Dried Cherries

Have I told you how much I love my dehydrator? I never thought I wanted one, until I borrowed a friend's last summer and discovered the wonders of drying stuff!

So far this summer, I've dehydrated strawberries and now a bunch of sweet cherries, both dark red and yellow. I think you can see in my photo the two different colors:

There are many great things about drying your excess freshly picked fruit. Dried fruit takes up a lot less space than fresh or frozen fruit. Although I do keep my dried fruit in the freezer, just in case there is a low level of moisture left which could cause mold to grow, several pounds of cherries was reduced to a small sandwich baggy of dried fruit. In addition, drying concentrates both the flavor and the sweetness. These cherries I picked at Larriland seemed very watery and lacking in sweetness, probably due to excessive rain during their ripening, but now that they are dried, the taste is much more intense.

In order to dry the cherries, I simply cut them in half and removed the pits. I say "simply" but in reality, this took a long time and my feet got very tired from standing and I whined to my husband who then took the rest of the cherries and pitted them for me. True story. I loaded them on the trays (all by myself!) with about a half inch of space all around them. I set the thermostat for 135F and let them dry for about 18 hours. This was the minimum amount of time suggested in my guide. I tend to like a tiny bit of moisture left in my dried fruit. Again, I store the finished product in the freezer to avoid the growth of mold.

What to do with dried cherries? You could use them in cookies, cakes, scones, pancakes, granola, hot oatmeal, ice cream, chicken salad, or any recipe that calls for raisins or dried cranberries. I plan to throw some into my next batch of turkey muffins.

If you are looking for cherries to pick, it is still cherry season here in Howard County, Maryland! Check out Larriland for opportunities to pick your own (www.pickyourown.com), or visit one of the Farmers' Markets for freshly picked sweet and tart cherries. Hurry, though! The season doesn't last long!