Figs are of great nutritional value since they are loaded with a number of essential vitamins and minerals. They are usually dried to preserve them for a long time. Besides the nutritional value, they are also very taste. They find a place in cakes, cereals, cookies, etc., and your taste buds just can't seem to get enough of them. In fact, powdered dried figs are also used in milk shakes, so your kids have something healthy to drink.
Drying Figs in the Sun
One of the best ways to dry figs is sun drying, the most natural means of dehydrating any fruit. In case of figs, allow them to ripen completely. Once the ripened fruits fall off, wash them thoroughly. Cut the fruit in half and place them on a rack. Place the rack in the sun. Two days are enough to sun-dry figs. For a faster drying, a wooden platform/slab built over fire is used. The platform (built of the trunk of a betle nut tree), has gaps through which the hot air touches the wooden slab, thereby aiding in drying the figs.
Another way is to take some ventilated boxes and line them with a double-layered cheesecloth. Arrange the cut pieces of figs in a way that they are not touching. Place the entire setup out in the sun, and cover it with tulle netting as a means of pest control. In case the temperature at night does not drop below 20°F, then it is best to keep the rack containing the figs outdoors. Otherwise, figs can be dried indoors as well. Every morning, turn the figs to check for a reduced size, as fruits shrink on drying. So, once they are reduced in size and the skin texture becomes leathery and the inside content is soft, cut them open. In case the inside is a little sticky, then heat these dried fruits in an oven at 110-115ºF for at least 2 hours. Cool them and pack them in air-tight containers or in closed plastic bags and freeze them.
Drying Figs in the Oven
If you are planning to dry figs in an oven, then take at least 1 pound of fresh figs. Preheat the oven to at least 250°F. Wash the figs well and rub off any dirt on it. Now, tie them up in a paper towel or a cloth, and roll them well so that all the wetness gets absorbed in the towel. Cut the figs lengthwise into half and place them in a shallow baking dish with a rim. Make sure that they are not packed very closely together. Now, place the baking dish in the oven and set the timer to 1 hour. Within an hour, the juices will squeeze out of the figs and they will appear purple in color. This can be observed when you check the dish after an hour. After this, remove the dish from the oven and turn the figs over. Place the dish back into the oven and set the timer to 1 hour again. Repeat this procedure in 1 hour time intervals, until all the juice has been squeezed out.
When the figs are darkened and wrinkled completely, reduce the heat to 200°F. Slide the dish back into the oven, and keep checking it every 30 minutes. The figs will solidify further. Switch off the oven and let the figs cool down. Once they are cooled, you will observe that they are dried completely. Store them in air-tight jars and you may use them whenever your taste buds ache for a chewy appetizer or a dessert. It takes about 36 hours through this method to dry figs. To make your dried figs more scrumptious, stuff them with roasted almonds and some goat cheese. Serve with port wine, and you have your perfect evening snack ready! Make sure you store these figs in the refrigerator.
Drying Figs in a Dehydrator
Figs can be dried in a dehydrator too. All you need for this is a large bowl, fresh figs (at least 3 pounds), 1 quart water, paper towels, knife, ascorbic acid (2½ teaspoons), dehydrator, and an air-tight container. Now, mix the water with ascorbic acid in the bowl until the acid dissolves in it completely. The purpose of making this solution is to prevent the figs from browning. Wash the fresh figs with cold water and wipe them dry with paper towels. Slice the figs into ¼ inch pieces, and immerse them into the ascorbic acid solution. Soak for approximately 10 minutes. A dehydrator, as the name suggests, draws out all the moisture from the food. Place these slices in trays and place them in the dehydrator. Dry them for 12-24 hours until the figs are squeezed dry and have a leathery texture. Once they are dried, cool them and pack them in air-tight containers and refrigerate. You can relish them whenever you feel like munching on something sweet and healthy.
One can also dry figs in the microwave, although oven is a better alternative, being fast in drying. Also, if climatic conditions are warm and humid, oven drying is the best option.