Is your dried fruit ready for pantry storage? Use this simple test called “conditioning” to make sure that all the moisture is removed.
We all love the taste of dried strawberries, mango, fig, or pineapple. Many of these fruits are tastiest when they are pliable, not dry to the point of brittleness. In fact, you probably prefer to eat your dried fruit without rehydrating it, preserving this exquisite punch of flavor.
Drying fruit to this stage leaves a soft center that is open to retaining too much moisture and encourages short shelf life. If you are planning to eat that batch of strawberries in the next few weeks, conditioning is not needed. If you are drying and storing for long-term storage, a conditioning process must happen to make the fruit ready.
For the purposes of this post, short-term pantry storage is defined as having any food in the cupboards for up to 3 months, so if you are going to make a batch of dehydrated fruit and expect to eat it in the next few weeks or months, conditioning is not needed.
If you are not sure how long you’ll have it, or if you know you are making it for long-term storage (3 months to 1 year), it’s better to be safe and condition the food. Why waste all your money and hard work?
What is Conditioning Fruit?
If you want to prevent mold growth in long-term storage, conditioning is the process you must take to evenly distribute the moisture that is present in the dried fruit.
In general, fruits are dry when they do not stick together and no beads of moisture form when they are squeezed together. Fruit that is properly dried will have about 20% moisture. That can be hard to obtain evenly in the home dehydrator, and some pieces will have more than 20% moisture, there is no sure way to test at home.
Other pieces may have less moisture because of the size of slices or their location in the dehydrator. To make sure that moisture is evenly distributed throughout the dried fruit, conditioning is necessary. It reduces the chance of spoilage and mold growth.
How to Condition Dehydrated Fruit Before Storage
To condition, loosely pack the room temperature, dried fruit into plastic or glass containers, leaving enough room to stir or shake the contents; about two-thirds full. Cover the containers tightly.
Shake the containers daily for about 4 to 7 days. If this food will go into long-term storage, it should be conditioned for a minimum of a week before being packaged.
The excess moisture in some pieces will be absorbed by the drier pieces. If you notice water or condensation forming on the container side or lid, place the fruit back in the dehydrator for further processing.
If you are using a bowl, stir the contents to bring the moist pieces in contact with the dry pieces. This will evenly distribute the moisture throughout the batch.
If using a cloth bag, hang it in a convenient location and shake the bag daily to redistribute food and moisture.
Containers to Use for Conditioning Fruit
The container you choose should be easy to handle and sturdy enough to be tossed about. Store the open containers in a warm dry area free of insects and animals.
- Glass or enamel bowl covered with plastic wrap
- A pot is fine so long as it is stainless steel
- Plastic zip top bags
- Glass jars with lids
- Clear, plastic food grade containers with lids
- A cloth bag (low humidity locations only)
Luckily, there is little that can go wrong.
- Humidity will affect this process, so if you live in a humid climate, your conditioning should be done in a closed glass or plastic container.
- Don’t use an aluminum container when you are drying fruits, it will react with the acid in them.
- Wood bowls are not a good idea, because they are porous and can retain moisture.
- If the food has started to mold it must be disposed of.
Do Dehydrated Vegetables Need to be Conditioned Before Storage?
Nope. Vegetables should be dried until they are brittle with about 10 percent moisture. Some vegetables would actually pass the hammer test and shatter if they were hit. Because their centers become so dry, they do not need conditioning like fruit.
There you have it, make sure your dried food is ready for long-term storage by giving it a week of conditioning before you put it away. Later this year, when you go to open a package, you’ll be rewarded with the same excellent product you created months ago.