Thursday, October 4, 2012

DIY Prunes from Plums

Basket of Freshly Made Prunes
Prune Plums After

Method by Robin

In autumn, a young woman’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of…prunes? OK, I made that up. Since I’m no longer a young woman, how would I know? But a middle aged woman who spies the last of the season’s prune plums at her favorite natural foods store…that I can speak to. Prunes make are a naturally sweet snack that’s a fun way to enjoy fruit in winter. Don’t believe me? How about if they’re preserved in brandy afterwards? Dipped in chocolate? But I digress…

Basket of Fresh Prune Plums
Prune Plums Before
Having a new food dehydrator inspired my prune making, but you don’t necessarily need one. A convection oven set at 135 degrees F is almost as good, because it maintains a constant temperature and moves air over the fruit, the two main requirements for drying foods. Because you’ll use baking sheets instead of mesh screens, it will likely take longer. But in either case the appliance does most of the work. I’ve also heard of people using a gas oven and a fan, but this might be an urban legend.

Plums Halved and Pitted
Step 1: Halve and Remove Pits
Dehydrator literature states tersely that prunes require about 22-30 hours to dry. Real life indicates that during this time period the user will need to be somewhere else and unable to check dehydrating progress. If fruit is more than half-dry and dehydrator in a warm or dry location, you can turn the dehydrator off for a few hours, say for example if you need to go to work. The total dehydration time will likely be shortened. My prunes were about ¾ dried after 18 ½ hours. I let them sit (in the dehydrator) on a warm sun porch for 8 hours, then resumed dehydrating. In only 1 hour they were almost perfect.

Plum Halves Turned Inside Out
Step 2: Turn "Inside Out"
When done, prunes will be flexible and slightly moist, but not tacky. If you over-dry them, they take on moisture from the atmosphere easily. Just leave them out overnight. If your air is very dry, try putting them in a plastic bag with a couple of strips of lemon peel for a day, shaking the bag around periodically.

Prune plums differ from most other plum species in that they separate easily from their pits. Use other varieties at your own risk. And remember, if you make your own prunes, it’s only a couple more steps to preserve them in brandy for holiday gift-giving. Or do what Polish candy companies do: dip them in chocolate for holiday treats.

Prunes on Plate with Etched Fox
Fox in the Prune Patch
DIY Prunes
makes about 8 oz.

~3 lbs. Ripe Prune Plums

Cut plums in half and remove pits.

Turn each half “inside out” by pressing the middle of the skin side to expose more fleshy inner surface. This allows the plums to dry faster. Not all halves will hold this exact shape, but breaking up the surface will allow air to contact more of the fruit’s surface.

Load plums onto dehydrator mesh trays, or onto baking sheets, skin side down.  Keep at least ½ inch apart.

Put trays in dehydrator, or sheets in convection oven. Turn dehydrator or oven on at 135 degrees F.

Check after about 10 hours. If they’re sticking to mesh or sheets, pull them off and reposition them. This increases air circulation. Do not turn them over.

If still fairly moist, dehydrate for another 8 hours or so. When they start to look dry, check them every hour until done.

My total drying time was 19 ½ hours, plus 8 hours on a warm sun porch. Dehydrator literature indicates that without the break dehydration takes 22-30 hours, depending upon size and water content of the plums and how many are dehydrated at once.


  1. My grandma would be the one to dip prunes in chocolate... I can see that! I remember her prune logs (prune/apricot/walnut) and carob coated rice cakes. Only one question, where was the fried chicken, cherry pie, and chocolate chip cookies! I like your clever fox in a prune patch...

  2. Thanks for reminding me about the logs, Jodi. In my family it was walnut or poppyseed, and one of these days I'm gonna figure out how to make them. And cherry pie, too. ;-)