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Lemon Juice Prevents Drying Fruit from Browning

Lemon Juice

Drying, or dehydrating, is a great way to preserve extra produce and to take advantage of supermarket specials. But before dehydrating cut fruit, you should consider pre-treating the fruit with an antioxidant solution, such as lemon juice, in order to slow down oxidation and prevent the fruit from turning brown. While not as effective as sulfite dips, lemon juice dips and sprays are one of the most popular methods used in home kitchens to pre-treat sliced and diced fruit before the fruit are dried in a food dehydrator or an oven. The popularity and appeal of lemon juice dips and sprays lie in their ease of use and availability (you can buy fresh lemons pretty much anywhere, and they are cheap too). Plus, unlike sulfites, ascorbic acid dips and citric acid dips, lemons are made by Mother Nature.

Bottled vs Freshly-Pressed Lemon Juice

If you decide to use lemon juice to prevent sliced fruit from browning before you dehydrate them, you will have to decide whether you want to use bottled lemon juice or fresh juice pressed at home. Most people probably agree that freshly-pressed lemon juice has a superior taste, but fresh lemons also have a major drawback: they have a limited shelf life, so you will have to juice and use them relatively fast after purchasing. By contrast, store-bought lemon juice usually has a relatively long shelf life if stored unopened in a dark and cool place (when you open the bottle for the first time, the shelf life decreases drastically). On the negative side, regular store-bought lemon juice may contain additives like sulfites which may trigger adverse reactions in some people. The good news is that under the USDA National Organic Program, added sulfites are not allowed in certified organic food products, including lemon juice, so if you live in the US and are worried about sulfites, you can always get a bottle of certified organic lemon juice.

How to Use Lemon Juice to Prepare Fruit for Drying

Method 1

Start by preparing an anti-browning solution by mixing lemon juice with water. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Dehydrating Foods, a wonderful but self-deprecatingly named tome on dehydrating, recommends combining 1 cup of lemon juice with 1 cup of water (double the amounts if you are planning to dehydrate a lot of fruit). Cut the fruit directly into the lemon juice and water mixture, and let the fruit pieces soak for about 10 minutes. Then, remove the pieces with a slotted spoon, drain well and immediately dehydrate in the oven, or a food dehydrator which is more energy efficient. Discard the anti-browning solution after use.

Method 2

An alternative way to go about using lemon juice to prevent fruit from browning during drying is to fill a clean spray bottle with 100% lemon juice and then spritz each fruit piece with the juice. Blot dry with clean paper towels before drying.

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