Why you should make your own raisins and how to do it with little more than grapes, a baking sheet, and your oven.
Why would anyone want to make raisins when they are so readily available to buy from the store? If you're an obsessive do-it-yourselfer, you know the answer. But if you need convincing, consider this:
• Store-bought raisins are fine, but very limited. When you make them at home you can choose the variety of grape and the texture – from dry and chewy to plump and juicy.
• You can also ensure that you're eating fruit that lives up to your standards; local, organic, etc.
• If you have grapes growing in your garden, it's a lovely way to preserve them.
• Likewise, if you bought more grapes than you will end up eating, it will save them from going to waste.
• They have better flavor, you can make a beautiful mix, and things that you make taste better just for the fact of having made them yourself.
• Plus, bragging rights, if you swing that way.
My descent into the realm of homemade raisins was sparked by two things. In my adventures of roasting whole fruits and vegetables, I discovered how smitten I was with roasted grapes. (They are amazing.) Meanwhile, I had seen raisins dried on the stem at Eataly and thought they were one of the prettiest things I'd ever seen in a produce aisle. The price, however, was prohibitive. It wasn't a huge leap to put two and two together and start making my own.
While I haven't exactly codified my raisin-making recipe yet – so far: "put on baking sheet, put in oven at some low temperatue nudging them aound for an unspecified amount of time until they're are some degree of done" – I just stumbled upon Daniel Gritzer's recipe at Serious Eats and will allow him to do the heavy lifting for me. Here's his method:
Oven-Dried Grapes (a.k.a. Raisins)
• 3 large bunches seedless grapes, preferably mixed colors, stemmed
• Vegetable or canola oil, for greasing
1. Preheat oven to 225°F (110°C). Very lightly grease 2 rimmed baking sheets with oil, then scatter grapes all over. Bake, checking periodically for doneness, until grapes are nicely shriveled and semi-dried but still slightly plump, about 4 hours. (The exact time will depend on your grapes, your oven, and your preferred degree of dryness.) Let cool. Use a thin metal spatula to free any grapes that are stuck to the baking sheet.
2. The dried grapes can be refrigerated in a sealed container for about 3 weeks. (How long they keep will also depend on their degree of dryness; drier grapes will keep longer.)
You can also experiment with a higher oven temperature – as high as 300°F – for a shorter cooking time. And after that, what's next? I've already done tomatoes and all kinds of other weird things, but I do have a box of blueberries in the refrigerator that may be in need of adventure...