HOW TO: Make your own "soft chew" dried fruit
Some of the big name supermarkets offer you what they call “soft chew” versions of many dried fruits. You will pay a significant price premium for these soft chew fruits.
They do look very appealing in their presentation packaging and are indeed significantly softer and tastier and easier to chew than most typical dried fruits. Regular dried fruit is often not all that good looking or tasting and can be very tough to chew or bite through.
The soft chew effect is the result of a much higher moisture content than what we are accustomed to with regular dried fruit.
We would like to give you a simple and easy way to create your own soft chew fruit from ordinary, much less expensive, dried fruit. This will significantly improve your enjoyment of most dried fruit.
The dried fruit most suitable to the soft chew process is the diced (chopped) versions. The smaller pieces are easier to manage to get the result you desire. If you are going to be ordering dried fruit for snacking purposes, we suggest you try the diced versions.
The diced fruits often also costs a lot less than halves or larger pieces. That having been said, virtually any dried fruit will work, it does not have to be diced.
To get to the exact degree of chewiness you like may take a bit of experimenting, however our process works and delivers very good results. Softer fruits like pears require much shorter soaking than tougher fruits such as cling peaches.
You will need:
Bowl which is large enough to contain twice the quantity of fruit you wish to process
Strainer or sieve
Baking tray or mesh tray
Clock or timer (optional)
Lemon juice (optional)
Place the fruit in the bowl.
Pour water into the bowl, enough to cover the fruit entirely plus about 1cm more.
Add about 5ml of the lemon juice per cup of fruit pieces.
Set timer to 30mins
After 30mins remove a few pieces and lightly pat dry with dishcloth. Taste for texture and chewiness. If the outside is going soggy, it is time to remove the fruit from the water. If not, allow to soak for 15mins more and check again. Keep adding 15mins at a time until the outside of the fruit begins to go soggy.
When you have reached this stage, transfer the fruit to the sieve and allow to drain completely. This will take at least 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t like the taste of the lemon juice you can now also rinse the fruit to get rid of it, however the lemon juice will help to preserve the fruit.
Place the fruit onto the dishcloth and spread open. Allow to drain for a further 15 to 30 mins.
The more water you get rid of with the above 2 steps, the better the end result will be so don’t rush.
Transfer the fruit to the baking tray or mesh and spread open into a single layer of fruit. Ensure you leave no fruit clumping together.
Cover with flyscreen and leave to dry. The time required will be determined by 2 factors. The climate and your taste preferences.
If you live in an area with low humidity (the interior of the country) a couple of hours may be enough. If you live near the coast or other area with higher humidity you will need to dry for longer.
If the above sounds like a lot of effort it is only the case the first time you do this. Once you have the result you like, just note the amount of soaking and drying time for each type of fruit and you’re set for the next time!
When you have the process optimised the result will be fruit that is virtually dry to the touch but soft on the inside. The pieces will also be significantly larger and heavier because of the water they have absorbed. As soon as you bite into a piece you will really appreciate and enjoy the difference !
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