To dry or dehydrate grapes or other fruit in a solar oven is a useful method of preserving excess produce.
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables using sunshine is not unique to our generation. History is full of references of ancient civilizations, including our own Native American cultures, using the sun to preserve food. When my mother was a young girl in rural America in the 1930’s, it was the custom to spread a clean sheet out on the rooftop of the house and lay the prepared fruits and vegetables out to dry on the sheet. It was her job to sit and mind the fruit – to scare away birds, squirrels, and insects, and to turn the fruit regularly.
Today, we no longer have to spread sheets on the rooftops and post our children on sentry duty to guard against birds. There are plenty of commercially available electric dehydrators on the market. But using a solar oven or homemade solar dehydrator will save on your electricity bill, keep your house cool, and be available even if the power goes out. Whether you use an electric dehydrator or a solar oven the method is basically the same. I used the All American Sun Oven to dehydrate my grapes because it comes with dehydrator racks. I tried to line the racks with parchment paper, but it just kept sliding off. So I just lined the bottom of the solar oven to catch drips instead. Then I placed the grapes on the racks, but the grapes kept rolling off the tray when I tried to pick it up. So eventually I just turned the racks over and used them upside down. This way there were sides on the rack to keep my grapes from misbehaving. Of course, you could leave the grapes on the stem and remove them later, but I didn’t think of that at the time.
I left the latches open and used them to prop up the lid, just a little bit. I turned the oven slightly, but not directly, into the sun so that the oven would heat enough to dry the fruit, but not hot enough to cook it. It took more than one day to fully dehydrate the grapes. In the evening, I simply closed and latched the glass lid to protect the fruit from bugs and dewy morning dampness. And in the end, we had beautiful, delicious raisins.
How To Dehydrate Grapes
- Part of the beauty of dehydrating your own raisins, it that you can use any grape that you have. Start with fresh, plump seedless red or green grapes. Make sure the grapes are not blemished, bruised, or too soft.
- Wash the grapes. Remove the stems if desired or leave on the stem and remove later.
- Place them on a rack that allows the air to circulate around the grapes.
- Place the grapes in a solar oven, but do not latch the lid down tight. Leave the lid slightly open to allow the air to circulate and the moisture to evaporate.
- Place the solar oven out in the sunshine. Keep the oven focused into the sun enough to raise, and keep, the oven temperature between 110° – 150°F.
- Rotate the trays and turn the fruit if necessary to allow the food to dehydrate evenly.
- The fruit will take 2-3 days to fully dehydrate. Remove the fruit when it is dried, but still pliable.
Good for snacking or adding to recipes, fresh, soft, home dehydrate grapes or raisins won’t last long. So better make a big batch.
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