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What are raisins? Raisin History

Raisins were once considered valuable enough to buy slaves

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Raisins and Grapes

© 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
Raisins have been around as long as grapes have been growing. We're all familiar with cakes, cookies, and sweet breads bursting with juicy raisins and most have childhood memories of getting a burst of energy from snacking on plump raisins out of hand. Did you know raisins are also wonderful in savory foods? Before trying one of the many raisin recipes, learn a little bit more about different raisins and which ones to choose for your recipes.

What are raisins?

Raisins are simply dried sweet grapes, of course. Until medieval times, raisins were the second in choice as a sweetener, honey being the top choice. At one time in ancient Rome, raisins were considered so valuable that two jars could buy a slave. In the 13th century, Damascus had quite a reputation for their sweet raisins.

The majority of the world's supply of raisins comes from California, dried from Thompson seedless (95 percent), muscadine, or Black Corinth (Zante) grapes. In 1873, California suffered a devastating drought which literally dried the grapes on the vine. Looking to recoup some of the grape crop, an enterprising marketer in San Francisco sold the dried and shriveled grapes as "Peruvian Delicacies," and the California raisin industry was off and running.

Most raisins are dried naturally by the sun right in the vineyards, although some are mechanically dehydrated. Once sun-dried, a process taking two to four weeks, they are then graded, cleaned, and packed. Some raisins are kept golden in color by the use of sulfur dioxide (sulfites).

More about Raisins:

Raisin Tips and Hints
Raisin Varieties
Raisin Selection and Storage
What are raisins? Raisin History
Raisin Recipes
Raisins and Grapes Photo © 2007 Peggy Trowbridge Filippone, licensed to About.com, Inc.

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