Learn how to dehydrate fruit to keep your summer harvest all year long. This method works especially well for dehydrating blueberries or any berry or fruit with an outer skin like cherries or grapes that can take DAYS to dehydrate without it. You can also use it to dehydrate raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries where you're dehydrating the whole berry.
The one thing as sure as sun in the summer time is ripe berries, and berry juice stained fingers, mouths, and tongues. Because no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to eat berries without leaving some kind of evidence behind… and I can always tell when my kids have helped themselves to a snack or two straight from the bush.
We're blessed on our homestead to have raspberries, blueberries, and a plethora of blackberries. Blackberries are actually listed as a noxious weed here because they grow that well. They line our roads and fences, creep and crawl over logs, and make themselves a nuisance anywhere they can. But we put up with them because they're sweet fruit is just about as good as you can get. And a free food source is something to be taken advantage of, can I get an amen?
You guys know my love of canning. I might be addicted putting things into Mason jars. Might be. Maybe, okay, yes, totally. I love to make blueberry jam (no pectin, low sugar varieties), freeze those darlings for muffins, pies, or just an ice cold treat on a hot day. I adore that canning leaves me with shelf-stable food.
Canned berries don't travel so good in lunch boxes or hikes, and frozen and then thawed berries aren't friendly to just munching on. In comes dehydration. I confess, I didn't dehydrate at all until a couple of years ago.
I tried dehydrating blueberries about 10 years ago. After three days straight, I still had half shriveled, but not dehydrated berries. I gave up for a few years, but a homesteader, we're a determined lot and I came back around, knowing there had to be an easier way. Good thing for me (and you), I found it!
Dehydration is an excellent way to preserve your fruit, especially berries for year round use. It's shelf stable and can be eaten as is. It's light, meaning easy to pack and shove into pockets. And you can use it to make delicious candies, treats, cakes, and breads. My baking side just got all kinds of excited! Oh, and dehydration, when done at a low temperature, makes it a raw food, retaining almost all of the nutrients. Super cool, huh?
Resources to dehydrate fruit
If you plan on doing much dehydrating, I recommend getting an actual dehydrator. Can you use your oven with the door propped open? Yes, but you can't control the temperature and then you can't cook in your oven. Plus, if you have little ones, leaving your oven door open isn't probably the safest thing.
I have a Nesco square dehydrator I purchased two years ago. It's quiet and gets the job done. I haven't had any problems with it and have run it close to a week straight when doing cherries and then a batch of blueberries. This is the more economical option and I highly recommend getting these screens for sticky fruit and fruit leather.
If you plan on doing a lot of dehydrating, you'll want to consider the Excalibur dehydrators. My readers have told me it is the workhorse of dehydrators and well worth the investment. But, it is more expensive than the Nesco. However, the air blows from the back of the unit, instead of the top, making it more efficient. This is the cheapest deal I've found for an Excalibur dehydrator under $100.
How to Dehydrate Fruit
When you're dehydrating berries, you need to use one simple trick to cut hours and days off your dehydrating time. You need to check your berries. Do what to my berries? Checking is merely piercing the skin so that the moisture can evaporate more quickly. Berries are mostly water, after all. Checking should be used with blueberries, cranberries, and grapes, or any other similar type fruit. I pit my cherries before dehydrating, so I'm technically checking them when I pit them.
3 Ways to Check Your Berries Before Dehydrating
1. Poke each berry with a pin. Take a safety pin or sewing pin and poke a hole in each berry. If you're doing a small amount this might not take very much time, but if you're doing tray fulls, this is going to take forevva.
2. Boil/steam your berries. Briefly boil or steam your berries until they've split their skins, but not enough to actually cook them.
3. Freeze your berries. Simply toss your berries into the freezer for a few hours. It will rupture the cells and make you good to go. Middle of summer and no work on my part (okay, besides the harvesting) making this my pick! And yours right?
How to Dehydrate Blueberries
After you've checked your berries, spread them out on your dehydrating trays. For sticky berries or fruit, I highly recommend the silicone mats for easy clean up. You want to the berries or fruit to be evenly spaced so they dehydrate at the same rate.
With our blueberries we have several different varieties, which means different sizes of berries. I recommend putting the smaller berries on one tray and the larger ones on another. Which I didn't the first time and had to manually separate them out as the smaller ones were done before the bigger ones, so save yourself some time here.
Turn on your dehydrator and let it do its thing. The fruit setting on mine is 135 degrees.
Even with checking, berries take quite a while to fully dehydrate. My cherries took 28 hours. My small blueberries were done at about 24 hours, where as the larger ones took 36 hours.
Check your berries or fruit after 12 hours and rotate your trays. My top tray dehydrates a tad faster than the bottom one, especially when I've got all four stacked at once.
If you're not sure if your fruit is fully dehydrated, you can sample a few. If you feel liquid, then put them back in. Some of my smaller berries got hard, so I knew they were fully done. You want chewy berries, but not overly sticky or wet. Otherwise, they”ll start to mold.
Store dehydrated berries in an air tight container in a dark cool place for optimal shelf life. Use in homemade breads, muffins, granola, candy, or just plain old eating! Be warned, they're kind of addicting.
How to Dehydrate Fruit – Blueberries, Cherries, Grapes, Raspberries & Blackberries
- Blueberries or fresh fruit of choice
- Water for rinsing
- 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 clean up. You want to 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 your berries or fruit after 12 hours and rotate your trays. My top tray dehydrates a tad faster than the bottom one, especially when I've got all four stacked at once.
- Even with checking, berries take quite a while to fully dehydrate. My cherries took 28 hours. My small blueberries were done at about 24 hours, where as the larger ones took 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 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, or just plain old eating! Be warned, they're kind of addicting.
There you have it, my favorite way to dehydrate fruit and my time saving tips when dehydrating blueberries, cherries, and grapes! Have you tried this method before?