After 30+ years of canning, jamming, drying, freezing, and wining, I’ve decided that dried fruit is my absolute favorite way to preserve most fruits for winter. Dried fruit lasts longer in storage than canned or frozen fruit. Dried fruit holds its shape. It’s not soggy. It doesn’t take on the flavour of other foods. And it’s more versatile than any other form of preserved fruit. Drying fruit doesn’t heat up the kitchen like canning. It doesn’t cost electricity to store it, like freezing does. And you can put it as-is in lunches. Dried fruit is easy to carry with you. And the concentrated sugar and fruit flavours quench hunger cravings quickly and can help you walk past the french fry smell coming from the fast food restaurant at the mall. Plus, I’ve never had a child turn down dried fruit.
Dehydrating cherries for winter
Dehydrating cherries couldn’t be simpler. Dehydrated cherries are super pricey. Store bought dried fruit usually includes unnecessary added sugar, and preservatives. But you can make your own at home with a small effort and a good dehydrator. Yes, you can use your oven, too, but if you can afford to invest in a dehydrator it will make the process of dehydrating fruits and vegetables more streamline and ensure success.
How to know when your fruit is dry enough
When you dry fruit, some sources recommend that you dry the fruit so that it is still pliable or bendable. I recommend that you dry it further, unless you intend to store your fruit in the freezer. Fruit intended to be stored for winter at room temperature, should be dried until it’s no longer cool to the touch when left at room temperature. It should be firm and not squishy, when you pinch it. It should be hard but not discoloured. If you aren’t sure, bite it. Properly dried fruit will have no soft areas in the middle.
This takes practice to get just right. If it is insufficiently dried, it will mold in storage and your efforts will be ruined. Rest assured though, that you will see any contamination in your stored fruit and you won’t make your family sick. Never eat mouldy fruit.
To dry cherries, wash them well in cold water to remove any debris, or dirt. Using a cherry pitter, pit the cherries, reserving the pits for cherry syrup (see below). Mine is a Westmark cherry stoner, made in Germany. It’s held up to 30 years of use and shows no sign of wear.
Cut the pitted cherries in half and lay them out on your dehydrator trays, cut side up, in a single layer. Put the trays in the dehydrator. After about 4 hours I like to move the trays on the top to the bottom and turn the trays around, to allow for more even drying. Repeat this every 4 to 8 hours.
After 8 hours, remove the cherries that are fully dry, and continue dehydrating the others until all cherries are fully dry. Dehydrated cherries are room temperature and are not cool to the touch. They will be firm and hard, not pliable. When you squeeze them there will be no give. If the cherries feel squishy and cool in the centre, they need more time in the dehydrator.
Allow the dried cherries to cool completely. Put them in a glass canning jar with a tight fitting lid. Keep in a cool dry place, away from light.
How to use dried cherries
Add them to:
Cookie Bars and slices
Stollen or other rich Christmas bread
Soak them in brandy and pour them over ice cream. Soak them in boiling water, drain and make a cherry pie, a fruit cobbler, cherry kuchen, or a fruit bar. Grind them in your food processor and add them to meringues for extra flavour – make cherry Pavlova. You can do anything with dried cherries that you would do with dried raisins or dried currants. Only cherries are way better.
Other ways to use sweet cherries for winter!
Make a cherry fool!
DIY Cherry Liqueur for gift giving
Cherry syrup from the pits