Rarely, do I walk through the produce section of the grocery store and not see a cart loaded with bulging bags of overripe bananas reduced for quick sale, and rarer still, are the times when I leave the store without a bag or two!
My usual, go to method for extending the life of a large quantities of ripe bananas, is to peel, chop them into 1-2" pieces and fill ziplock bags for the freezer, all ready for making morning smoothies.
Drying banana splits is my other go to method. These dried bananas are quick to prepare, slow to dry and tastier than any commercial dried banana or banana chip I have tried.
Step 1: Peel the Banana
I am sure that everybody has peeled a banana before, but when you are peeling 40 bananas, it is good to have an efficient system. I make a little slice into the top of the banana at the bottom of the stem with a knife and then use the stem to pull off the first piece. After that, getting the rest of the peel off is easy.
Step 2: Split the Banana
Once you have your banana peeled, you will need to split it. This is the cool part. You may not know this, but it is surprisingly easy to perfectly split these banana into three pieces lengthways (triploids).
Take your peeled banana in one hand and press your finger into the middle of one end. Push your finger into the centre gently, keeping your finger in the middle and slightly wiggle your finger to get the banana to start to split naturally into three sections. Once you get it started, from my experience, you will get the best results (longest unbroken sections) by working off one section first, all the way to the bottom of the banana and splitting the remaining piece in two along the split you started at one end. Lay your pieces down on the oven rack as you go.
Repeat peeling and splitting one banana at a time until your trays are full.
I filled three oven racks with the splits from about 40 bananas. That was two very full bags of bananas.
Step 3: Put Them in the Oven and Wait...
Preheat your oven to 150 Fahrenheit and place the racks of banana sections or 'splits' into the oven, spacing the racks apart.
I really did try a few things to make this more energy efficient, starting with turning on the convection feature in the oven for the first hour. I'd never tried this before, but there is something about writing up your methods in an instructable and sharing it publicly, that makes me want to first consider whether i could improve on things...
In order for the convection oven fan to work, the door must be closed, and even though I knew there would be a lot of moisture coming off the bananas, I thought that maybe the fan would be enough. It wasn't. there was a lot of drips and moisture everywhere, it was a bit of a mess in fact, so don't try this!
You need to have good air flow to let the moisture out. My compromise, to try and save some energy, was to keep the oven door only slightly open, by placing a wooden spoon between the door and the oven to keep it only slightly ajar. This worked.
Let your bananas dry slowly over the next ten hours... I rotated the top and bottom oven racks once during that time, to keep the drying more even.
The bananas get smaller and browner as they dry. (Apparently, dipping banana in lemon juice will help to keep them from browning so much - let me know if you try this).
After about ten hours, turn off your oven and open the door right up and let them cool on the racks.
Step 4: Eat and Store
When they are completely cool and dry, dig in, if you haven't already! They should feel dry on the outside, not too hard, and will be bit chewy to eat.
That's a lot of dried bananas! This batch of dried bananas filled up three medium zip-lock bags completely.
I put some in a jar for handy snacking, and threw the rest into zip-lock bags headed for the freezer.
They are actually good to eat right out of the freezer. You can easily break off a piece when they are frozen, it will soften and become chewy while you are eating it.