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Raisin is a type of dried fruit. It is a dried grape. It ranges from light to dark brown in colour and has wrinkles on its skin. It is sweet as it is made by drying sweet grapes. However the physical and chemical characteristics of raisins vary with variety. Raisin is used in many cuisines across the world. Cakes, desserts, puddings and stuffed dishes to name a few can be prepared using raisins. It is produced in many countries including Armenia, United States, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Macedonia, Mexico, Greece, Syria, Turkey, Georgia, India, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, China, Afghanistan, Togo, Jamaica, South Africa and Southern and Eastern Europe. Raisin can be consumed as it is or after being prepared through raisin recipes.

History of Raisin
The history of raisin dates back to the time when grapes were discovered and used first. It is believed that raisins were seen for the first time by man when they were found hanging from a dried out vine. Historians reveal that Phoenicians and Armenians were involved in developing techniques leading to viticulture initially during 120-900 B.C. In and around 11th century BC crusader knights, returning back from Mediterranean, introduced the fruit to Europe. In the late 18th and beginning 19th century, Spanish immigrants moved to California and propagated grape-growing among the farmers there. In 1876 William Thompson a Scottish immigrant in California grew a type of grape which was lean-skinned, without seed, sweet and tasty.

Use of Raisin in Cooking
The uses of raisins in cooking are innumerable. They can be used as single whole units or as garnishing, seasoning or tempering ingredients. They can even be consumed raw. Exotic Christmas cakes, desserts and puddings can never be complete without raisins and currants. They can be incorporated in main dishes such as beef-based dishes, chicken and turkey, salads, jams and sauces, sweets and desserts, health-based raisin recipes and for other dishes such as rice, breads or soups. Raisins can also be used for brewing wine.

Popular Raisin Recipes
According to regions and cultures, there are varied raisin recipes. They can be used singly or in combination with other ingredients in a recipe. Popular dishes made using raisin are Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Apple Cinnamon Harvest Pita Wiches, Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread, Apple-Raisin Crumb Pie, Raisin Tarts and Raisin and Nut Bread. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies is a crunchy snack that can be made using raisins with cookie dough. Cinnamon Raisin Bread is delicious bread with flavour of cinnamon along with the texture of raisins that can be had at any time. Harvest Pita Wiches is an easy to make dessert by combining raisins, apples and pita pieces. Apple-Raisin Crumb Pie and Raisin Tarts are interesting desserts that can be made using raisins. Raisin and Nut Bread is yet another nutritious bread.

Cuisines that use Raisin
Raisin is used in most of the cuisines across the world. In Jewish cuisine, grapes were mostly dried and used in the form of raisins and used in cakes. Now they are also used in soups and meat dishes. In Indian cuisine, they are mostly used for tempering or garnishing sweets, savouries and confections. In European or Continental cuisines, they are used in baked dishes such as cakes, breads and pastries and also in savoury and meat dishes. Raisins are used to brew flavourful wines in some cuisines.

Preferable Cooking Methods for Raisin
Raisins can be cooked by a number of methods. They can be baked, boiled, steamed, roasted, fried, mashed or cut into pieces. They can be soaked in a liquid such as hot tap water for about 15 minutes for getting plumped up for recipes. It is better to toss raisins in a little amount of flour used in the recipe while using them in baking recipes. They can be chopped well when cut with a heated knife blade. Raisins can also be frozen and used in recipes.

Nutritive Value of Raisin
Raisins are prized for their special food value. They are made from grapes which have sweet taste and are highly nutritious. Raisins are rich in antioxidants and fibre. They are free from cholesterol and fat. They are rich in fructose and low in sodium. They are believed to be beneficial in maintaining the density of bones and in reducing the chances of osteoporosis among women. They are rich providers of energy and hence beneficial for children and athletes or sports persons. Raisins can help alleviate digestion disorders such as constipation. Consuming raisins on a regular basis can keep heart ailments and colon cancer at bay.

Raisin Buying/Storing Tips
Raisins can be bought in bulk or in small quantities and stored. While buying raisins, it is always better to buy the ones packed in transparent containers so that any damage or deterioration can be caught sight of. Raisins that are packed and sealed in opaque containers must be those from good or known brands.

Raisins have extended shelf life when frozen in refrigerator. This retains their freshness for over longer periods of time. Packed raisins which are unopened or ones stored in air tight containers can last for up to six months.

Types of Raisins
Raisins are basically made from grapes which are essentially sweet. The grapes are dried to turn to raisins. They can be made from grapes with seeds or from the ones without seeds. However the seeds have to be or are removed from the grapes prior to or post drying. The popular varieties of raisins are-dark raisins, white or golden raisins, sultanas and currants. Dark raisins are the common variety of raisins found in markets made from Thomson seedless grapes. White or golden raisins also known as muscats are made out of white muscat grapes which are deseeded and oven dried. Sultanas are made from yellow grapes and are softer and sweeter as compared to the other types. They are popular in Europe. Currants are made of Black Corinth grape also known as Zante and are tiny and seedless.

• Half of the world's production of raisins is from Fresno, California

• The finest variety of raisin is from Malaga in Spain.