Oven-dried strawberries make a delicious, portable and healthy snack. Although they’re often dried in a dehydrator, you can get an equally great result with your oven.
You can make shelf-stable, oven-dried strawberries much like the freeze-dried strawberries NASA has sent to the moon with astronauts.
Choose locally grown and dry a bunch of them while they are in peak season.
Drying food only minimally affects its nutritional value. Most research has been on foods that were commercially dried.
When you dry foods at home under gentle conditions (correct temperature and a reasonable drying period) you produce a high-quality nutrient-rich food. (source: Sproutman’s Kitchen Garden Cookbook: 250 flourless, Dairyless, Low Temperature, Low Fat, Low Salt, Living Food Vegetarian Recipes by Steve Meyerowitz).
Wash the strawberries. Cut the green leafy part off and cut each berry in half. Lay the halves cut side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure to space your berries out so there’s lots of room for air to flow through.
Place the sheets of strawberries in the oven and dry them at 200°F for 3 hours (or experiment with 170° – if your oven goes that low – for a longer period). You may want to flip them over halfway through especially if you have hot spots in your oven. It’s best to make oven-dried strawberries during a day you will be home all day, like on a weekend.
Lest I forget to mention, a side benefit of dehydrating strawberries is the wonderful aroma that fills the house. Mouth watering…
Cool the dried fruit
You won’t know if the strawberry pieces are completely dehydrated until they’ve cooled (you know how cookies crisp up after you take them out of the oven? Same way with dried fruit). Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Let the strawberries cool at room temperature for 20 minutes.
After the cooling off period, break one of the pieces of fruit in half. There should be no visible moisture on the inside. The pieces should be somewhere between chewy and crisp like dried cranberries, figs, or raisins.
‘Condition’ the dried strawberries
Even after the strawberries are correctly dehydrated there may still be some remaining moisture in the fruit you can’t feel.
That little bit of moisture shouldn’t keep the fruit from being safely preserved and mold-free, but you will have a better tasting and keeping product if you do what is known as ‘conditioning’.
Put the dried, cooled strawberry pieces into glass jars filled only about 2/3 full. Seal the jars. Shake the jars a couple of times a day for 4-5 days. If any condensation shows up on the sides of the jars, your fruit still isn’t dried well enough and it needs to go back into the oven at 200F for another 30 to 60 minutes.
Once your dried strawberries are once again cool, store them in airtight containers away from direct light or heat. I prefer to use glass food-storage containers or canning jars instead of plastic. Go ahead and fill the jars to the top this time.
Healthy, cheap and easy dried fruit. No junk additives.
Obviously, they taste fabulous dipped in my Nutella. (See my recipe).
And for you moms, be sure to send your young astronauts off with a snack of dried strawberries and tell them you love them to the moon and back!
Thanks for reading!