How to Make Raisins Using a Food Dehydrator
Raisins, high in iron, are easy to make in your dehydrator. After making the raisins, you’ll be able to store them for the long term. Here are the instructions for growing organic grapes, dehydrating your homegrown grapes, and canning the resulting raisins.
Get seedless grapes.
There are many brands, types, and colors of seedless grapes.
- A very common homegrown grape variety is the Thompson Seedless. It is prolific in bearing so you can make lots of grapes from one vine. It is self pollinating and can be trained as a climber, on a fence, or on a post with a ‘T’ arm, for a single specimen in your landscape. The grapes are medium size and greenish yellow at ripe stage. High in sugar, this grape dries faster than large seedless grapes.
- All grapes take three years from planting to produce a crop. To get a large crop takes winter pruning, a little natural fertilizer in the spring and water through the dry season. With this little attention you’ll have your own organic raisins drying in your dehydrator in September.
Keep predators away from your homegrown grapes.
Birds love grapes, so be ready to pick the grapes when you see some falling on the ground. It doesn’t matter if the grapes are so over-ripe that they’re falling off the stems. They are just sweeter that way.
- Hold a pan under the clusters as you cut them from the vine. This way those very ripe ones will go to you, and not to the birds.
Wash the grapes.
Remove the fruit from the stems after Fill the sink full of grape clusters, fill the sink with water. Then swish the bunches and put them into the other sink with the drain strainer open, to drip. Of course, you can use a pan and colander to do this and if you have a lot of grapes, your dish drainer works well with its tray under it. This leaves your second sink free for other things. Let the grapes drip for about an hour so they won’t be adding moisture to the dehydrator.
Stem the grapes.When you remove the grapes from the stems, pay attention to the small top of the grape stems. If you’re stripping the grapes with your hand you should do it in a flat baking pan. When you have a full layer in the bottom of the pan you can turn the grapes with the flat of your hand and see all of the small stems that are still stuck to the top of the grapes. They do not belong on your raisins. Remove them, then pour the grapes onto the dehydrator tray.
- When you get down past the middle of the rack of grapes, you may find the lower layers of grapes are still pretty wet. After you’ve finished stemming them, turn the pan full of grapes onto a towel and roll the them with the flat of your hand. This will dry them enough to make them ready for the dehydrator tray.
Use the dehydrator.
When the trays are full, close the dehydrator and turn on the motor. The temperature should be at its highest setting for the first twelve hours at least. If you must turn the trays, you will have to leave the heat on high another twelve hours. The skins on the raisins hold in the moisture and juice and you are making sure all of the grapes are warm enough to prevent souring.
- Turn the heat down to medium-high level, only after the drying grapes all look pretty dark and you can see they’re drying out. These pretty little green grapes will turn a dark brown and look just like raisins in a couple of days.
- It will usually take two to three days to dry the raisins in a good dehydrator.
- If your dehydrator doesn’t have a fan and heat mechanism, it is better to use your oven . Grapes will mold if the heat does not get hot enough to turn the juice to sugar within the skin.
Test for dryness.
Squeeze several dark, drying grapes on the tray. If you feel them slip inside the skins, they’re not dry enough. This means that they will mold in storage. If they feel firm, but pliable, they are done.
- You can dry the grapes till they are hard. This allows you to store more in a container, and you know they will last indefinitely. When you go to use the raisins, put your recipe amount in a cup, add a spoon full or two of water, cover and steam for one-half to one minute in the microwave. This puffs them up like store bought raisins. If using for a salad or other recipe not in baking, pour the little bit of water left in the cup out and let the steam dry the raisins.
Store the raisins.
Sometimes one is given a picking of grapes from a friend and may only get the one picking and need to store them for future use. Or you may have your own and want to do long term storage where the grapes can keep for more than a year.
- Storage for one or two years:
- Raisins dried hard in your dehydrator will keep in storage for a couple of years if you seal the lid with paraffin. This lets you use plastic peanut butter jars and the like to store in. Just melt the paraffin in in a tin can and pour it around the edges of the lid. Dump out the excess paraffin and screw the lid on the jar while the wax is still warm. Old candle butts can be used for this. The principle for this type of storage is to keep bugs from creeping into the threads of the jar and entering the food area.
- Storage with no time limit: If you have a pressure canner, you can pack quart (4 cups) jars, seal, and place in the canner. Pressure at 5 pounds (2.26kg) pressure for forty minutes.
- Oven method: Since not everyone has a canner, it is easy to can raisins in your oven.
- Pack into clean sterilized jars adding one tablespoon of water. Wipe the top of the jar with a clean damp cloth to remove any minute particles that are on the rim from filling the jar.
- Put a sterilized lid on the jar, screw the band down firmly and place the jar on the bottom rack of your oven.
- When all the jars are in the oven, turn the heat on to 250ºF (120ºC) and process for one hour.
Turn the oven off and let the jars cool in the oven. To speed this up you can crack the oven door but not wide open, as a draft can crack your hot jars. Canned, your raisins will keep indefinitely. Don’t worry about an expiration date. There is none on the sealed jars.
Test jars for seal.
To test the cooled jars for seal, use a teaspoon handle and tap the top of the jar. If it sounds like a plink, instead of plunk, it is sealed.
- Saving an unsealed jar of raisins: If you get a jar that does not seal, just stick it in the back of your refrigerator and use it within the year. They won’t spoil in the fridge, but could mold on the shelf because of the water you used in the jar to make the steam for canning.