Sultanas and Raisins and more
The Dried Fruit Industry in Australia produces dried Sultanas which come from Thompson Seedless grapes with a drying emulsion applied to accelerate the drying process and to produce a golden coloured fruit that Australia is renowned for in the world market.
Australia also produces a Natural Sultana which is the same fruit but without the drying emulsion applied. This fruit takes longer to dry and instead of it drying a golden colour it turns to a purple/brown colour and has a caramel flavour.
Australian Sultanas are harvested early in the year from mid February.
The Australian Raisin is produced from a Muscat Gordo Blanco or a Waltham Cross grape. They have a unique strong, sweet, muscat flavour. The grape goes through a deseeding process once dried to remove the seeds ready for sale. The grapes are dried with a more concentrated emulsion. There are only two quality levels; a standard grade or a manufacturing grade. Australia is the only country that produces this style of dried grape.
Currants come from the small purple Black Corinth grape which dries quickly in the sun. They are not treated with a drying emulsion. They range in colour from dark blue to black.
Australian Natural Sultanas, Australian Raisins and Currants.
Sunmuscats are a plump, seedless Raisin variety with a distinct muscat flavour. They are dried in the same way as Sultanas. They range in colour from pale gold to amber to dark brown. Sunmuscats were first imported into Australia in 1974 by the CSIRO.
In Australia the grapes are grown for the dried grape industry in the Riverland in South Australia, the Swan Valley Bindoon regions in Western Australia and in the Sunraysia region which spans northwest Victoria and southwest NSW around the Murray River.
Up to four kilograms of freshly picked grapes are required to produce one kilogram of dried fruit.
No sulfur dioxide is used in the process of drying Australian grapes. Sultanas, Raisins and Sunmuscats are sprayed with an emulsion of potassium carbonate and a refined vegetable oil. This alters the wax layer of the skin of the berries allowing moisture to pass through the grapes so they dry faster. Currants are not treated with a drying emulsion; rather they are left to dry naturally on racks or the trellis depending on the harvesting system used.
The dried fruit is usually classified by size, colour and texture. The Australian Dried Fruits Industry produce about 40 000 tonnes per annun.
Store the dried grapes in a cool, dry, clean and well ventillated area, at 10-15°, with a relative humidity below 50%.
In the US
The US produces a Thompson Seedless Raisin which is in essence the same fresh product as we use for Sultana production. The US refers to their dried Sultanas as Raisins, and that is where the confusion comes from. They dry the fruit without the aid of a drying emulsion, very similar to an Australian Natural Sultana, but it has a different caramelised flavour as they dry the fruit in the direct sun light on brown paper in the middle of the vine rows at higher temperatures than in Australia.
The US also produce a sulfur dioxide bleached Raisin which turns a bright golden colour after being sulfured and dried through a dehydrator.
For the Fruit Wine Maker
- If you are reading fruit wine recipes from the US or from Great Britain be mindful that our Sultanas will be called raisins in the US and sultanas in GB.
- If you are concerned about any residual oil on dried fruit from the drying emulsion use Australian Natural Sultanas. These Sultanas are dried without the drying emulsion. Remember, however, each 100 g of fruit will contain about 0.5 g of natural fat. For a detailed analysis visit this Wikipedia page.
- If using Australian Raisins choose seedless Raisins. Seedless fruit can be macerated with a stick blender. Don't macerate fruit with seeds as this raises the tannin level of your wine.
- The sugar content of Sultanas is about 60 to 70 g per 100 g of fruit. Of these sugars about 28% is glucose and 30% is fructose.
- The dark colours of dried fruit come from the phenolics in the grape. The use of sulfur dioxide in the drying process (not done in Australia) lessons the development of these dark colours.
For further information visit the Australian Dried Fruits Association website.