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When a recipe calls for golden raisins, your choices are surprisingly limited. But which is the best brand?
Sun-Maid California Golden Raisins
What We Learned
When a recipe calls for golden raisins, your choices are surprisingly limited. Only a few brands are available nationwide; they are processed practically the same way, and from the same grapes usually grown in the same region (California). Thompson Seedless green grapes (which are also the source for dark brown raisins) are dehydrated in ovens and treated with sulfur dioxide. This preservative keeps them golden yellow and moist.
A handful of specialty-food purveyors carry organic golden raisins, which are sun-dried Black Monukka or Sultana seedless grapes. They aren’t processed with sulfur dioxide, so the raisins turn pale green or a very light tan. We mail-ordered organic golden raisins called Hunza (the grapes are grown in a Himalayan valley), to see if they differ from the golden raisins we found at the supermarket. The Hunza cost nearly twice as much.
The first thing we noticed about the organic raisins, apart from their color, was that they tended to be drier and less plump than the national brands. Sampled plain, we liked the organic raisins fine, but not as much as we liked the plump sugariness of conventional golden raisins. A stalwart minority preferred the organic raisins over both conventional brands, praising their “lively” and “kiwi-like” taste, but most tasters found the “malted” and “honeyed” flavors and tender texture of conventional golden raisins more to their liking. Would it matter which kind of golden raisin we used in Morning Glory Muffins? No: All three brands passed muster in this round.
Everything We Tested
These raisins had a pleasing sweet flavor “with just enough tang,” and “moist, substantial” texture in the muffins, but more than a few tasters noticed fluctuations in size, texture (from soft to gritty), and color (from dark to light) when sampling them plain. “Some are good, several are dry and leathery.”
Although glistening and golden (one lyrical taster called them “sparkling topaz gems”), these raisins were “nice, but not mind-blowing” and “like honey-flavored raisins” in the plain tasting. In the muffins, they were “nice and soft, with a sweet flavor.”
Recommended with reservations
For tasters who got past their pale green color, “these really taste like fruit.” Others couldn’t warm up to their texture, “like leather.” In muffins, “these seemed more shrunken and chewy than the others,” but their flavor was “a bit stronger—I can taste the raisins more.”