Perhaps it is just me but apricots look like little baby bottoms. When I saw the display of apricots at my local produce stand, I first thought of bottoms and then second of my little sister eating dried apricots.
When my sister was young she was a very picky eater. She wouldn’t eat anything that tasted “yucky”. None of the different foods on her plate were allowed to touch. There must be strict divisions between each food group. The noodles couldn’t interact with the chicken and the corn couldn’t even be anywhere near the shake ‘n’ bake pork chops. (This strange habit seems to run in the family, several years ago I saw my grandfather divide up his evening meal and proclaimed that foods should not touch each other.) My parents were very patient with my sister, carefully dividing all of her meals to eliminate the chance of a screeching tantrum. Divided plates were common in our house. Every once and awhile she would go on a hunger strike, like many little tots do. The only thing she would eat was dried apricots: the magical dehydrated fruit.
It really baffles me to this day.
As anyone who has been on a mono-food diet for a day or two knows, problems occur when a child only consumes dried fruit; Baby bottom problems.
So I lovingly think of my sister (who is now a very good eater) whenever I see apricots.
First, obtain apricots from a store or produce stand or if you are lucky from your own tree. The great thing with dehydrating is that you can make batches of any size, from just a few fruit to several dozen. The apricots should be soft but not mushy and have a peachy color. Next, wash the fruit and remove any dirt, stems and leaves. Then cut the apricots in half rotating the fruit around the top-bottom axis. Hold each half in separate hands and twist gently to split the sides in half just like an Oreo cookie. After that remove the pit and cut each piece in half again so you have apricot quarters.
Pre-treat the fruit by soaking the apricots in lemon juice or a commercial ascorbic acid mixture. Lemon juice can sometimes discolor fruit but it is common to have around the kitchen. I use Ball’s Fruit-Fresh following the recommended directions and soaking for five minutes.
Next, arrange the apricot quarters on the dehydrator racks with the skin side down to prevent sticking. Stuck dried fruit is very frustrating. I know from experience. I have a Nesco Dehydrator that I have used a few times in the past to make banana chips and dried apple slices. Nesco recommends drying apricots at 135° F (58° C) for 8 to 16 hours. The time difference depends on the thickness of the fruit. It is better to dry them longer rather then not allowing enough time to remove all the water. It is very disappointing to return a few days later to find your dried items covered in mold.
Dehydrating can be difficult in the summer because the dehydrator throws off a lot of heat. So either wait for a relatively cooler day (which is every other day in the Seattle area), or do like my grandmother from Boise, Idaho and put the dehydrator on the outside porch. If you are not lucky enough to have a porch electrical outlet, I recommend running an extension cord.
The fruit will be done when enough moisture has been removed to preserve it. To test for this remove an apricot piece and let it cool. It shouldn’t feel sticky or brittle. Rip the piece in half and pinch it between your fingers. If no moisture comes out, it is done. Enjoy it immediately or store in an air tight container placed in a dark, cool location.