Raisins are nothing more than dried grapes. But what a delightful transformation takes place when grapes are shriveled into delicious sweetness. Here are some facts about raisins that make them all the more special.
Using Dried Fruit
- For most recipes, different types of raisins can be used interchangeably, except when specified. Even then, you can substitute, but don't expect the intended flavor of the original recipe.
- Other dried fruit such as pitted, chopped dates, prunes, or dried cranberries can be substituted measure-for-measure for raisins.
- For reference, 1 pound of seedless raisins equals about 3 cups; raisins containing seeds weigh in at about 2 1/2 cups per pound.
Loosening, Softening, and Soaking
- Most raisins benefit from being plumped before using. Soak the raisins in either a bit of the recipe liquid or hot tap water for 10 to 15 minutes before using until they plump up. Pat dry before using if you are not using the soaking liquid in the recipe.
- Keep a jar of raisins soaking in rum, brandy, or liqueur to add extra depth to baked goods and keep them from hardening.
- When using raisins in baked goods, toss the raisins in a bit of the recipe flour (not extra flour, which can make the dough heavy) while separating with your fingers. This will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the pan when baking.
- If your raisins are all stuck together, put them in a colander and rinse with hot water, gently separating with your fingers.
- Hardened raisins can be revived and separated by placing them in a bowl with a bit of warm water and microwaving on high for 10 to 15 seconds.
- If you need chopped raisins in a recipe, consider using dried currants. The tiny raisins are about the same size as chopped standard raisins and have a similar flavor and don't require chopping.
- When chopping raisins, heat the knife blade first to more easily slice through the dried fruit. Or, freeze raisins before chopping in a processor.
Raisin Fun Facts
- Raisins have as much iron by weight as cooked dried beans or ground beef.
- According to food scientist Shirley Corriher, bakers who make bread without preservatives sometimes use raisin juice concentrate and raisin pulp to extend their shelf life because they inhibit mold.
- Raisins are tasty in all types of sweets, of course, but also marry beautifully with cabbage, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli rabe, couscous, rum, orange liqueurs, and more.
A Word of Caution
If you are allergic to sulfites, be sure to read the label on the raisin package. Usually, only golden raisins are treated with sulfites. Avoid those at all costs.