Drying apples in your oven is quite an easy way to get some valuable stored fruit from your apple crop.
Dried apples are delicious and retain a good proportion of the goodness of the fruit. They can be used in a number of ways and make an excellent quick, energy-boosting snack.
Energy efficiency of drying apples
How energy-efficient drying apples is for you is something you will need to work out. It depends upon your individual cooker and how effective it is at using energy to make heat for drying - and whether you can use that energy for something else as well.
Drying apples at home - cooked apple rings: not especially perfect - but tasty!
If your cooker is in use anyway, drying some apples costs nothing extra. But if you are running your cooker just to dry apples, this may not be the best use of your energy. Drying apples can take several hours per batch.
One option I've used is to use the cooker to heat the room and dry apples at the same time. That way, we save on other heating costs. It's a nice way to keep warm at the weekends, when people are about the house. You can always use the additional heat to dry clothes in the kitchen, if you have room, too.
You can also dry apples above a radiator or another heat source. If you let the process take too long, your apples can become oxidised (rust appears on them.) You lose some of the goodness when this happens.
If you are in the enviable position of having a range - such as an Aga or Raeburn, then using your cooker to slowly dry out fruits is a sensible option.
If you have a wood burning stove or similar, you may be able to use it for drying apples and other fruits.
Picture above: an apple corer, slicer and peeler makes life easier!
You can buy these amazing devices at Amazon - see the picture below. You can buy them with a clamp or a suction pad. The one I have uses a suction pad which works great on a metal table.
Here's how to dry apples
Pick reasonably sound apples and clean, core and peel them.
If you don't have one of the apple coring and slicing devices such as the Norpro shown here below, hold the apple so that the core hole is parallel to the chopping board. Using a fine, sharp knife, slice the apples thinly into apple rings. Don't worry if some spare pieces are not perfect rings. They can still be dried and used. Cut the apple rings so that they are two to three mm wide or slimmer. This ensures reasonably fast drying.
If you are hanging your apple rings on strings or threading them onto skewers or similar you may need to cut your rings slightly bigger.
Drying apples in the oven is done best if you have plenty of metal drying racks or perforated trays. I've used a non-stick pizza tray and some cooling racks. I've also pressed into service some old grill racks from a microwave. The grill tray from the cooker can also be used - or any other clean metal food rack.
I also use enameled trays on which to support the drying racks. This way all the small bits that drop through the bars get caught and can carry on drying. With the aid of racks, trays and the like it is possible to make use of most of the volume of the oven when drying your fruit.
It's best to lightly grease your trays and drying racks so that dry fruit peels off easily.
As the apples and other fruits dry you can bunch them up more closely and fit more on the trays. It's also good to turn the fruit for more even drying.
Drying fruit does give off moisture. It can be beneficial to open the oven door some. You also may need to mop the floor to stop moisture from drying apples accumulating under the oven door.
Drying apples at home - uncooked apple rings ready to go in the oven
When drying apples, it's best to select a low temperature. If the temperature is too low you may find that the apple rings start to brown a bit. You can avoid this by starting them off at a higher temperature and then lowering the temperature once the fruit has dried on the outside.
If you are using the oven for cooking at a higher temperature you can put your apple rings into the bottom of the oven and any unused space. This works OK if the temperature of the oven is not too high overall. I've dried apples successfully when other food has been cooking on gas mark 5, for example. You have to watch more carefully and you may get rather more bronzed apple rings.
To bronze or not to bronze?
Apple rings dried in this manner can come out in a variety of colours, from pale flesh-coloured to a deep bronze. A light bronzing is nice because the sugars in the fruit are caramelised - and very tasty. Darker fruit may start to become bitter as the caramel becomes too pronounced. You are also likely to lose a lot of the nutritional value.
Sweet and sour
One of the great things about drying fruit at home is that you can use up excess cooking apples. As the fruit dries and shrinks the sugars become more concentrated. Fruit which would be wincingly sour with no added sugar becomes quite noticeably sweet but still with a sour tang to it which is very pleasant.
We've been using up lots of our cookers in this way as there is a limit to how many apple pies one can eat in a season!
Another good way to use up cookers is to make your own apple juice.
Making & Using Dried Foods
is an inexpensive and popular paperback which not only tells you how to dehydrate many foods but also gives ideas for using them.
A Nesco FD-80 American Harvest Square-Shaped Dehydrator may prove useful, especially if you plan to do a lot of home drying of different fruits. I haven't tried anything like this yet - but I plan to make a home solar dehydrator sometime soon. You'll be the first to hear if this is a good way of drying apples!