigeration, but they also take up a lot less space.

Juicier fruits will shrink the most – tomatoes or berries, for example. Last year, we were able to fit about 2 gallons of fresh ground cherries into a single quart bag when dried! These little treats are delicious in baked goods, and since they’re shelf-stable, we don’t have to use precious freezer space to store them.

While you can dehydrate berries in an oven at low temperature, it is time-consuming and very difficult to control the temperature and timing. Not to mention, it generates a lot of wasted heat and may heat up your house when it’s hot outside, so it’s not very efficient. If you plan on drying many fruits and vegetables, it is well worth it to get a dehydrator. You don’t have to get an expensive one, although the pricier ones do offer more options in terms of temperature settings, and may work a little faster. We have a $40 Presto, and while it has no fancy temperature settings or anything like that, it works great and we’ve been using it for over 4 summers now.

Below are some tips from Pioneering Today for dehydrating fruit using a dehydrator – specifically berries. (The “checking” step is something I have not tried before – I may have to test this out and see if it makes a substantial difference in the time the next time I dehydrate berries. Ours usually takes around 13-15 hours for a full batch, depending on the type of berry and how full the dehydrator is.)

Instructions:

  • Rinse berries and remove any twigs, leaves, etc.
  • “Check” berries by either freezing for a few hours, poking each berry with a pin, needle, or paperclip, or quickly blanching in hot water.
  • After you’ve checked your berries, spread them out on your dehydrating trays. Try to put berries of similar size on the same trays.
  • For sticky berries or fruit, I highly recommend the silicone mats for easy cleanup. You want the berries or fruit to be evenly spaced so they dehydrate at the same rate.
  • Turn on your dehydrator to 135 degrees Fahrenheit or the fruit setting if it has one.
  • Check on your berries or fruit after 6-8 hours and rotate your trays. My bottom tray dehydrates a tad faster than the top one, especially when I’ve got all four stacked at once.
  • Even with checking, berries can take quite a while to fully dehydrate. Depending on your dehydrator, and the size and juiciness of the fruit, you can expect it to take anywhere from 12-36 hours.
  • Your fruit is done when it’s shriveled and slightly tacky/sticky. You don’t want it to be rock hard but neither do you want it to have too much moisture that it could mold. A simple trick is to put a small test amount of still WARM fruit straight from the dehydrator in a sealed glass jar or plastic bag. If after a few minutes you see any condensation inside, put the fruit back and dehydrate longer.
  • Store dehydrated berries in an airtight container in a dark cool place for optimal shelf life. Use in homemade breads, muffins, granola, candy, trail mix or just plain old eating. Be warned, they’re kind of addictive!

 

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