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Cue the Raisin Music!

Reader Contribution by Renee-Lucie Benoit
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Do any of you remember the “I Heard It Through the Grape Vine” commercial for raisins grown in California back in the mid 80s? The clay-mation raisins danced and lip synced to the song by Marvin Gay and it went viral for its day.

We even had little plastic figurines made of the raisins that you could get in stores. I think I had one.

Just for fun here’s the original commercial:

Now that I live in the raisin growing capital of America, I finally know a thing of two about raisins. Some people think raisins just come that way. Kind of like prunes.

Some people think both prunes and raisins come that way in nature. I’m here to tell you that they do not!

Raisins start out as Thompson seedless table grapes. You know, the kind that are the light green kind and there’s the snap as the luscious juice explodes in your mouth. When the grapes dry they become dark colored.

Golden raisins are Thompson seedless with sulfur dioxide added to keep them from turning dark. Prunes are similar. Prunes are actually plums.

Any plum can be a prune after they dry, but usually they are European freestone plums. The seed pit is easily removed.

Any grape can be a raisin as long as it’s seedless. Some of the most luscious raisins are made from the Flame cultivar.

I’m going to show you how to make your own raisins just in case you have a grape vine somewhere on your property or maybe you run into a good sale on grapes at the store. Call me a control freak, but I love to know that what I’m eating has not been messed with in some way. When I make my own food I know 100 percent what went into in and what is going into my mouth!

Thompson seedless grow anywhere but they grow very well in the central valley of California. I planted some last year from a bare root plant and now we have a large vine trailing over the corner of our front yard chain link fence.

It’s beautiful and it only took a year for it to bear fruit. Such a deal!

These baby grapes will be ready in a couple weeks.

Pick your grapes when they taste sweet. Take them in and rinse them off. We’re going to do it the kitchen table way. The way growers do it are the same steps but in a different order.

Once they are rinsed take a large piece of craft paper and spread it on a table. I used my fire pit screen to protect my grapes. Perfect!

Just keep an eye on them because ants will find their way up the legs and have a field day! That happened to me and I put the legs of my table in cans of water.

Ha! Foiled, you ants!

In the fields where they have thousands of pounds of grapes drying in rows underneath the vines they are not worried about bird predation or insects. There are so many grapes that they do not mind losing a few to the birds and they also don’t mind that some insects get in. They know they will take the dried raisins to the processing plant where they are picked over, washed and sanitized before being stored.

This is how the growers do it.

I don’t have that many grapes so I’d rather not lose any to birds and insects so I am going to protect them a lot more. Other than that we are going to let the sun make our raisins.

After spreading the grapes on the paper and covering them we just let them sit out in sunlight for a few days exactly like the farmers do in the vineyards. Out here where the relative humidity is only about 20 percent, things dry fast!

If you live in the Midwest where the wind blows a lot, you probably can overcome the higher humidity. In the deep south where there is little wind and a lot of humidity, you are better off drying them in the oven or in a special drier. Otherwise they will most likely mold.

On craft paper and covered with the brilliant fire pit cover!

Starting to turn brown two days later. They do alright just laying there without stirring.

Homemade raisins! What will you make?


Photos property of Renee Benoit.