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About Dried Fruit: Dried Fruit & Its Uses

Dried fruit is widely used in baking, confectionery, breakfast cereals and manufacturing, adding a combination of sweetness and moisture. Christmas is traditionally the most popular time to enjoy dried fruit, in mincemeat, puddings, cakes and pies. It is, however, a fruit for all seasons, as dried fruit in breads, tea scones and biscuits are enjoyed all year round. Dried fruits are also increasingly favoured in savoury recipes and the ever popular Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. The versatility of dried fruit means it can be used to make a tasty sauce, mixed, chopped, plumped in juice, alcohol, milk and even tea! It can be eaten any time of the day; from sweetening a breakfast cereal, pepping up a lunch time salad, or adding bite to a dinner dish with its sweet or sharp flavours and chewy or fleshy textures. It even makes a healthy snack - an alternative natural sweetener full of vitamins and minerals.

STORING DRIED FRUIT

Dried fruits are naturally resistant to spoilage and with care will keep for months. Air and heat can cause the fruit to dry and harden, so it is necessary to keep unopened packages in cool, dry places at temperatures below 70 F. Open fruit should be kept in airtight containers, such as glass jars. If in humid conditions it may be necessary to refrigerate. Dried fruit can also be stored in the freezer for long periods of time and will thaw quickly at room temperature.

"WE'VE COME A LONG WAY"

Our grandmothers and great grandmothers had the unenviable task of laboriously preparing the dried fruit before they could use it: Vine fruits were often bought in a semi-processed state, and always require thorough picking and cleaning before consumption. In addition, large Lexias and Muscat raisins required halving and stoning, and dates, for culinary use, need stoning and chopping. Today it is a different story. Modern technology has meant that grapes used for drying are cleaned at source before being imported into the UK. This generation of housewives would be horrified at the idea of having to pick and seed unwashed vine fruits as part of preparation for a recipe - it probably hasn't even occurred to many cooks that they are in fact using dried grapes grown in fields when using sultanas, raisins and currants! Nowadays, even dates can be purchased ready stoned and chopped - the only preparation needed is that of opening the bag!

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