Drying fruit is a great way to preserve it to enjoy all year round. While you can use a specialty food dehydrator, your smoker can easily be re-purposed to remove moisture from fruit. In addition, your smoker will infuse the fruit with a delightful smoky flavor that you can't get from a food dehydrator.
Choose a fruit that dehydrates well. Apples, bananas, pears, pineapple, figs and dates are all suitable for drying. Stone fruits like apricots, cherries, nectarines and peaches are also excellent for dehydrating.
Prepare your fruit for smoking. Thoroughly wash each piece. Remove any pits or seeds and cut large pieces of fruit into slices to encourage faster dehydration. Some fruit can turn brown once dried, but you can prevent this by dipping the fruit in a solution of water and citric acid or ascorbic acid, more commonly known as vitamin C. Dissolve 2 1/2 tablespoons of ascorbic acid or one teaspoon of citric acid into one quart of cold water, then submerge the fruit in the solution for 10 minutes.
Prepare your smoker as you would normally, maintaining a temperature between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures can cause the fruit to spoil, while higher temperatures will cook the fruit instead of drying it. To encourage the fruit to dry, do not add water to your smoker's water pan. Select a wood to complement the fruit, like cherry.
Arrange the fruit on the grate of your smoker, making sure that no pieces overlap. You can leave the smoker's door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape and encourage dehydration.
Allow the fruit to smoke until dehydrated. Check for dryness by removing a few pieces from the smoker and cooling them to room temperature; the fruit is ready when it is leathery and bends easily. You can check the fruit's doneness while it is still warm by squeezing it in your hand; adequately dried fruit won't leave excess moisture on your hand. Smoking times can vary greatly depending on the size and type of fruit. Thin apple slices, for example, require only about five hours of smoking, while peach halves can take up to 24 hours before they're ready.
Transfer the fruit to an large, sealed container for conditioning. Conditioning is a process of evenly distributing any leftover moisture among the fruit pieces to prevent spoilage. To condition smoked fruit, fill a large glass or plastic container about 2/3 with fruit. Store the fruit in a warm, well-ventilated area for four to 10 days, shaking the container daily to prevent the fruits from sticking to one another. If condensation occurs on the inside of the container, it is not yet ready and should be transferred back to the smoker until it is adequately dried.
Store cooled, dried fruit in a clean, sealed container, like a canning jar. Place the container in a cool, dry, dark place. Smoked, dried fruit will keep for up to a year, depending on the storage temperature. Fruit stored at cooler temperatures will keep longer than those stored at warmer temperatures. The USDA recommends storing dried fruit at or below 50 F.
Items you will need
- Citric or ascorbic acid (optional)
- Wood chips
- Glass or plastic container
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