How to dry fruit for wreaths
Festive wreaths can be made with a number of different types of greenery, fresh or dried fruit and vegetables as well as decorative touches, such as bows, figures or spices.
The issue with using fresh products to make a wreath, however, is that the wreath only has a shelf life of a few weeks, while using dried fruit will allow you to reuse the wreath in the next season. The types of fruit that are optimal for drying include apples, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit), harder berries (such as cranberries or blueberries) as well as exotic fruit such as star fruit or whole pomegranates.
Apples, citrus fruit or star fruit
Slice the oranges, apples, grapefruits, lemons, limes or star fruit vertically (from the top of the piece of fruit to the bottom), in 6 mm (1/4 inch) thick slices using a sharp knife. Lay the sliced pieces for fruit flat on a paper towel, and remove any seeds with a small butter knife. For a large wreath, you will need to slice up approximately six to eight pieces of fruit, depending upon what other garnishes that you are using to decorate the wreath.
Dab the fruit with a separate paper towel to soak up some of the excess juice.
Place the apple slices in a large bowl and soak them for 10 minutes in a mixture of 474 ml (2 cups) of lemon juice and 3 tbsp salt (to prevent the pieces from going brown immediately). You do not need to do this step with the citrus fruit or star fruit. Pat the apples dry again when you remove them from the lemon juice mixture.
Preheat the oven to 71.1 degrees Celsius (160 degrees Fahrenheit).
Place the sliced fruit flat on a baking tray, in rows and so that each piece of fruit is not touching another. Use more than one baking tray if necessary.
Bake the fruit slices for four to six hours at 71.1 degrees C (160 degrees Fahrenheit). Open the oven door periodically to let out any moisture from the oven or prop it slightly open, if possible. If you see the apple slices start curling, flip each apple slice over with a pair of tongs.
Remove the baking trays from the oven when the fruit appears dried out, with a slight brownish tinge, and set the sheets aside to cool. You will need to bake the apple and citrus slices approximately one to two hours longer than the star fruit slices.
Cranberries or blueberries
Boil a pan of water on the stove. Blanche the berries for 30 seconds by dropping them in boiling water. Remove the berries from the water by pouring the pot over a strainer in the sink.
Lay out paper towels on a table and place the berries on the paper towels to get rid of any excess water.
Preheat the oven to 65.6 degrees Celsius (150 degrees Fahrenheit).
Lay cheesecloth over the baking tray and spread the berries out on the cheesecloth.
Place the baking trays in the oven and bake the berries for 10 hours. Remove the dried berries from the oven and set the baking trays aside to cool.
Wash the outside of the pomegranates with water and wipe them off with a paper towel.
Place the whole pomegranates on wire racks, spaced apart and place them in a dry area. Pomegranates, given their density, are better air-dried.
Leave the pomegranates on the wire racks for three to four weeks. You will know the fruit is ready when the colour of the pomegranate has faded and it feels lighter when you pick it up.
- Make sure you use ripe fruit for drying, but not overripe (soft and browning) fruit.
- Before drying the apples, you can also core the apple before you slice them if you do not wish to include the core.
- You can use a food dehydrator as an alternative to oven or air-drying, but this method is a lot less cost-effective.