Strawberries are delicious, vitamin- and fiber-rich fruits, but their shelf lives are relatively short. Most strawberries only last around five days when refrigerated before becoming moldy. Keep your supply of strawberries good for much longer by drying out these tasty red fruits for use in snack mixes, milkshakes and your morning cereal. Dried strawberries can last up to two years when stored in the freezer.
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Choosing the Perfect Berries
Choose strawberries to dry that are bright red and firm to the touch. If you are picking them fresh, harvest the strawberries when they are red and ripe because they won't ripen off the vine. Store strawberries in the refrigerator between 32 and 36 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them fresh until you dry them, recommends the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Discard any moldy berries. Slightly bruised or overripe strawberries aren't appropriate for drying in pieces, but you can use them to make dried fruit leather.
Prepping the Strawberries
Just before drying, wash the strawberries in a strainer under cold running water to remove any dirt, debris and chemicals from the surface of the fruit. Rub the berries under the water stream to get them clean, then pat the berries dry with paper towels. Remove the caps of the strawberries. Slice the strawberries into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces for faster, more efficient drying; drying them whole or in halves takes longer. While you can pretreat strawberries in an ascorbic-acid solution for 10 minutes to help prevent the growth of mold and extend their shelf lives, this step isn't necessary. Strawberries don't become discolored during the drying process like other fruits.
Drying Your Strawberries
A dehydrator is the most energy efficient way to dry strawberries. Rub a bit of vegetable oil on the drying trays to prevent the slices from sticking. Place strawberry slices or halves with the skin side down on the trays in a single layer. Dry the strawberries at 135 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit until they are slightly pliable to the touch, not crunchy -- about 7 to 15 hours; whole berries take between 24 and 36 hours to dry. You can dry your strawberries in the oven on oiled cookie sheets at the same temperature for a similar amount of time, with the oven door propped open to allow for proper air circulation.
While you can sun-dry strawberries, doing so in temperatures below 90 F with humidity levels above 60 percent likely will lead to moldy berries. Sun-drying also exposes these tasty treats to hungry animals and pests that can contaminate them.
Conditioning and Storing the Strawberries
Allow dried strawberries to cool for an hour. Place them in glass jars, leaving a few inches of head space at the top of each jar to condition them and reduce the chance of them becoming moldy. Shake the jars daily for about one week, checking them for any signs of condensation. Dry the berries for an hour more if you notice any moisture and recondition them for another week. Once conditioned, store them in airtight plastic bags for up to one year in the pantry or up to two years in the freezer.