Better Dried Cherries (and a beef stew)

Remember how sad I was when I tried to dehydrate some Ranier cherries earlier this summer? It turns out it’s all in the variety. Cherries, it seems, can be divided into categories besides sweet and sour. You’ve also got your juicy cherries (think big, dark varieties) and your fleshy cherries (think Bings and Raniers: almost more like apricots). Although it takes longer to dehydrate them, the juicy ones make better dried fruit. Trust me on this. The ones pictured above dehydrated for nearly 24 hours, yielding up something that looked like a cherry raisin. They still have enough water content in them that I wouldn’t want to leave them on the shelves for months at a time, so instead I packed them into five half-pint jars and stuck them in the freezer.

Now, you may ask, what do I do with these berries? For starters, you can just eat them. They also make really lovely winter fruit compotes when combined with dried apricots. But personally, I love them in meat stews.

beef-stew-with-cherriesBeef Stew with Dried Fruit

2 lbs beef stew meat
1 c red wine
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 medium onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
1 c combined dried fruit (cherries, apples, apricots, and/or prunes)
About 2 c. of assorted stew vegetables, chopped (carrots, turnips, parsnips, etc.)
1 T cornstarch (optional)

1) At least an hour or up to 12 hours before cooking, season the meat with salt and pepper and marinate in the wine. Nestle the thyme sprigs in the meat.

2) Saute the onion in the oil in your pressure cooker (using it as a pot) for a few minutes, until translucent. Add the meat and the juices (including the wine and the thyme). Add another cup of water. Screw on and lock the lid. Cook at 15 pounds of pressure for 8 minutes, then release the pressure quickly. (For refreshers on pressure cooking, see this post.)

3) CAREFULLY open the lid and add the dried fruit and chopped vegetables. Put the lid back on. Bring back up to pressure and cook 2 minutes more, then release the pressure quickly.

4) CAREFULLY open the lid. Now you’re going to use the pressure cooker like a big pot again. Bring the mixture back up to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced to the consistency that you like. If you prefer, mix up a little bit of cornstarch in a couple of tablespoons of cold water and add that to the pot.

I like to eat this over couscous, but it would work equally well with polenta or rice if you’re gluten free. It’s also a terrific way to eat venison. Just cook it a little longer (more like 15 minutes in the first round) to make sure that it gets tender.

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10 comments to Better Dried Cherries (and a beef stew)

  • Great idea, beef stew and dried fruit. I’ll definitely be trying this out on one of the next Sundays.

  • The dried fruit is a great idea.

    I was looking around for beef stew recipes and came across your post.

    I will also take your advice on using the more juicy fruit for dehydrating

  • What you have done with those berries was great. I would like to try it complete with the given recipe.


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  • The dried fruits add a little odd contrasting taste to the mix. You all should try it sometime, if only to know what it tastes like. Cheers!

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  • I love using fruit with stews of all sorts. It gives the dish a sweetness. This can be a great way to get children to eat both their main courses and their fruit as well. A few flaked almonds can also add a Moroccan feel to the dish. Thanks.

  • I love this recipe! I tried it and it was a hit. Everybody in the family likes our usual Sunday Stew but this one really took it to another level! the dried fruit actually gives it another dimension when you bite into it and it bursts in your mouth along with the yummy goodness of the meat as well! Truly a great post! Thank you!

  • From my limited experience with dehydrating fruit and my related research, I can confirm what you are saying that the actual variety can influence how well the process works.

    Looks like you found a few winners.

    Great article. I’m gonna give your recipe a try

  • Been searching for a nice recipe with dried cherries that my aunt gave me. This one looks simply divine! I can’t wait to try it! Thanks!

  • Interesting dishes…
    I never eat meat processed with dried fruit like that recipe. But, I’ll try the recipe you give.
    By the way, can cherries be replaced with other dried fruits?

  • Wow, this looks very nice. Beef stew and dried fruit … I would have never figured it out for myself but the way you write about it … Will definitely try.