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?