Newsletters: 18 Aug 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 18 Aug 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
A friend asked me about drying strawberries so I poked around a bit and here’s what I found:

How to dry strawberries
Choose ripe, high quality strawberries for drying. Wash by spraying with white vinegar and rinsing with water. Remove leaves and any bad spots. Cut the strawberries uniformly into 1/2 inch slices. Spread them out for drying, making sure they do not overlap. Choose a drying method:
-Place the strawberries in a sunny window on a warm day with temperatures near 100 degrees and low humidity.
-Place the strawberries in the oven at 130 degrees.
-Use a food dehydrator, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Check them periodically during drying. Strawberries are dried when almost crisp but still pliable. Pack strawberries in a moisture proof container. Vacuum packing strawberries will further prolong their shelf life, but storage in a glass, moisture proof container also works well. Use within a year.
From: eHow

Something about the whole drying concept got me thinking about my parents making fruit leather in a home-made dehydrator (kept in the basement and powered by light bulbs), back in the days before they started adding chemicals to it and calling it cutesy names. So here’s a recipe, or at least a general procedure, for that.

Fruit leather
Fresh fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes — 4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather)
Lemon juice
Sugar (if needed)
Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)
Rinse the fruit and remove seeds, pits, stems, and blemishes; peel if desired. Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash the fruit in the pan. Taste to determine how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Make additions in small amounts (by tbsp for sugar, tsp for lemon juice, dashes for spices). Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, about 5-10 minutes more.

Note: if you are working with grapes – strain the juice out of the mashed grapes to make grape juice. Force what is left behind, after straining, through a food mill, to make the purée for the next step.

Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise, or purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor (less desirable). Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth. Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (I suggest waxed paper – dh). Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 inch thickness. Place the baking sheet in the oven at about 140F, making sure the waxed paper does not fold back over onto fruit. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and become leathery; overnight is good. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky.

May also be made in a food dehydrator, or a traditional way of making fruit leather was just to tent the tray with some cheesecloth and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.

To store, roll up in plastic wrap or waxed paper and place in an airtight container. Will keep longest if refrigerated or frozen.
From: Simply Recipes

While we’re on the subject of preserving…

Independence days: a guide to sustainable food storage & preservation / by Sharon Astyk. New Society Publishers, c2009.

Preserving food without canning or freezing : traditional techniques using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage, and lactic fermentation / the gardeners and farmers of Terre Vivante. Chelsea Green Pub. Co., 2007.

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