That Time I Ended Up With 8 Kilos of Fruit Leather.

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Well, it was actually 8 kilos of undried fruit leather, which is probably only a kilo once it’s been through the dehydrator. But since it takes a day per batch and I was making the stuff on a deadline, I ended up just freezing most of the mush to be processed at a later date. Anyway, I’m not running out of fruit leather anytime soon. But let’s rewind a bit!

So this year was truly an epic year for berries. Whatever was happening with the weather, berries liked it. A LOT. This resulted in all our blackcurrant, redcurrant, and gooseberry bushes yielding dozens of buckets of fruit. Even our raspberries, which have been historically fickle, were well-behaved this year. Same held true for the wild-growing ones — you couldn’t step a foot into our woods without immediately running into ripe bilberries and lingonberries as far as the eye could see. Let’s not even talk about the aronias — they seem to produce bushels of fruit reliably but I have yet to get around to picking any because of all of above, which are far tastier.

What this all meant was that I ended up with a lot of fruit that I had to either freeze or process this year. Which was problematic, because I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything with the berries (far less, but still taking up valuable freezer space) from last year yet. So I decided to juice the whole lot over the course of a few days, since the concentrated juice flasks stack neatly in the freezer and we really don’t use the ribe family of berries for much other than juice.

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Off I went on a steam juicing binge! The nice part of using a steam juicer is that the juice comes out clear and concentrated, so if I were to decide to use it for jelly or syrup instead of juice cordial, it would be ready right away for those purposes as well. The weather happened to cool off right as I started up the steaming, so it didn’t even feel uncomfortable in the house to have it going. This is one of the best reasons I have for freezing fruits and waiting until later in the year to work on them — you can time things so you actually appreciate the heat and moisture coming off of the stove. Processing them when they are picked in summer might be faster, but you end up with a humid kitchen and sweaty inhabitants. Ick. Another bonus of waiting is that you can mix and match your fruit that might have ripened at different times. I readily toss in some grapes and apples on occasion to make a nice fruit punch, for example.

Juice. A lot of juice was made. Mostly a currant mixture, since we go through a lot of it in winter to ward off sore throats and colds. It’s really nice served piping hot with sugar, like a berry tea. Ribes have tons of vitamin C, and this stuff tastes much better than microwaved orange juice. Ew.

Right. You know how I hate to see anything go to waste? I had all this enormous pile of fruit pulp left after steaming the berries down. Perfectly good, cleaned berry pulp. I’ve previously put it to the compost, but this stuff looked too nice. I’ve also fed it to the bunnies before, but that was when I did much smaller batches. Feeding them this much would have left the poor creatures in diabetic comas. I took my stick blender to the pulp, to see how much I could break it down. The resulting paste looked fine enough to use for fruit leather, so I sprinkled in a bit of sugar and ran a test batch through the dehydrator. It dried pretty well, despite my not having the proper paper to use with it, and turned a very attractive dark purple color. Both the resident child and our neighbor’s girl gave the results a thumbs up, taste-wise, so I guess I will be making more of these once the snack larder needs restocking. A+ for no food wastage and giving the kids a healthy treat. B- maybe for taking a day’s worth of drying to get ten small rolls. I will probably try to sneak some pulp into breads and muffins as well, so wish me luck with that!

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