Season for Raisins Available Year Round
The raisin need not be relegated to trail mix. Nope. This wrinkled-up grape has the power to add depth to many a dish, sweet and savory alike. When grapes naturally dry, the fruits' sugars become concentrated, turning the grapes brown and meaty and delicious. As we're finding to be increasingly true, no one has yet found a better method of preparing raisins than the traditional means of drying them in the sun. That said, you'll find those that have been mechanically dried in ovens, especially the golden and green varieties. Most commonly, you'll see one of five grape types: Thompson Seedless (the head honcho), Flame, Muscat, Sultana and Black Corinth.
How to Buy and Store Raisins
If you can buy raisins in bulk (from a well-sealed bin) or from a transparent container - do so! - for you will be able to inspect them for quality. Look for those that appear soft, plump and vibrant in color (indicating moisture). When it comes to raisins, air becomes they're enemy, drying them out beyond their prime. Store your raisins in a sealed container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to six months. Should they dry out, you can revitalize them with a quick steaming over boiling water (a few minutes).
How to Cook Raisins
Raisins get a snack rap; and for good reason! They sweeten and enliven trail mixes and granolas and make the perfection that is 'ants on a log.' But raisins can be showcased far beyond snack-dom. From carrot cake to oatmeal, stirring raisins into just about anything sweet creates a delicious effect. But adding raisins to couscous, pilafs, stuffing mixes, marinades and other savory dishes can be truly gourmet. Try our Organic Heirloom Carrot Salad recipe that uses raisins for added depth and flavor, and see if you aren't pleasantly satiated. A little tip: If you're chopping raisins to go into a recipe, lightly wipe your knife blade with vegetable oil to help prevent all that annoying sticking.
Health Benefits of Raisins
Owing to raisins dense nutritional content, this little dried up grape packs a salubrious verve. The health benefits attributed to the consumption of raisins include relief from constipation, acidosis, anemia, fever and sexual, shall we say, weakness. Raisins also help maintain eye, dental and bone health. From good calcium content to antioxidants, oleanolic acid, iron and amino acids, raisins stake their claim as a mountaineer's top snack. Maybe the rest of us could use some of that goodness.
Why Buy Natural and Organic Raisins
According to the Environmental Working Group, imported grapes are among the 12 foods on which pesticide residues have been most frequently found. Those grown domestically rated a little better on the list, at 21 among the 47 foods tested. Avoid pesticides and all their associated health risks by first, consuming local grapes, and second, those that have been organically grown. An added benefit of going the organic route with raisins is that you can avoid the sulfur dioxide gas and sulfites that are used in their conventional processing.