When a succulent, plump, golden apricot is dried, it turns into a wrinkled, wizened disk, brownish and flat. But looks can be deceiving, and dried apricots are often more intense in character than their prettier fresh kin. Drying fruit concentrates flavor and fruit sugar (it takes over five pounds of fresh apricots to yield one pound of dried), even as it preserves. Fruit pulp tends to darken naturally as it dries (this doesn't affect the way it tastes), so many commercial producers use a sulfur dioxide solution to help it remain lighter and brighter. (Unsulfured fruits are commonly sold by health food stores.) Raisins, golden raisins, and currants are all dried grapes. Because of their size and delicate texture, they don't need to be reconstituted before using. Dried tree fruits, like apples, apricots, and peaches, on the other hand, can be reconstituted by simmering in water, wine, or tea until soft. (Reduce the poaching liquid with a little sugar, for a nice rich syrup.) Dried fruit should be stored in a cool, dark place, tightly covered, to help protect it from fruit-loving bugs. Dried fruit isn't just for fruitcake, incidentally: Try adding it to savory dishes (stew, for instance), sauces, or stuffings for a subtle sweet accent. Or nibble it like candy.
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