Sunday, August 22, 2010

Saving Summer

The time has come for us to spend a little time preserving a piece of summer. Peaches have been 78 cents per pound (as cheap as I think they'll get around here) at the grocery store and a local farmer has been selling fresh picked cherries for $2 per pound at the farmer's market.

We started out by making a few batches of peach leather:

Peaches washed and ready for processing To peel the peaches, we first cut an "x" on the bottom of the peach, then put them in boiling water for a short while (this depends on the peach, but somewhere from 30 seconds to a minute--the skin splits at the "x" when it's ready) They go straight from the boiling water into an ice water bath to cool them down quickly so they don't cook Ideally, the skin peels right off. If the peaches aren't quite ripe enough, the skin won't come off as easily. (Yes, that is baby #3 already getting involved in the food preservation).After carefully cutting around the circumference of the peach (peeled peaches are slippery), you can separate the halves, and cut whichever half has the pit in half again to get the pit out Our peaches all diced up We ran them through the food processor to make a puree and in the last batch we ran through, we also added lemon juice (2 tsp per 2 cups of peaches) and honey (just to taste, I think we did about 1/4 cup per 2 cups of peaches) Next, we put the puree in the dehydrator. In the past, we've just lined the trays with saran wrap for this step. It worked, but since it was impossible to pour a thick layer, the edges of our fruit leather would be dry and crispy. When we moved here, we quickly realized that food preservation is much more common in this area than it was in our old town. In addition to crates full of canning jars and replacement parts for pressure canners and anything else you could think of, the local hardware store also sells the fruit leather trays for the dehydrator. These are inserts that sit on top of the regular trays and give you a perfect surface for pouring a nice, uniform layer of fruit puree. For our dehydrator, each tray holds 2 cups of puree. The only "trick" is that the instructions for the tray recommend spraying it with non-stick spray before pouring on the fruit puree. We forgot the spray on the first tray and I can tell you it is definitely easier to peel the dried leather off if you use the spray. We only have 4 trays and we got 8 cups of puree before we ran out of peeled and diced peaches, so the left over peaches had a quick soak in lemon juice (1 part lemon juice to 4 parts water, to help them retain their color) and got thrown on another tray We set the dehydrator at 140 degrees (highly recommend a dehydrator with variable temperature settings if you're looking to buy one) and the next morning, we had peach leather! It's easier to package up while it's still warm, so I took one tray at a time, peeled the leather off the tray in one big sheet, then cut it into pieces before it could cool down. You could put your pieces on wax paper and roll them up while they're still warm, but we decided to just stack them and put them in a ziploc bag The result is a fruit leather without high fructose corn syrup, chemical preservatives or an expensive price tag (approximately $4 of peaches, plus 1/8 cup of lemon juice, plus 1 cup of honey--we got our's for free as a "welcome to town" gift from a local store--got us 32 fruit leathers). I couldn't buy an equivalent leather for much less than 50 cents each. The girls absolutely love it and think of it as a dessert.

Since these pictures were taken, we've made another 4 trays of peach leather and we have plans today to preserve more peaches and some cherries.


Anonymous said...

Oh boy that looks good. I remember one of Joshua's favs as a kid at the end of summer when I could still get peaches and then the pears started coming in I also bought some seedless grapes or used the pitted cherries and we made friut cocktail. I used to cheat and buy maraschino cherries and use the syrup that they came in and it turned the juices a light pink it looked really nice in a jar and I did them in pints because they were treats. It's fun to make it to what your kids like but the pink juice was what they thought was just yummy.

Have fun,

Brandy said...

LOVE fruit leather. Hadn't done peaches yet...but our girls are the same way. They think of it as a treat. They call them 'fruit roll-ups'. :P

Karen said...

I'm so glad you put up these kind of posts. It makes me excited and gives me the know how to do it. Thank you!

One Acre Homestead said...

I have always wondered how to do this! Looks like we have the same dehydrator...I'm going to have to go look for those tray liners.

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