September 1, 2007
All raisins are not created equal. True, raisins contain 0 g. of cholesterol, and are low in sodium and virtually fat-free. Yes, they provide many necessary vitamins and minerals, including iron and potassium. Last, but certainly not least, raisins are 70% pure fructose, a natural form of sugar that’s easily digested for quick energy.
You also might be aware that raisins don’t require preservatives to remain fresh. In fact, they retain their flavor, color and nutritional value for up to 15 months when stored between 40°F and 50°F. Raisins can be frozen and thawed, too.
These shared characteristics aside, every raisin has its own story to tell. Depending on what type of baked good is being produced, you might consider what each variety has to offer in terms of how it looks and tastes, under what circumstances it was processed, how available it is and at what times of year, and for which products it primarily is used.
Raisins are parented by various grapes (see chart). Here, we break down the options and their properties.
The dark brown Sun Dried Natural Seedless is dried under the sun and makes up 93% of the total raisin crop, so it can be found in food stores year-round. It commonly is used for cooking, baking, salads, desserts and snacking.
The Golden Seedless or Golden is mechanically dehydrated and treated with sulfur dioxide to preserve its golden-amber hue. It makes up just 5% of the total raisin crop and is available in most stores during the fall and winter months. It’s most popular in fruit cakes and confections, for which light-colored raisin are desired.
The light brown Dipped Seedless is sun-ripened and bathed in water before being mechanically dehydrated. It has limited availability, but like Sun Dried Natural Seedless, it can be used diversely, in cooking, baking, desserts and snacks.
The dark Seeded or Puffed Muscat is sun-dried. The seeds are removed mechanically during processing. This large, extra-sweet raisin has limited availability and is prized for baking, especially in fruitcakes.
The dark, tart and tangy Currant or Zante Currant is sun-dried. It’s also seedless and miniature — one-quarter the size of an average raisin. Limited in availability, it’s a popular baking ingredient that’s traditionally used in cross buns.
The sun-dried Flame Seedless is large and dark red in color; it’s also extra sweet, known for its distinctive fruity flavor. Like some of its relatives, this raisin is limited in availability and prized for baking, especially in fruit cakes.
Editor’s Note: The information and chart for this advertorial were provided by the California Raisin Marketing Board. For more information, visit www.CalRaisins.org.