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RAISINS

March 26, 2011 12:00 pm 0 comments
Raisins (Kismis)

Raisins (Kismis)

Raisins are dried grapes produced in many regions of the world. They can be eaten raw or used in cooking, baking and brewing. Normally when most fruits are dried they use the same name but in case of grapes. The dried form of the grape revered throughout history has its own unique name the raisin.

Raisin (grape) scientifically is known as Vitus vinifera and they are made from dehydrating grapes in a process that either involves the heat of the sun or a mechanical process of oven drying. Sultana, Malaga, Monukka, Zante Currant, Muscat and Thompson seedless are among the most popular types of raisins. The are size of small pebbles and have wrinkled skins surrounding with chewy flesh that tastes like a burst of sugary sweetness. While the colors of raisins vary, they are generally a deep brown color, oftentimes with hints of a purple hue.

Long since ancient times the drying of grapes into raisins has been practiced and they were produced in Persia and Egypt as early as 2000 BC. Prehistoric times show that raisins were consumed and used as decorations in the Mediterranean region of Europe during that ear. Ancient Romans had highly prized the raisins coz they adorned their places of worship and used them as barter currency and as prizes for the winners of sporting events. In addition the raisins were an integral item on the menus at Bacchanalian feasts. The practice of drying of grapes into raisins started from ancient Rome and subsequently spread throughout the world.

San Joaquin valley a region in California where raisins have been cultivated since the 19th century is currently the largest commercial producer of raisins.In 1873, when a heat wave destroyed the grape harvest, the grower took the dried grapes, the raisins, to a grocer in San Francisco whose attempts to sell this ancient delicacy were met with great response and demand, beginning the rise in popularity of the raisin in America. In addition to California, Australia, Turkey, Greece, Iran and Chile are among the leading commercial producers of raisins.

Raisins that are fresh and have been stored properly will require no special attention prior to eating or using in a recipe. To restore dried out raisins before adding them to a recipe, place them in a bowl covered with a little hot water for a few minutes. You can use the nutrient-infused liquid in the recipe.

‘Raisin’ dates back to Middle English as it is a word loaned from Old French where raisin in French means grape while dried grape is referred to as raisin sec in French. They are a variety of raisins that purely depend on size and color which includes green, black, blue, purple and yellow. The seedless variety includes the Sultana also known as Thompson seedless and flame grapes. “Golden raisins” are made from sultanas, treated with sulfur dioxide (SO2), and flame-dried to give them their characteristic color. The Black Corinth is also sun-dried to produce Zante currants, miniature raisins that are much darker in color and have a tart, tangy flavor. Several varieties of raisins are produced in Asia and, in the West, are only available at ethnic specialty grocers whereas green raisins are produced in Iran.

Currently raisins are produces in many countries that include the Armenia, United States, Australia, India, Pakistan, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, China, Afghanistan, South Africa etc. In India and Pakistan, the black raisin is known as kishmish (a Hindustani word) and sultanas are known as munaqqa. In Dutch, the word krent is   reserved for Corinth based raisins, and raisin cognate rozijn for the rest.

Raisins are sweet due to their high concentration of sugars which includes 30 g of fructose and 28 g of glucose in approx. 100 g of raisins. The sugars can crystallize inside the fruit when stored after a long period, making the dry raisins gritty, but that does not affect their usability. These sugar grains can be dissolved by blanching the fruit in hot water or other liquids. They range about 67 % to 72% of sugars by weight and contain about 3% protein and 3.5% dietary fiber. Raisins are very low vitamin C content. New research has shown that despite having a high concentration of sugars, raisins fight bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities and gum disease. Raisins are high energy low fat snack.

Raisins are a great addition to homemade granola or can be sprinkled over any breakfast cereal, hot or cold. Soak raisins and other dried fruits in water to soften for easy-to-make compote that is so versatile it can be served a variety of ways. Some of our favorites include served on top of chicken or layered with plain yogurt to make a fantastic dessert. Raisins go well in most baked goods. Add them to bread, muffins and cookies. Add raisins, almonds, peppers and onions to brown rice to make a tasty side dish. Raisins’ sweetness and texture make them a great addition to poultry stuffing. Mix raisins with your favorite nuts for a high-energy, protein and fiber-packed homemade snack. Raisins are one of the richest sources of the mineral boron and provide concentrated amounts of polyphenolic phytonutrients. The health benefits of raisins include relief from constipation, acidosis, anemia, fever, and sexual weakness. Raisins also help in weight gain, eye care, dental care, and bone health.

Raisins are indispensable when it comes to dry fruits. Those golden, green or black colored delicacies are favorites of almost everybody, especially children. Raisins are widely used worldwide in cuisines (especially in desserts), health tonics, as snacks and also as food for mountaineers, trekkers etc. Raisins are excellent to eat and can be added to sandwich fillings, rice dishes stuffing, salads, hot or cold cereals, puddings and baked items. Raisins are used widely in Kashmiri dishes especially while making the Kashmiri Pulao.

Raisins when mixed to cookies and cakes keep them moist and tasty. They are also added in chocolates and chopped raisins impart full flavor to baked items. They also enhance the flavor and taste when tossed in fresh vegetable salads and pasta salads. Raisins are low in fat and sodium, but high in carbohydrates for a quick pick- me-up snack.

Raisins are excellent and have a lot of health benefits like they are cholesterol free, low in sodium, fat-free, rich source of antioxidants, a natural substitute for preservatives, can be used as a sugar substitute, extends shelf-life and raisins in all forms enhances the flavor.

The nutritional values of 100 g of raisins are:

Energy: 1,252 kJ (299 kcal)

Carbohydrates: 79 g

Sugars: 59 g

Dietary fiber: 4 g

Fat: 0.5 g

Protein: 3 g

Calcium: 50 mg (5%)

Iron: 1.9 mg (15%)

Potassium: 750 mg (16%)

Sodium: 11 mg (0%)

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