For me, summer tastes like cherries, and I eat as many as I can in season. But the fresh cherry season is way too short, so I make sure to put aside a little summer to enjoy during the long winter ahead.
My favorite way to do that is to dry them. Dehydration is a simple method that works well for many fruits and veggies. Dried cherries are delicious in so many dishes: oatmeal, cherry-dark chocolate chip cookies, or even savory foods like fried rice. I especially like knowing exactly where the cherries came from (in my case, Singer Farms via the Finger Lakes Fruit Bowl), and that they don’t have any additives (commercial dried fruit can contain a lot of sugar and preservatives).
I use an electric food dehydrator. It’s a bit of an investment—they start at about $35—but it can easily pay for itself in a season of use (have you priced dried cherries in the supermarket lately?). Drying is very easy. All you need to do is wash and slice the fruit or vegetable, arrange it on the drying tray, and let the dehydrator do the work! Most models have a heater that warms the dehydrator (usually to about 135 degrees F) and also a fan for air circulation. Drying time varies from half a day to several days, depending on what you’re drying and how thick the pieces are.
Some of the best fruits to dry, besides cherries, are apples, pears, apricots, and plums. Not as many vegetables dry well, but peppers and some types of tomato can be dried. If you’re curious about dehydration, there are a lot of good resources on the Internet. A couple of good ones that I like are this fact sheet from Tompkins County Cooperative Extension and a great reference book, So Easy to Preserve, which is a comprehensive guide to all kinds of food preservation.
Do you have experience drying foods? Please add your suggestions and tips in the Comments section!
Image credit: Photos by Maria Costanzo