by Tammy Taylor
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I recently wrote about stumbling upon an overgrown orchard at an old homestead property we obtained. The extension agent and master naturalists identified the trees as Jujube, the fruit is also known as Japanese Dates. I read that the fruit can be dehydrated and used in the place of raisins. This really appeals to me as I’d love to replace something I purchase with something I preserve myself. I experimented with several methods of preserving this sweet fruit.
The fruit itself is small, about the size of a large olive. And each fruit contains a sharp pit, pointed on both ends. In researching different ways to preserve them I found that the preferred method was either by making into Jujube butter or by dehydrating. My preference is dehydration. I can use the sweet dehydrated fruit the same as I currently do with raisins as a natural sweetener in my homemade Pumpkin Granola and in desserts. So I set out to find the easiest way to dehydrate.
I took some of the whole washed fruits and cut several slits lengthwise to accommodate even drying through the skins and placed them in my *solar oven dehydrator.
While this method wasn’t difficult, holding these tiny fruits while trying to slice the somewhat-tough skin was just asking for trouble with my occasionally-clumsy hands. What else could I try… I decided to try to slice the fruit away from the pit and then chop the resulting slices to allow them to dehydrate in raisin-like sizes. This was much safer, but very time consuming.
Humm… Those skins appear to be just a little tough as they dry, how can I make that less of an issue? Next I attempted to grate these tiny fruits away from the pit. This was even more time consuming, but I think yielded my most preferred results.
Since my solar-oven dehydrator was busy dehydrating the whole fruits, I simply grated several of the fruits onto some parchment paper and placed the tray in the oven, turned the oven on for about one minute and turned it back off. I repeated that step maybe 2-3 times to keep the oven lightly warm and then left the tray in the oven overnight to finish dehydrating.
I like the texture of the grated dehydrated fruits the best. The sweetness of the fruit really comes through and the texture to me is similar to toasted coconut – lightly crunchy on the outside yet still pliable. This will be the PERFECT accompaniment to my granola. But there had to be an easier way!
In asking for suggestions from Facebook friends someone SO MUCH SMARTER than me suggested using a cherry pitter. Now WHY didn’t I think of that? I have an very inexpensive pitter I bought last year from a thrift store in anticipation of having wild plums this year (sadly there were none due to continued drought) I pulled out the pitter and started processing the fruits with it. Those sharp pits exiting the pitter were pretty rough on fingers sometimes but this method let me go through many fruits much faster than the other methods.
I put the pitted fruits on a oven-proof tray. The same oven dehydration method as the grated fruits above was used. When they had semi-dried I placed the fruits in a blender to chop everything up uniformly. Then I spread them again on the tray to finish dehydrating. Although I love the shredded fruits the best, this offers a very good option. Much less time was needed hovering over tiny fruits trying to separate fruit & pit.
All in all I was pretty pleased with the taste & texture of all the different methods except the whole fruits – I think in my quest to make sure they would not have moisture to mold in storage I over dried them and they are a little harder than I like, but I know I can reconstitute them with water & still be able to use them.
I’ll be harvesting these fruits and dehydrating every year from now on – I’m totally in love with them. Bon Apetit!
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