Raisins could be one of the world’s first snack foods. Indeed, historians tell us that people picked grapes more than 3,000 years ago and spread them out in the sun to dry, a process that’s still prevalent to this day. Sun-drying generally occurs in the vineyards in September: clusters of grapes are spread in an even layer on paper trays that lie on the ground in the rows between the vines. During this period, raisin farmers are at the mercy of Mother Nature. If it rains, the entire crop can be lost to mold. If the sun shines, the grapes gradually wither and dehydrate over a period of about 3 weeks. The fruit’s natural sugars concentrate and the grapes turn brown and meaty as they dry in the heat. Despite the marvels of modern technology, no one has yet found a better method of preparing raisins than drying them in the sun.
Spanish missionaries brought grapes to California in the 18th century, and today this state lays claim to producing most of America’s raisin crop, as well as accounting for about half of the world’s supply.
At Earthbound Farm we produce 2 types of raisins: Thompson Seedless and Flame Seedless. Our Thompsons are exceptionally large raisins, moist and plump with a light, mellow flavor. The Flame Seedless are medium-sized, deep red and notably sweet. They have a rich, robust flavor that’s perfect for baking or eating.
How to store raisins
Unopened packages of raisins have a shelf life of several months, but they’ll keep indefinitely in the refrigerator or freezer. Once they’re opened, store your raisins in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator. Air is their natural enemy; it will rob your raisins of moisture and prompt sugar crystallization on the fruit’s surface. If your raisins dry out, revitalize them by steaming them over boiling water for a few minutes.
Tips for using raisins
Raisins usually require no advance preparation, although some recipes might recommend plumping them in a small amount of liquid. You can always enjoy raisins on their own as a healthy snack — they’re a concentrated source of natural sugar and nutrients.
To chop raisins, lightly wipe your knife blade with vegetable oil to help prevent the fruit from sticking to it.