Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Raisin Experiments

Things have been rather hot and steamy here in the Bay Area as we are experiencing a bit of a late summer heat wave. During this time, I have been scaling back the canning because it is no fun in the heat to stand over bubbling pots of hot liquids. I decided to try my hand at drying grapes into raisins. I love fresh raisins from the farmer's market, but often times I just cannot justify the expensive price tag. I thought that perhaps I could get similar results at home with my dehydrator as the grapes dried in the sun.

After a good washing, I decided to follow the guide book and blanch the grapes in boiling water. My dehydration book suggested a three minute dip in the water, but I think this was just too much. The skins of the grapes split open and the flesh started cooking. I think the next time I make raisins I will just not blanch them and see what color loss I have. The split skins made for a sticky finished product.

From there the grapes had to be plucked off of their stems and placed onto the drying sheets. This was made a bit harder due to not only the split skins but the searing heat the grapes retained long after being taken out of the water bath. The nice thing about making my own raisins though is that I can make sure there are no little pieces of stem still attached to the finished product. Nothing is more annoying than eating oatmeal or a cookie or other baked item and finding stems in your food.

The grapes were rather large, so the estimated drying time was quite off. It took nearly a full day for them to dry rather than the 10 hours the books predicted. There were also some still way too hydrated to store, so I just ate them immediately. I am not sure which type we are going to like better. The flame grapes have an almost candy like flavor and texture to them. It is more similar to a date rather than a raisin. I also love their bright pinkish purple color.

The black grapes look and taste more like commercially produced grapes. The biggest problem with them is the size. They were not dry for quite some time, and they also were quite sticky due to the split skins. They are, however, the nice dark color that grapes generally have. I will have to stir some into oatmeal soon to determine if I like them better. If I do, I will be buying end of the day grapes for the dehydrator soon.

I could not leave the canning completely behind. I did do a small batch of Brittany apricot jam yesterday. It was a hot job even in the morning. From there it was on to reorganizing the sewing room. There is a lot of sorting and putting away to be done after the big "renovation" that I did. I had to make room for the new computerized cutter, so furniture was cleared off and moved around the room. I like the new layout of the room much better than any of the other incarnations. The computer is now easier to use as the glare from the windows is no longer a factor, and the sewing table is closer to the windows for some much needed natural light. Now I just need to sort through all these little odds and ends that I have wanted to organize for some time. I think this requires a trip to the store for some organizational bins, my biggest weakness. There is a mess to clean and new software to learn. If you don't hear from me for a while it is because I am cutting up a storm with the new cutter!

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