The Dried Grape

The dried form of the grape, revered throughout history, has its own unique name: the robust raisin.

The drying of grapes into raisins has been practiced since ancient times. Raisins were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2,000 BC, with one of their first mentions being in the Old Testament.

How did dried grapes become popular in America? According to history, the tale goes as follows.

An enterprising grape grower had to creatively respond to the forces of Mother Nature. In 1873, a heat wave destroyed his grape harvest. The grower took the dried grapes – the raisins – to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempted to sell them. Much to everyone’s pleasure, the ancient delicacy was met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America.

Packing & Storing Raisins

Raisins are packed in 1.33-ounce boxes or 15-ounce cartons. One pound of raisins yields 12.6 1/4-cup servings of dry fruit and 21.4 1/4-cup servings of cooked fruit.

Store opened raisins in the refrigerator. After opening, fold down the poly bag liner to help retain moisture. Opened packages of raisins should be used within 6 months.

Raisins for a Great Snack

Raisins make a great convenience food! They can be eaten out of hand, last a long time and are packed with nutrients. They are easy to pack, easy to eat and almost never go bad.

Like other dried fruits, raisins are available all year ’round. What more do we want?

Raisins are bite-size small; about the size of small pebbles, and have a wrinkled skin and chewy flesh that tastes like a burst of sugary sweetness.

Suggested Uses and Tips

  • Raisins make a great pick-me-up snack when you’re feeling low on energy. They contain good-for-you carbhoydrates like only mother nature can provide! Raisins are low in calories and low in fat AND sodium.
  • Raisins are ready to eat or may be added to sandwich fillings, rice dishes, stuffing, salads, hot or cold cereals, puddings, and baked items.
  • Raisins may be combined with peanuts, sunflower seeds, or granola to make a trail mix. (Visit our Gorp Recipe Collection for ideas.)
  • Mix raisins with your favorite nuts for a high-energy, protein and fiber-packed, quick and easy homemade snack.
  • Raisins keep cookies and cakes moist and go well in most baked goods. Add whole, sliced, or chopped raisins to muffins, breads, cookies, and other desserts.
  • Toss in fresh vegetable salads or pasta salads.
  • Add raisins, almonds, peppers and onions to brown rice to make a tasty side dish.
  • Soak raisins (and other dried fruits) in water to soften for an easy-to-make compote that is so versatile it can be served a variety of ways.
  • Freeze raisins and they will be easy to separate by rubbing with your hands.

Try Raisin Juice: Raisin juice is a pure extract of raisins and is used as a natural subsitute for preservatives. It can also be used as a sugar substitute.

Raisin Paste: Raisin paste, used in fillings for fine confections, enhances the flavors of foods. It also extends shelf life and inhibits mold growth.

Nutrition Information for Raisins

Raisins are low in fat and sodium, but high in carbohydrates for a quick pick- me-up snack. Raisins are also high in antioxidants and cholesterol free.

1/4 cup of dried uncooked raisins provides 1 serving from the fruit group of the Food Guide Pyramid.

Preparing and Cooking Raisins

  • golden raisinsTo plump 1 cup raisins quickly, place them on a plate in a single layer, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons water, cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave at 100 percent power for 1-1/2 minutes. Substitute sherry or wine for the water for added flavor.
  • For easier chopping of raisins, use an oiled knife or blade. You can also place a small amount of butter on both sides of the knife.
  • Raisins can be used dry. When the recipe calls for plumped raisins, cover the amount of raisins needed with very hop tap water and soak 2 to 5 minutes.
  • To plump up dry or sugary raisins, cover them with boiling water or hot tap water. Soak them for about 5 minutes and pat dry.
  • To make raisins plump again, wash them, place them in a shallow dish and bake them covered in a preheated 350-degree oven for no more than ten minutes.
  • Flavor and nutrients are lost with longer soaking. Drain well before using.
  • Raisins freeze well and thaw quickly.

Thirteen Facts About Raisins

  1. Raisins are cholesterol-free
  2. Raisins are low in sodium
  3. Raisins are fat-free
  4. Raisins are a rich source of antioxidants
  5. Four pounds of fresh grapes produce one pound of raisins
  6. Raisin juice is a pure extract of raisins
  7. Raisin juice is a natural substitute for preservatives
  8. Raisins sweeten and color natural baking goods
  9. Raisin juice can be used as a sugar substitute
  10. Raisin paste is used in fillings for fine confections
  11. Raisin paste inhibits molds
  12. Raisin paste also extends shelf-life
  13. Raisins in all forms enhances flavor

Raisins in the United Kingdom

Sun Maid raisins were first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1916, and the October 1918 Sun-Maid Herald reported that consumption of raisins per capita in Great Britain was five times that of the United States.

In the U.K., one of the most popular raisin dishes is fruitcake, which is made with mixed dried fruits, raisins, nuts and spices, and is commonly eaten during Christmas and at weddings.

Raisins in Germany

German cuisine incorporates raisins and dried fruits into both sweet and savory dishes, such as classic breads and stews. Sauerbraten is a beef stew flavored with red wine and raisins. It traditionally served with red cabbage, potatoes, potato dumplings, spatzle or noodles.

Bytes of Raisin History

  • Raisins were sun-dried from grapes as long ago as 1490 B.C.
  • Phoenicans and Armenians traded raisins with the Greeks and Romans, who decorated places of worship with raisins.
  • Winners of sporting contests once won raisins as a prize.
  • Roman physicians began prescribing raisins to cure anything from poisoning to old age.
  • In the 11th century, crusader knights first introduced raisins to Europe wen they returned home from the Mediterranean.

Source of raisin history: California Raisin Marketing Board

Raisin Day

Fresno held its first Raisin Day Parade on April 30, 1909. The event was a huge success! It drew 100,000 people. Visitors enjoyed contests, races, performances, and the parade. The parade boasted float entries from community groups, businesses, townships, and counties as far away as Los Angeles. It became an annual event.

Fun Raisin Trivia

After being spotted drying her hair, Lorraine Collett Petersen was asked to be the subject of a painting. In the pose, she held a tray of grapes and wore her mother’s bonnet. The northern California company that commissioned the painting was Sun-Maid. Petersen’s pose has been the basis of the enduring Sun-Maid Girl image since 1915.

November is National Raisin Bread Month. National Raisin Day is April 30.

Read More: Food Facts