DRIED AND EVAPORATED FRUIT. The great industry of drying and evapo rating has made a diet of domestic fruit possible the year round irrespective of cli mate and season. It is also possible to sell the product at prices within the reach of all classes of people, because of the cheapness of the process and the lower cost of trans portation per pound of actual food, as a result of the elimination of the bulk of the water which forms so large a percentage of both fresh and canned fruits.
The comparative merits of the open-air "drying" and the indoor "evaporating" processes hinge entirely upon the matter of climate. In California, open-air drying is almost universally employed, as the sections of the state where fruit is dried are practically free from rain and excessive mo'sture during the drying season. In nearly every other part of the United States, the evaporating process has entirely superseded open-air drying for commercial purposes and has resulted in fruit that keeps better and consequently commands a higher price than sun-dried fruit from the same localities.
In drying peaches, apricots and similar fruits they are first cleaned and cut, then placed cup-side up on wooden trays about three by seven feet in size and given a pre liminary sulphur bath to sterilize them, before the trays are placed in the sun to dry. In good weather, five or six days are sufficient for thorough curing. The fruit is finally graded and packed in boxes and bags of various sizes.
Evaporation. The history of the evaporating process begins about 1868. Two years later Charles Alden patented tower form, known as the Alden Process, which temporarily achieved great popularity. Since that time many machines have entered the market, and it is said that in Wayne County, N. Y., alone, more than 2,000 small evapo rators are used on the farms. The system most in favor now among the larger packers consists of a slat floor with a furnace underneath, the fruit being spread thickly on the floor and dried by the heat rising through it. The newest method is by means of steam pipes running back and forth through the chamber of the evaporator. The advo cates of this process claim that the heat is more evenly distributed and the temperature more uniform, avoiding all danger of scorching the fruit.
In order to secure the best results of evaporation it is necessary to run the tempera ture as high as possible without injury to the fruit and to keep the air in rapid circular tion throughout the chamber. It is under these conditions that the slight chemical
changes in perfectly evaporated fruit take place—the albumen, instead of being slowly dried, is coagulated and greatly assists in the preservation of the fruit with the richness and flavor it possessed in its natural state. After the trays are removed from the evapo rator, the fruit is put into bins where it is stirred occasionally and allowed to remain until it has passed through the sweating process. Next comes the grading, by appear ance, quality, etc.
Apples are generally peeled, cored and sliced by special machines before being passed to the evaporator. Pears and peaches are usually cut in halves and evaporated with or without being peeled.
The cores and skins are evaporated separately, but in the same way as the fruit. When properly cured, they possess commercial value in home and foieign markets for the manufacture of jellies and vinegar.
• Standards, etc. Much trouble formerly arose from the lack of a standard of dry ness in evaporated fruit. A bushel of green apples, for example, weighs about 50 lbs. and should make 7 or 8 lbs. of white stock and 4 lbs. of waste—five-sixths of the fruit being water. Apples when thoroughly dried still contain about 25% of water, but many lots were formerly sent to market containing 30 to 35%—being only half dried, they molded, discolored and fermented or soured. The present food law fixes as the limit, which has practically eliminated that particular trouble—to the great advantage of the industry as a whole.
During the Summer months and in warm climates generally, dried fruit is best kept in cold storage. If in good condition when put in, it will maintain its quality, flavor, etc., for a long time. If held in stores where it is exposed to dampness, it is liable to sour or become moldy.
Preparation for the Table. In preparing dried or evaporated fruits such as apples and peaches for the table, the best results are attained by cooking slowly for several hours at a temperature just below the boiling point, enough water being added at first to cover the fruit. Every package of dried fruit should bear printed directions for making pies and for other forms of cooking, as very few housewives know how to use it to the best advantage.
See also articles on APPLES (dried), DATES, FIGS, PRUNES, RAISINS, etc.