Dried cherries, for year-long summer enjoyment!

Cherries are from the genus “prunus,” (just like plums, peaches, apricots and almonds) and come in many varieties. Common varieties around the Palouse-Clearwater region are pie cherries, Rainier cherries and Dark cherries like Bing, Van and Lambert. Cherry season is pretty much over in the Palouse-Clearwater region. Great places to get them, often during the month of July, are Wilson Banner Ranch and WSU’s Tukey Orchard (especially if you like to pick your own!). We went out to Tukey a couple Saturdays ago and picked some beautifully sweet and delicious cherries. There are so many things possible with cherries! We already had quite a few fresh blueberries we were working with fresh, and with most of our freezer being monopolized by our awesome pasture-raised chickens from Link’d Hearts, we decided that dehydrating our cherries this year would be the best option.

First, rinse and pit

20150702_183258It is pretty easy, but a bit time consuming, to pit the cherries and they can stain your hands and whatever it is you are working on or with (“forewarned is forearmed”- right?). I am often able to convince Shane to help with this process and we usually catch up on a recent movie or show while we’re at it. Cherry pitters come in a variety of design configurations, and for me has largely been a factor of what is available. We have two styles that have been interesting to play with. Don’t worry if you don’t have a cherry pitter, cutting the cherries in half with a paring knife works quite well, and the halves will dry faster.

Second, layer into the dehydrator and go do something awesome!

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The cherries should be in a single layer in the dehydrator trays. I have these plastic sheet inserts that can go on top of the trays too. It makes clean-up easier, but can inhibit air-flow, this is one of those times when it is up to your own preference. Set the dehydrator temperature between 125 and 135 degrees F and then let them go, checking about every 12 hours, until they are dry and leathery.

*some people choose to coat the cherries in ascorbic acid or oil at this step – I have never done this, but check out the reference links for more information.

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Bag up your bounty – for later serving!

Transfer the finished cherries into your favorite glass jar or ziploc bag for storage, I find that properly dried fruit will keep at room temperature in a dry environment for up to   2 years (if it doesn’t get eaten immediately!)

I love dried fruit – it is another one of those versatile staples that can go almost anywhere, like on salads, in scones or in/on other breakfast options, like granola. They can also be rehydrated with a variety of things, such as balsamic vinegar or brandy and then used for desserts. Dried cherries are great any time of year, even alone as a grab and go snack. They are a great source of vitamin C, fiber, calcium, iron and antioxidants and they are a great reminder of the best of summer, during other seasons!

What is your favorite dried fruit? How do you like to use dried fruits? Where is your favorite place to get fruit in the Palouse-Clearwater region? Have you ever volunteered with or donated fruit to Backyard Harvest? Please share in the comments!

Always with gratitude- especially to Shane McFarland for helping to clean up the messes I make!

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References:

Cherry nutrition:

http://www.stemilt.com/health-and-nutrition/nutrition/cherry-nutrition-facts/

More information on dehydrating technique:

http://fabulesslyfrugal.com/recipe-for-drying-cherries/

http://www.easy-food-dehydrating.com/dehydrating-cherries.html

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09309.html

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