Chapter XXXIX. THE DRYING OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.
DRYING is one of the simplest and cheapest ways of preserving fruits and vegetables for future use. Food may be dried by the sun or by artificial heat. If dried in the sun, protection from dust must be given, and food must be put under cover in the evening before the dew falls. Spread the prepared fruit or vegetable on frames covered with coarse wire netting or cheese-cloth and put in the sun for successive days until the product is sufficiently dried. Artificial drying is quicker and cleaner than sun drying, especially in moderate and cold climates. In drying food by artificial heat use a patent drier that will dry the largest amount of food with the smallest expenditure of time and heat.
Preparation of Product. Fruits and vegetables to be dried by either the sun or artificial heat should be thoroughly washed and drained, and have all inedible portions removed. Blanching, with but few exceptions, is not essential if the product is either thinly sliced or cut in small pieces before being placed to dry. Corn is an exception to this rule. It should be blanched on the cob five minutes, cold dipped, and cut from the cob before drying.
On the Drier. Place pieces of fruit or vegetables in rows, close together, one layer deep, on the drying rack. If a patent drier is used, regulate the heat with a thermometer according to the time-table for drying. Turn the product while drying when necessary to keep it from adhering to the pan and make sure that every portion is subjected to heat. Quick drying is preferable to slow drying, but the heat must not be sufficient to cook the product. Remove as soon as dried.
Length of Time for Drying. When done, the product should feel dry on the outside but should be slightly soft inside. It will be pliable in the fingers but it will not be possible to squeeze out water. Nothing should be dried until brittle, for if the product is dried until hard and crisp, it will not soften when wanted for use.
Conditioning. After the products are sufficiently dried, put in glass or pasteboard containers. For four successive days remove contents from container, pouring back and forth between two bowls several times, and then return to container. Moist and dry particles are thus brought into contact with each other, and a more even state of dryness is brought about. Conscientious conditioning is essential. If products seem too moist, return them to the racks for another period of drying. Look at the dried products once a week until the danger of mold is passed.
Greens, after being thoroughly washed and drained, should be spread out a leaf at a time. If they are piled up over each other, they will not dry. Turn frequently and remove while pliable, before they are dry enough to crack.