I didn’t discover cherries until last year. My only experience with them had been when my grandmother would ruin a perfectly good cheesecake by topping it with a whole can full of canned cherries. My grandfather loved it. I loathed it, and it put me off what cherries really tasted like. I disliked the texture in cherry pies, too.
I’ve always loved them as a dehydrated snack in trail mix or granola (try this amazing pumpkin granola with your dehydrated cherries!), but could never learn to love them the only way I’d ever had them – overly processed.
But last year, Aldi’s had them on sale, so I bought them for my son to try out. He loves everything – he’s like Mikey. Watching how much he loved them, I decided to give them a second try, and fell in LOVE!
(A word of warning here….take it from his personal experience. Do not eat TOO many cherries at one sitting. You might spend a considerable part of your day in the necessary room because of it!)
We did find that we’d purchased more than we could eat, without the extra trips to the bathroom, so decided to begin dehydrating them to save for the rest of the ten months when cherries weren’t in season. I can’t begin to tell you how many cherries we dehydrated, but I sure hope we have enough to make it through!
So, Let’s Get Started!
Note: I’ve used both the Nesco FD-80 Dehydrator and the Excalibur Dehydrator. These instructions will work for both since they both have temperature gauges (and both work equally well, you just might need to rotate the trays in the Nesco for longer drying times). You’ll have to watch your dehydrator carefully if you don’t have a temperature gauge on your dehydrator.
How to Dehydrate Cherries
1. Wash Your Cherries.
First off, like with any fruit or vegetable you purchase, you’ll want to wash them. Try out this homemade vegetable wash from my friend Jennifer @ Self-Reliant School. It’s easy to spray or soak to get your veggies and fruit clean for eating. We spray down our produce, gently work it in, and let it sit for a bit in the water before rinsing.
Once you’ve washed and dried your cherries, it’s time for the picking and the pitting. This is the most tedious of jobs to prepare a fruit for dehydrating. So there are tons of tools to make it easier to get through it. So many tools.
And you’ll have 1,001 opinions about why each tool is the best tool you can use. But I’m going to save you all that time and money and blog reading.
2. Pick & Pit
Pickin’ and a pittin’ is a great activity for your kids to do, just so you’ll know. It’s a mostly ouchie-free event that even your little guys can help with.
Just pull off the stems and load your cherries into the pitter, whichever one you choose, but you’ll be happiest with this one.
Again..this pitter is NOT the pits :D See what I did there? Clever girl, I am!
It seriously is the easiest one I’ve ever used. Those single, hand-held pitters take 5 times as long, and this one keeps everything relatively juice free. I’m not gonna say completely juice free…
as my youngest loved showing all the blood and guts from his pittin’ job. But we kept a few rag towels handy to keep ourselves cherry-gut free.
3. Decide if You Want to Go All in or Just Half.
While whole cherries are fun to grab to snack on, we also look at how we’ll be using them throughout the year. If I want to make dark chocolate cherry muffins, I don’t like big chunks of dehydrated fruit in my muffin. The same with granola or other baked goods. So our family slices our cherries in half to dehydrate them, while leaving a good portion whole for snacking and putting into trail mix, etc. So, because we needed to restock our ‘half-supply’, that’s what you’ll see happening here.
Here’s a tip from The Purposeful Pantry to make the most of your cherries before you toss them onto your dehydrator trays!
4. Add Your Cherries to Your Dehydrator Trays.
Can anyone see the mistake I made in this tray? It’s pretty glaring for those of you who might do this all the time. But in my haste to get all of them loaded and onto the trays and to get the shots before we were done so that the trays wouldn’t be done halfway through the night, I didn’t pay attention to how I placed the cherries on the tray.
- The fact that they are touching a little isn’t the issue. They’ll shrink up quite a bit so it’s okay.
- If you guessed that I have too few cherries on the tray? That’ll be a personal preference thing. I tend to put very little on the tray to give better airflow on denser produce.
- If you guessed that I started these cut side down — BINGO!
I have found that having the cut side up lends them to stick a little less than cut side down.
Note: You can expect a bit of cherry juice to get on your tray liners and make them all sticky after. Just lay them in a warm sink of soapy water after and they’ll be fairly easy to clean. Or give them to your kids to play in bubble water in the backyard and have these really cool bubble wand sheets. Or, maybe don’t. You might not get them back. I also line the bottom of my Excalibur Dehydrator with an extra dehydrator sheet to help keep the bottom of the machine from getting sticky to make cleaning easier.
5. Dehydrate on 125-135F for Approximately 12-24 Hours
Depending on the moisture content, your humidity, your dehydrator, and whether you’ve sliced them or are leaving them whole, your drying times may vary a lot. Mine were dry in about 10 hours, which is probably about an hour too long for them as they were more than the ‘sticky and pliable’ state you want them in. You don’t want them to look like dried up, old raisins. You want them looking plump and healthy without being wet.
Over-dehydrating fruit can be almost as bad as under-dehydrating as far as taste and texture. These are on the verge…they still have a bite and are still flavorful, but much longer and they would’ve been hard and flavorless. This is why it’s important, even if you are using a timer, that you check your fruits and vegetables often.
6. Store in an Airtight Container.
While some folks will tell you that dried fruits can keep for a year or two if properly stored, I can sometimes taste a significant change in texture from fruits that have been stored that long without preservatives that might be in the store-bought versions.
Your options for long-term storage are:
- Put the cherries into canning jars and vacuum seal or into a jar with an O2 absorber. The only problem with the O2 method is that once you’ve opened your bag of O2 absorbers, you’ll need to use up the bag. That’s why I prefer using a Food Saver vacuum sealer. You can work on one project at a time.
- Into mylar bags that have been vacuum sealed (click here to see a video).
I would suggest that for either of these methods, do it in smaller quantities to keep from opening up more than you can use within a month or two, and saving your stores from a bag or jar opening and molding. I just tend to do that with my fruits, no matter what.
Tips for Dehydrating:
From Jane @ Mom with a PREP — Consider powdering your dehydrated vegetables. It takes up less space, can be versatile to use in dishes without the bulk or texture, and is more forgiving in many ways. We add the vegetable powder to many of our meals and salads.
From Jennifer @ Self-Reliant School – put your dried produce into the freezer once you’ve finished dehydrating. You can store them for two weeks to help cold-pasteurize them to help any bugs and bacteria that may still be lurking. And while not fool-proof, it’s an added step you can try.
From Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship – to test fruit and veggies that tend to be moist, even when you think they’re done, put a handful of it into a zip top bag and close it up. If you see condensation in the next few minutes, your fruit is not done and you’ll need to put it back into your dehydrator for longer.
From The Purposeful Pantry — here’s a secret to making the most out of that water you lose when dehydrating!
You can get even more great tips and dehydration “recipes” from Tammy Gangloff’s book, The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook which is the best on the market.
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