Want a healthier snack? If you’ve got organic grapes, learn how easy it is to make your own organic raisins in the oven, solar oven or dehydrator.
For more DIYs be sure to check out our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. With 400 pages of homesteading information, challenges and projects, presented on four different levels of homesteading experience, you’re bound to find something of interest! Learn more below:
Why Make Your Own Organic Raisins
If you’re concerned about the snack foods you and your kids are eating, learning how to dehydrate your own organic small fruits is a great idea. Once you’ve mastered raisins and apricots, you’ll be ready to learn how to make kale chips and jerky, too! In fact, right after you master raisins, you may want to learn to make your own fruit leather. To do that, click here.
Raisins are easy to incorporate into a wide range of healthy foods. From rice pudding to trail mix to cookies, raisins are naturally sweet and flavorful. They’re perfect for little hands that need an after school snack. By the way, if you end up with some fresh grapes leftover, make this Grape Coffee Cake with Crumble Topping as a special breakfast for the kiddos.
Can I Make Raisins Without a Dehydrator?
Of course! Dehydrators are special units designed to slowly and effectively remove the moisture from food to make it safe for storage. Their special temperature regulators allow them to dehydrate foods at lower temperatures to prevent over-drying, scorching and burning.
In an Oven
However, you can achieve very similar results in a conventional oven set on its lowest temperature (usually around 170 degrees). The only real drawback to using your oven is that you have to check on your dehydrating foods constantly to keep them from over-drying. Using a timer set to go off every half hour to twenty minutes can be a real help if your making organic raisins in your oven.
Also, use the convection setting, if there is one, to circulate the air better. Be sure to toss your raisins every time you check on them to rotate them.
In a Solar Oven
You can also use a solar oven to make raisins. Because of the sometimes robust nature of grapes, dehydrating raisins in a solar oven can produce mixed results with “done-ness”. If you’re ever unsure about whether or not your raisins are truly dehydrated, store them in the refrigerator and eat them within a month.
The most important thing to remember when using your solar oven to dry fruit is to vent the lid to allow the wet air to escape.
To learn to use your solar oven to dehydrate fruit, you can generally follow the instructions found here.
Sourcing Grapes for Organic Raisins
Grow Your Own
The first thing you’re going to need are organic grapes. The easiest way to ensure the quality of your grapes is to grow them yourself. Grapes are wonderful to grow in the backyard because they fruit within two to three years. By comparison, a fruit tree takes about three to five years to come into production.
Grapes are relatively simple to grow, too. To learn to do that, click here.
Requiring even water, good mulch and something to grow on, grapes are amongst the simplest food producing plants to grow. They do require pruning for fruit production, which makes them a little harder than something like a currant.
A Good Project for Kids
Not to beat a dead horse, but another great reason to grow your own grapes is that they make a good project for children. Kids can be taught to grow and even prune a grape vine. They can also be taught to process the grapes into raisins and even juice (click here to see that).
If you’d like your kids to have a “fruitful” job around the home and land, give them a few grape vines and some YouTube videos. Get them off their i-device and into the garden.
To help them keep track of all their garden projects (or yours), and to help them learn even more about what can grow in the garden, be sure to check out The Gardening Notebook below:
If you can’t grow them, another great place to find organic grapes are your local farmer’s markets and/or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture groups). If you can’t find certified organic grapes local to you, talk to your local growers about how they grow their grapes.
Organic certification is an expensive and lengthy process that not all growers can go through. However, their growing practices may be organic. They only way to know is to ask them and find out. Farmers love to talk about their product, so strike up a conversation and learn something!
To Make Organic Raisins from Fresh Grapes
For a quick overview of the raisin making process, please watch this short video. Afterwards, you can continue to read the instructions for more specifics about dehydrating grapes.
Preparation of Grapes
Amounts really don’t matter here so wash and de-stem as many grapes as you’d like to have organic raisins.
Cut or Pop?
Grapes will dehydrate better is they’ve either been cut in half, or popped. If they’re not at least punctured, they have a tendency to blow up like a balloon and/or dry funky.
I’ve tried it both ways and neither way was faster, to be honest. So, I’ll give you both directions.
Popping the Skins
- To pop the skins of your grapes, place them in a pot and cover them with water.
- Simmer them until the skins pop.
- Remove them from the heat and drain immediately.
- OR, you can simply give them a good squish between your fingers. This works well if the grapes are firm and newly harvested.
Cutting the Skins
You can also simply cut each grape in half. This took a little bit longer but I liked the results better.
I dehydrate my organic raisins on a “living foods”, or raw, setting. Consequently, I don’t like the idea of simmering my grapes to make raisins. However, both methods work just fine so do whatever you like best.
Dehydrating Organic Raisins
- Move each grape into place on the racks of your dehydrator or a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. This is something you need to be detail oriented about. The grapes should NOT be on top each other. I know it’s a pain to do double check if you’re doing a big batch. However, you’ll be so sad if you’ve finished your batch of organic raisins only to have them spoil a month later because there’s one, stinkin’ raisin that didn’t dry all the way because it was clinging to another one.
- Put the racks in your dehydrator and set to at least 135 F/57 C degrees for about 24 hours. Check them every now and then to see how they’re doing.
- If you’re dehydrating in an oven, set it as low as it will go. Vent the oven with a spoon if it wont go to at least 170 F/77 C degrees. Use the convection setting, if you have one. Stir often. This could take as few as six hours or as many as twelve.
- If you’re using your solar oven, vent the lid and check your raisins often. Plan for this process to take anywhere from two to twelve hours. To learn more about dehydrating fruit in a solar oven, please visit this article.
Storing Organic Raisins
Test your raisins for doneness before storing them. A trick that Shelle Wells taught me in her fine book Prepper’s Dehydrator Handbook is to place your finished product into a mason jar with a lid. If condensation forms on the glass, you’re product is too wet to store. If that happens, put them back in the dehydrator.
I seriously doubt your homemade, organic raisins will last even a month, but maybe you have more restraint than we do.
If you still have leftover grapes after making your own raisins, try this delicious grape coffee cake recipe: