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I am a complete fig novice. Before we moved to our rural homestead, I'd never even tasted a fig (unless you count Fig Newtons.) And since I've been constantly behind since we moved here, it's little wonder I haven't found time to research taking care of the four fig trees that came with our property. So it was a bit of a surprise when we started getting a bumper crop in October!
Originally, I'd wanted to make some fig jam with a bumper crop, but since the fire destroyed this summer's worth of canning, I just haven't have the heart to can anything. Plus, now that the pole barn is gone, I have pretty much zero space for storing canned goods. I thought I might use up all the figs in various recipes, but discovered almost all recipes call for dried figs. (This makes sense, because ripe figs are highly perishable and most stores therefore only carry them in dehydrated form.)
But drying figs at home? It seemed a dubious endeavor. Truly ripe figs are super-moist. Wouldn't it take forever to get a ripe fig dry? Turns out, the answer is no! Figs dry surprisingly fast and well.
By the way, you can use either a food dehydrator or your oven for this project. However, because ovens can't go to the low temperature that's best for drying fruit, the end result will be a little less flavorful and nutritious. (Thinking of buying a dehydrator? You do not need an expensive, fancy
machine. I love my Nesco American Harvest, which is both
affordable and long-lasting. You can buy additional trays for it, if desired.)
How to Dehydrate Figs
1. Cut off one fig's stem; discard. Cut the fig into quarters. (I've seen people dry fig halves, but because it takes longer for halves to dry, and since most recipes call for chopping up dried figs, anyway, I chose to quarter them.)
2. If desired, dip the fig quarters into a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and cold water. I didn't do this, but it does prevent the figs from browning while dehydrating.
3. Place fig quarters on the tray of a dehydrator. Make sure they aren't touching. Repeat steps until all the figs are on the dehydrator trays.
4. Dehydrate at 135 degrees F. until figs are completely dry, but not hard and brittle. Test a larger piece by biting into it or breaking it in half with your hands. If any liquid oozes from the fruit, it's not fully dehydrated.
5. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.
How to Dry Figs in the Oven
1. Follow steps 1 and 2, above.
2. Place a wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet and place the fig quarters on it.
3. Dry the figs using your oven's coolest setting. If you have an oven warming drawer, I recommend using that instead, since it will usually go to a lower setting than the oven itself. Test fruit doneness, using the method described in step 4, above.
4. Store dehydrated fruit in glass jars with air tight lids in a cool, dry, dark location. Dehydrated figs are best used within a year.