Healthy snacks: How to dry pears
Once you’ve made the investment in a dehydrator, drying fruit for healthy snacks, and vegetables for wise food storage and emergency food becomes an easy task. Pears are one of the easiest and most satisfying fruits to dry.
When to harvest pears
Pears grow prolifically where ever apples are hardy. Pears should be harvested before they are ripe. Left to ripen on the tree, pears will become soft and mushy in the center before they are ready to eat on the outside. Ideally, if you are harvesting your own, pick fruit that has just turned from deep, chartreuse green to lime green, but not yellow. The skin of the pear will lighten as it ripens from deep evergreen to chartreuse, to lime green and finally to yellow. If it’s brown, it’s over ripe and should be reserved for jam or juice, not dehydrating. Pears that are light green on their skins will be within a week of ripening fully.
Pears that are picked from the tree with skin that is still deep green will not ripen properly and may get soft and mushy from rot before they ripen and develop their flavour and sweetness. It takes a bit of experience to harvest pears at just the right time to assure a perfect ripening window, for best keeping power. If you are unsure, and inherited older pear trees on your acreage, check with an older neighbor to learn how to time this just right. Experience is the best teacher.
Oh, and one more thing. If you are picking your own fruit from the tree, please remain on the ladder. DO NOT use the trunk or branches of an old pear tree to support your weight. Always stay on the ladder. Older trees, that appear to be strong and sturdy can have hidden weakness or secret rot. Don’t get 20 feet up in a pear tree only to find that your trust was misplaced. Don’t be like Mr. Joybilee who broke his back in 3 places because the two old branches he was trusting in, gave way simultaneously. He fell from his lofty position just as he picked the very last pear from the tree in September of 1997. Thankfully our God is one in whom we can place our trust securely. After 15 years of chronic pain, God instantly healed Mr. Joybilee of the residual damage caused by the fall from that old pear tree. After hearing that you may decide to buy your pears…
If you are buying pears at the farmer’s market, the farmer should have done this expertly for you. Purchase pears that are still slightly green. Store in a cool spot and they will ripen within a few days to a week. Pears that are already yellowed will turn brown quickly.
Don’t wash the pears when you get them home. Instead wash them just before you are going to slice them for drying. There is a protective coating on the pears that keeps them fresh. Once they are washed, they go brown quickly after ripening.
How to prepare pears for drying
When I was a first starting out I peeled and cored pears for drying. This made pears a very time consuming fruit to dry. Then I found out that it was totally unnecessary. The peels are not tough and fibrous so unpeeled pears are just as tasty as peeled pears. Plus the extra fiber in the peel makes dried pears a healthy snack food. So don’t peel your pears.
Wash your pears in a sink of cold water to remove dirt, and yeasts.
Using a sharp paring knife, (This is my favorite!) cut the pear in quarters and remove the core and seeds, along with the fibrous string that goes from the stem to the core. This is more pronounced in ripe winter pears than in Bartlets, a fresh eating variety. Remove any blemishes, worm holes, or brown spots.
Cut the pear quarters into eights or twelfths, depending on how big your pears are. Thinner slices will dry more quickly.
Drop the prepared slices of pears into lemon juice. Fish them out of the lemon juice and drain them on the dehydrator trays. This is an optional antioxidant treatment that prevents the pears from going prematurely brown while they are being dried. In an efficient dehydrator the pears will remain lighter in colour, even without the lemon juice treatment.
Lay out in a single layer on your dehydrator trays.
Dry in your dehydrator at medium heat, according to the manufacturer’s directions.
About halfway through the drying time, switch the uppermost trays to the lower position and the lower trays to the uppermost position inside your drying cabinet. Turn each tray around so that the outside edge moves inside. This will help your pears dry evenly. If the sugar in the pears begins to caramelize, turning the pears a very dark brown, reduce your heat, to dry the pears more slowly.
It takes about 30 hours in my large dehydrator to dry 20 lbs. of sliced pears. Around the 24 hour mark, I sort through and remove any fully dried pears and move the pears that are still a bit squishy and not quite dried to one or two trays. I add fresh pears to the now empty trays, and move the almost done pears the the bottom third of the dehydrator to complete the drying process.
How to tell if your pears are dry enough for food storage
Your pears are done if they are dry to the touch.
When you squish your pears between thumb and forefinger, they have no give. They are not squishy.
When at room temperature, they are no longer cool to the touch.
They are stiff rather than pliable. They don’t bend easily, but they are resilient — not brittle.
If there are any cool, squishy, damp, or very pliable areas, dry your pears a little longer. You want them fully dry or they will mold when stored at room temperature.
How to store your fully dried pears
Fully dried pears can be stored at room temperature, in glass jars or in freezer bags, inside a mouse proof container like a metal garbage can or plastic bucket with a tight fitted lid. If you prefer a dried pear that is a little more moist, please store it in the freezer, so that it won’t become moldy in storage.
How to use dried pears
Dried pears make a healthy snack to eat out of hand. 8 to 12 pieces are the equivalent of 1 whole pear. We call this “pear candy” and it is our favorite dried fruit. The texture is gummy and chewy, full of sweet pear goodness.
You can snip the pear slices with scissors into raisin size pieces and use them in muffins, granola, trail mix, and cookies. They can be used any where that you would use raisins or dried cranberries.
Snip dried pears with scissors into raisin size pieces and add them to salads, breaded stuffing, or rice dishes.
Soak them in wine, sherry, fruit juice, or water for a few hours to reconstitute them and serve them as you would fresh fruit. Top with whipped cream or ice cream.
Add them to oatmeal, or other hot cereal as you add the water and cook them in the cereal. They have their own natural sweetness.
Use the reconstituted slices in place of pineapple in pizza.
Add them to fruit breads and fruit cakes as you would other dried fruit.
Pears are our favorite dried fruit. They are a healthy snack food right out of hand. They are also a nutritious and flavorful addition to winter salads, curries, and savory dishes. Plus they can be used in the place of other dried fruit in baking, cereals, and trail mix. Hopefully this post will make you look at that old pear tree growing close by, with fresh eyes. Try this easy way to preserve the goodness of pears and enjoy this healthy snack food.