To make raisins, grapes are harvested by
hand and arranged on rows of clean paper trays next to the vines, where
they will dry naturally in the sun for about 2-3 weeks. Thompson seedless grapes
are usually used to make raisins. These are called seedless raisins and can
be golden or dark purple-brown. Golden raisins are generally plumper and
moister than dark raisins. There are also some exquisite seeded raisins
such as Muscat and Malaga. If you are fortunate enough to find richly
flavored Malaga raisins from Spain, which are dried by the bunch, enjoy
the crunchy seeds rather than trying to seed them.
Keep raisins tightly sealed at room
temperature up to 4 months, or refrigerated or frozen up to 1 year.
To re-plump raisins, pour boiling water over the raisins in a bowl and
let soak for 5 minutes. Or place them in a microwaveable dish and
sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons water per cup of raisins. Cover with
plastic wrap, prick the plastic in a few spots for ventilation, and
microwave on high power 30 to 45 seconds. Let stand and covered for 1 to
2 minutes. You can also soak raisins in flavored liquids such as liquor,
liqueur, or fruit juice overnight or longer. Use a liquid that
complements the flavors in your recipe.
To un-stick those raisins that have clumped
together, run them under hot water in a sieve. Pat dry if necessary. Or
microwave them on medium power for 40 to 60 seconds, checking every 10
seconds. To chop sticky raisins, coat your knife blade with nonstick
cooking spray. Freezing raisins to keep them from sticking to the knife
and cutting board during chopping. This will help to save on chopping
time. Better yet, replace any chopped raisins in your recipe with an
equal amount of dried currants, which taste and look like raisins but
are much smaller and require no chopping.
Raisins contain nonheme iron, which is a
more difficult form of iron for the body to absorb. For maximum iron
absorption, pair raisins with a food that's high in vitamin C, such as
citrus, berries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, cabbage or peppers.
Fascinating Fact : A raisin dropped
in a glass of fresh champagne will bounce up and down continually from
the bottom of the glass to the top and down again.