DIY Raisins with Muscato Grapes

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Raisins are dried grapes, simply put. There isn’t a whole lot of complication going into the process of making them. All you need are your favorite grapes and a working oven. Some people may challenge the idea behind making your own raisins at home. It’s a task that few have taken the time to undertake. After all, what’s the point of taking the time to dry grapes in the oven when the store-bought variety is readily available at the supermarket?  To this, we say there is very much a point. Making your own raisins the DIY way allows you to experience a wide range of flavors, textures and aesthetics while utilizing grape varieties of your choice. The final result is a juicier, and more intense-tasting raisin that you simply cannot get out of a cardboard box.

Oven-dried grapes are the sweeter, more flavor-concentrated cousin of store-bought raisins. And if you decide to use different kinds of grapes, you’ll also see a broad range of flavors ranging from sweet to something more tart. The oven-dried version will definitely have more of that natural, genuine grape flavor compared to a regular raisin. Some of the sweeter varieties such as our Muscato Grapes will yield a divine caramelization on the outside. The process of drying your own grapes in the oven also speaks for itself since ovens are hotter than food dehydrators. As long as you’re careful, you can maintain control over just how flavorful your raisins turn out. The hotter the oven, the dryer and more concentrated in flavor. If you prefer your raisins on the plump and juicy side, dry them at a lower temperature and they will yield a less intense but equally delicious, fresh flavor.

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If you research the best methods for drying out your grapes, we’ll go ahead and tell you to save any extra steps you find for another day. This isn’t a fancy process and you definitely don’t have to blanch them or cut them first to save on time. All you need are your favorite grapes, preferably in different colors so you can enjoy a wide range of flavors, a baking sheet and your oven on low. Here at Melissa’s, we have many grape varieties you can choose from from our selection. Can you imagine how amazing Cotton Candy® Grapes and Candy Sweets® Grapes would taste oven-dried? We’re definitely throwing that into our recipe bucket list to try when they become seasonally available. For this particular experiment today, we went with our signature Muscato Grapes, using both the red and green varieties. Although they do fall under the same variety, we were optimistic that we were going to be seeing some very different outcomes from all of them. We also threw in a black variety grape to the mix just to see the difference.

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The process took quite a while at about three hours but the results were well worth it. We set our oven to about 225 degrees and as you can see, the grapes retained their plump, round shape even after a few hours in the oven. Had we cranked up the heat to around 300 degrees, the grapes would’ve come out smaller and more shriveled and probably even deeper in flavor. A few of us at Melissa’s tasted them in our test kitchen and were at odds over whether the red or green Muscato grapes came out sweeter. The Red Muscato grapes were definitely on the sweet side and quite juicy. The Green Muscatos were also sweet although slightly more tart than the reds and could’ve used a little more time in the oven. As for the black variety grapes, they were quite sticky even after the drying proess. While still delicious, they were a tad difficult to photograph because of their excessive juiciness. On the bright side, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing for eating!

One thing to note is oven dried grapes have a shorter shelf life than store bought raisins. Store bought raisins can last for quite a long time at many months but the homemade ones usually keep for no longer two weeks to a month.After that, they begin to lose their freshness and strongly concentrated flavor. How long they last really depends on on how dry you made your DIY raisins. The drier and more concentrated in sugars, the longer they will keep.

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Now the question begs, what to do with all of these wonderful oven dried raisins? The answer is, just about anything really! If you can stop yourself from polishing off these raisins due to excessive snacking, which by the way is no easy feat, the possibilities are endless! Toss them into scrumptious salads such as this Chickpea and Grape Salad or Kool Cabbage Wedge Salad. You can bake them into cookies like in these Chocolate Apricot and Coconut Cookies and Cherry Hazelnut Cookies. Simply swap out the dried fruits in those recipes for your DIY raisins instead. Don’t forget about throwing them into baked goods like this brunch-worthy Apple Raisin Coffee Cake or picture perfect Holiday Pannetone. And if you really want to spice things up, you can always include them in a fruit and cheese platter paired with wine among other things.

Overall, these oven dried grapes were an experiment that couldn’t have gone more right. If you like to enjoy a healthy, tasty, no-fuss treat and have a little extra time in the day, then this is your best bet for a weekend baking project. And while we’d never shy away from oven dried fruit, we’d have to agree that the homemade version has captured our hearts.

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