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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Making raisins

With such an abundance of grapes this year -- but not to the point where we can consider making wine -- I was tasked with processing the fruit.


I decided to make grape juice and raisins (stand by for a future post on grape juice). I've never made raisins before, but we use a fair bit of them, so I was eager to give it a try.

I started with the green Himrod grapes. A few of the grapes had already "raisin-ified" on their own, but I wanted a bit more control over the process.


I sat down and started picking through grapes, selecting only the best for the dehydrator.


Any grapes that didn’t pass inspection – too squishy, too flawed, whatever – went into a separate bowl to be fed to Mr. Darcy, for whom grapes were a marvelous discovery.


That is, until our alert Younger Daughter mentioned in an email that grapes are toxic to dogs. Holy cow, she probably saved Mr. Darcy's life! I was completely unaware of this. Okay, no more grapes for Mr. Darcy.

I used the fine mesh strainer in the dehydrator so no raisins would fall through the cracks.


Each tray held three-quarters of a pound of grapes, or 4.5 lbs. for all six trays.


I like to put the dehydrator in a room where I can shut the door, since it tends to be noisy.


I set it at 135F for 24 hours.


But 24 hours later, the grapes were nowhere near raisin status.


Baffled, I reset the dehydrator for a few more hours. And then a few more. And then a few more. By the time the grapes had turned into raisins, they'd been in the dehydrator for a full 48 hours.



This was discouraging, especially since the 4.5 lbs. of grapes only created one pound of raisins.


Was it worth the cost of running the dehydrator for two solid days to produce one pound of raisins? Sadly, I concluded it was not.

Until I tasted one.

It was one of those eye-widening moments. The taste of these homegrown and homemade raisins was unbelievably better than the store-bought ones.

Okay, there had to be a better way. This time I took the precaution of consulting my beloved food preservation bible, Putting Food By. Duh, I should have done that to start with.


The book recommended dipping the grapes in boiling water for about 30 seconds to "check" (open) the skins, then immediately cooling them.

So I started a second batch of raisins, this time using the sweeter red Canadice grapes. I had a lot more of this variety, and planned to juice most of it, but spared 4.5 lbs. for another batch of raisins.


Here's the boiling-water bath.


After dipping the grapes in cold water, I spread them on the dehydrator sheets.


Back in the dehydrator for another round.


This time it still took longer than 24 hours, but considerably shorter than 48 -- perhaps 30 hours total.


So is it worthwhile making our own raisins? We crunched some numbers for just the cost of electricity (not counting other stuff like my time growing the grapes, processing the grapes, etc.), and it came to $4.10 total, or $2.05 in electricity per pound of grapes. (This is based on 750 watts the dehydrator used for 78 hours of running time at $0.07/kWh we spend on electricity.) So you decide.

But one thing's for sure, these are the best durn raisins I've ever had.


I'm all for making more next year.

17 comments:

  1. Did you prefer the green to the red? Grapes are on our list for next year, and I am having a hard time deciding on what to plant.

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    1. Both varieties were wonderful for fresh eating, and made excellent raisins. When it came to making juice, however, I found the red grapes just a bit too sweet and preferred the taste of the green grape juice.

      - Patrice

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  2. We fed our first dachshund grapes with no ill effects, but the "experts" say not to.

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    1. Whatever it is about grapes/raisins that causes problems for dogs isn't understood yet. There are quite a few people, like you, who report having a dog who ate grapes/raisins their whole lives with no problems. And quite a few where the dog ate a small handful of grapes/raisins and died. I personally suspect that whatever the toxin is varies depending on the variety of grape, and possibly even where it was grown. And it might depend on whether the dog has a predisposition for the problem or not.

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  3. On a whim, I put store bought grapes in the dehydrator. I know raisins are grapes, but I was ecstatic that I had "made" raisins. Friends laughed at my wonderment. They were so delicious. I say--dehydrate them.

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  4. Patrice~ I've found that poking the grapes with a knife or even a cherry pitter works preparing them for dehydrating. It takes about 24 hours depending on the size. My Husband of 40 years HATED raisins with a passion until he tried some of my home dried raisins. He will eat these as they do not remind him of eating bugs. Red

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  5. Before we left California, I had several gallon bags of grapes that I had frozen (a yummy treat on a hot day). Since I could not move frozen grapes, I made raisins. They were so much better than store-bought. I know that running a dehydrator is not the most economical thing to do, oh, but the taste.

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  6. Oh, I did poke them with a knife to help them dry and not case harden.

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  7. You gave me a heart attach when I read you fed Mr. Darcy grapes! My mother-in-law fed our dog grapes when she lived with us and I didn't know she was doing it until the poor dog had severe diarrhea. I rushed her to the vet and they had me take her directly to the intensive care vet in town. They tested her for renal failure and kept her for three days. That was one expensive vet bill but she was worth it. I had put the grapes out for my MIL to snack on. She had Alzheimer's so explaining not to share wasn't an option. We kept no grapes, chocolate, macadamia nuts (and all the other no-no's for dogs) out of the house after that incident. I am so glad your daughter warned you! Darcy is a large dog and our dog was small. I'm sure that made a big difference.

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  8. Grapes are dangerous for dogs to eat. They can cause kidney damage. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/people-foods-avoid-feeding-your-pets

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  9. I have come to the conclusion that some things are worth the extra expense. It is up to me to figure out how much extra I am willing to pay. I learned this just as you did; dehydrating my garden harvest. Some things are worth it! I think I would find it worth it with raisins as my younger girls love them and I would know where they are coming from.

    Speaking of grapes, does anyone know what is causing my grape leaves to turn a coppery color? I transplanted it a few months ago and it turned this coppery color quickly. I’m not sure if I should pull the plant and start over again next year. It’s my first year trying to grow this fruit!

    - Ouida Gabriel

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  10. Wow ,I think of my old Labrador who would go out in the garden and carefully pick ripe grapes and raspberries with her soft muzzle.She made it to age 17 so I guess she never ate too many.

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  11. Very interesting and that's a great tip on using boiling water.

    This pragmatic prepper loved the math. Incidentally 45 States have higher electric rates than Idaho, many having rate more than double yours.
    Montana Guy

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  12. We pay $0.12/kWh. That is on top of a $35.00/mo basic fee plus $10.00/mo for the required yard light. Seven cents was last century! Last I knew Hawaii had the highest rates. Natokadn

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  13. Oh, my word, I hope I'm not too late to ask this question. What is a good brand of food dehydrator to get?

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    1. There are endless brands of dehydrators on the market, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive, so what kind to get depends on how much you think you'll use it. Dehydrating is my secondary choice for food preservation (canning is my first choice), so I bought a Presto Digital Electric Dehydrator (model 06301) for the very reasonable price of $65. I also purchased extra accouterments (nonstick mesh screens and extra fruit roll sheets). With shipping, my total came to just under $100. I can recommend it, it’s been terrific.

      - Patrice

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  14. Please do not feed Mr.Darcy grapes or raisins. They will cause renal failure in dogs. I lost one of mine to this because we did not know any better.

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