Healthy and Delicious Dried Blueberries - Some Facts, Drying Tips and Recipes
Let's Talk Blueberries
Dried Blueberries have been around for a long time. Most people don’t think a lot about them and you’ll
seldom hear the subject discussed in stimulating conversation. If you ever do though, you can be an active participant after reading this article. There are things here that can mark you as knowledgeable on the topic. So read, learn and then show off your blueberry intelligence but don't forget to enjoy a generous helping of this healthy food, too.
The Difference Between Fresh Blueberries and Dried Blueberries
In short, fresh blueberries have more nutrients than dried. The process of dehydrating the berries decreases the level of water soluble vitamins, such as the B's and C. Makes sense, right? Don't let this information lead you to believe that there are no health benefits in eating dried blueberries, however. The dried version of this healthy fruit is a convenient way to increase your fruit intake and, like all blueberries, they are an excellent source of anthocyanins and phenolics, two powerful antioxidants. In fact, dried blueberries have four times the amount of antioxidants that the fresh ones do. That's thanks to the fact that the drying process concentrates some of the elements of fruits. They are also high in fibre and a quick source of energy.
Dried blueberries are great for baking, snacks and topping cereal - delicious and nutritious and really perfect for use in mini muffins and bagels. Actually, any recipe in which you do not want the berry to burst is generally a good application for the dehydrated version of the blueberry.
In the U.S.A., July is National Blueberry Month. Canada's is in August.
If properly stored, dried blueberries can last up to a year.
Different Drying Methods
Okay, this may be a dry subject (are you groaning?) but you may not know that there are a few different ways that blueberries are dried.
Hot Air Dehydration Method
I probably don't have to explain the basic methodology for this one. The berries are dehydrated using hot air to reduce the moisture content to about 18%. This procedure can be used on fresh or frozen blueberries, which are often treated with a sugar syrup first, resulting in a sweet, chewy finished product, similar to some types of raisins.
Air dried fruit is prepared in a variety of formats, such as diced or lightly oiled. You don't have to stick to the same old dried blueberries.
Be sure to store your air dehydrated berries in a cool, dry place.
Freeze Dried Method
Via flash freezing and a vacuum process, the berries are reduced to a mere 2% or less moisture content while retaining their original colour and shape. The weight of a freeze dried blueberry is only 10% of what it was when fresh.
It's also possible to buy sweetened freeze dried berries. These have the chewiness of raisins, similar to the sweetened dehydrated ones. Typically, they will have a 9 - 14% moisture content.
Cool, dry storage will ensure a long shelf life.
Sun Dried Method
This is a very natural way to dry fruit. Field drying blueberries takes two or three weeks, as they are left to dry on the vine or are picked and laid out between the plant rows. They retain about 15% of their original moisture content.
Infused Dehydrated Method
Fresh or frozen blueberries are infused with glucose syrup and/or fruit juice concentrate. This is done by soaking the fruit in whichever solution is being used. When the syrup or juice is fully absorbed, the process is completed with air drying to desired moisture level. The end result is a moist blueberry with a long shelf life.
It's best to keep these berries in a cool, dry location.
Make Your Own Dried Blueberries
Drying your own food is always satisfying, in my opinion. I used to have two food dehydrators and I love growing, harvesting and making my own seasonings, leathers and such. It's not difficult but drying times can be long, depending on the size and moisture content of the fruit.
- It's best to start with fresh, ripe berries that are at their peak and are free of spots, wrinkles or mold. You'll know that blueberries are ripe if they are the typical deep blue colour and have no red on them. Just pick through them to remove any that are imperfect.
- Rinse the blueberries in cool water. You're not just making sure they are clean, you are also getting rid of any pesticide residue. Some people prefer using the organic variety, which is grown in a pesticide-free environment but regular store bought will work fine as long as you give them a good rinsing.
- If you want, you can put the fruit into a bowl and add the juice of one lemon. Stir gently to coat the berries, then drain off the remaining juice.
- Spread the blueberries in a single, even layer in a food dehydrator tray. Dehydration time will depend on how dry you like them but should take at least 6 - 10 hours.
I had 2 dehydrators like this one.
An Alternative Recipe
I have not tried this recipe, however I can't see why it wouldn't work well.
- Choose and rinse fresh blueberries, as per #1 above.
- Blanch for 15 - 45 seconds, then plunge into cold water. The idea is to crack open the skins.
- Spread out the berries in a single layer. You have 3 different options for the actual drying:
- on a screen in the sun (won't work if humidity is high)
- in an oven set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60C)
- in a food dehydrator
If you use the screen or oven method, be sure to turn the berries now and again so that they dry evenly.
Store your homemade dried blueberries in an airtight container or ziploc bag in a cool, dry place.
Don't You Feel Smarter Now?
I hope this hub has armed you with enough information for you to impress folks during your next cocktail party. You know it, now you can flaunt it. If you really want to make an impression, take along a bag of dried blueberries to use as a lead into the conversation. Talk about a great learning tool! Don't get so busy sharing your new found knowledge that you forgot to grab a handful yourself.
Whether you eat dried blueberries because you like the flavour, want the super antioxidants or like the convenience of a fruit ready on the shelf, you can't go wrong with this delicious, nutritious fruit. Why not try experimenting with recipes and drying methods. Even if you prefer to buy them from a store, enjoy the benefits, convenience and taste.
© 2009 Shirley Anderson
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