Monday, October 01, 2007

Raisin Heaven

I haven't dried much in the way of fruits or vegetables this year. Part of the reason for that lack is that I already have a decent stash of some dried berries and vegetables (like way too much cabbage) from last year, but part of the reason is because I've been so focused on canning that I just haven't done much with oven-drying.

This past week, though, I thought that with all the wonderful grape varieties coming into the farmers' market this year, I should surely be able to find some seedless grapes to dry, providing myself with a stash of raisins for baking this winter.

Wouldn't you know it? On Saturday I found two seedless varieties that seemed perfect for the job: Glenora and Red Reliance.

Since the weekend was so busy, I didn't get around to preparing the first batch for drying until last evening. It took me a good hour to halve the quart of Red Reliance grapes, partly because I discovered that they were not, in fact, seedless, and I needed to spend some extra time popping out the seeds. (Sigh.)

Still, once I had finished the intensive labor of preparing the fruit, I scattered them across a parchment-lined baking sheet, ready for the easy part of slow-drying overnight.

My oven only goes down to 170 F, but that seems to work well for drying fruit a little more quickly, as long as I pull the pan out every few hours to stir things up a bit. (Yes, that meant getting up around midnight for a quick stir before tumbling back into bed.)

When I got up this morning, the grapes were almost to the leathery stage, so I left the oven on while I enjoyed breakfast, and I shut it off just before I left for work, leaving the pan inside the warm oven to finish the job during the day.

By late afternoon, the raisins were done:

Some, of course, were a little crisp, while most were more pliable, but I think they will do nicely, even if they don't look quite as "perfect" as commercial raisins. It might be a day or two before I get around to the Glenora grapes, but I expect they should work just as well. (And the woman who brought the grapes mentioned that next Saturday she should have Lakemont grapes, a green seedless, which would make nice golden raisins.)

I'm looking forward to some homemade cinnamon-raisin bread or oatmeal-raisin cookies this winter, thanks to these homemade and local raisins, and I expect a few other people might benefit from the work, too.

Won't that be heavenly?


At 10/03/2007 2:27 PM, Anonymous Bonnie said...

You are nothing short of amazing! I think you need your own reality show. Watch out — I might propose it.

cool tip on the above post about pricking a pepper, too.

At 10/04/2007 7:24 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Oh, no. With all the drivel that passes for TV these days, who'd want to watch me make a mess and blather on?

No, just let me go home from work and console myself with cooking... with doing something useful. (And I managed to start the second batch of raisins last night... sure is nice to wake up to the smell of warm dried grapes!)

But hey, Bonnie, if you're ever in the area, you're welcome to stop by and enjoy the "show"... as long as you help. ;-)

At 3/28/2008 7:38 AM, Blogger valereee said...

baklava queen, why did you cut the grapes in half? Was it just because they were not seedless?

At 3/28/2008 7:42 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

valereee, that was part of it, but I was also afraid they might "explode" if I didn't split them somehow. Have you dried grapes for raisins before and not cut them? Do you know if that works fine? Because cutting them all was really fussy, and if I don't have to do it, I'd rather not...

At 3/28/2008 8:03 AM, Blogger valereee said...

No, I haven't done any oven drying of fruit! I was just wondering because obviously that's the most labor-intensive part of the process and I'm basically lazy. :D I would think if exploding grapes were the issue, maybe just pricking them with the point of a knife? Or possibly just the removal of the stem puts enough of a hole in the skin to keep pressure from building up?

At 3/28/2008 8:10 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Hey, I hadn't thought about the hole from the stem. Geez, you're a genius, valereee! :-) This is definitely one of those things where I don't think it through completely and end up saying "duhhhhhh!" Thanks! I needed that!

At 3/28/2008 8:16 AM, Blogger valereee said...

Hey, anything to be of service! :D I am definitely going to look for grapes this year at the fm and see if I can't dry some myself. If it turns out they do turn into little grenades in the oven, I'll let you know!

At 3/28/2008 8:24 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Back at ya. I haven't run out of raisins yet (end of March) but it has been wonderful to rely on those for baking, so I will try to make more, too. Not to mention more dried cherries.........


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