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Dried pineapple is pineapple fruit that has had its water removed, either through basic air dehydration or freeze-drying. The end result is a fruit that is easy to transport, will not spoil, and needs no refrigeration, yet still retains a distinctly pineapple flavor. It is popular in baking and as a snack food. While dried pineapple does not have the same texture or nutrient qualities as fresh fruit, it can be used in many of the same ways.
Preservation is usually one of the main reasons for drying pineapple. The fresh fruit is usually available only seasonally, and lasts for but a few weeks. Dried pineapple, on the other hand, will last for at least a year, and is considered within the large grouping of non-perishable foods.
Pineapple farmers who have more fruits than they can use or sell often dry the excess as a means of preserving it. Damaged or misshapen fruit can also be dried as means of salvaging its flavor. Dried pineapple is often available commercially, but can be made at home as well.
There are two primary methods for making dried fruits such as pineapple: dehydration and freeze-drying. Dehydration is the simplest; it usually involves thin slices being left to dry in a temperature-controlled environment. Freeze drying is more scientific and requires the fruit to be quickly frozen, then pressurized so that all moisture evaporates out. There are benefits and drawbacks to both processes.
Basic dehydration is simple and requires relatively little equipment. Pineapple pieces are essentially set out to dry on their own under this method, and are often finished within a day or two. Temperature must be controlled, however, and the fruit must usually be preserved in some sort of chemical or acid solution to prevent decay.
Ascorbic acid, otherwise known as vitamin C, is one of the most common preservatives used in dehydrated fruits. Slices must be allowed to soak in the liquid acid for a few minutes before being set out to dry. This both helps the fruit retain its color as well as prevents bacterial growth. Without some sort of treatment, dried pineapple would likely begin to decay before it could dry.
Many dried pineapple producers will also soak the fruit in juice or sugar syrup before drying to sweeten the finished product. Sweetened dried pineapple is a common addition to trail mixes and baked goods, and can also be enjoyed as a sweet snack, often in place of candy. Added sugar increases the fruit’s calorie count, however, and detracts from many of its natural health properties.
Freeze-drying is usually much more effective at capturing pineapple flavor and color, without the need for preservatives or soaks. Dried pineapple prepared in this fashion need only be cut into rough chunks before being entered into the drying chamber. The freeze-drying method is much faster, but is also more expensive, as it requires the use of sophisticated machinery.
Dried foods prepared according to the freeze-dried method usually resemble the original quite closely. Pineapple that has been freeze-dried can also be reconstituted with some success simply by soaking it in water. The same is not usually true of dried snacks using air-dry dehydration.
Dehydrated food prepared under either method necessarily loses some nutrients and minerals. Pineapple is generally very high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, and dietary fiber. Fruit prepared through freeze-drying usually retains its nutrients better than fruit that has been simply sat out to dry, but not always. Much depends on the drying time, the preparation method, and the overall conditions.