I just burned a huge pot of plum puree that I was going to make fruit leather with–about four gallons of it.
Last fall when I was pregnant I was too tired to make fruit leather out of the lovely plums that grow on our front-yard tree, so we harvested a bunch and washed them and put them into gallon Ziplocs® and froze them.
Some time later, while I was still pregnant, I got two of the bags out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge, but ran out of energy after that, and the plums went bad and had to be thrown away.
This year our next harvest is coming on, but I just didn’t want the frozen plums to go to waste, so earlier this week I thawed two bags of them and made fruit leather. Pitting the thawed plums is messy, goopy work, but the leather turned out very tasty, so yesterday I decided to face the remaining four gallon bags of fruit. I alternately sat and stood at my kitchen table, and listened to a General Conference talk and an episode of “This American Life” while I pitted the slimy, soft, juicy fruit. It took a long time and made a huge mess, and after that I didn’t feel like cooking, so when Dean came home I asked him to take the kids out to dinner. (I tried not to compare the savings on free home-made fruit leather against the cost of eating out.)
Then this evening I pureed all the fruit. I like to cook the puree because it turns it from a yellowish-brown color to a beautiful deep maroon, and I’ve never had a problem before, but this time I was using a thinner-walled pot and I turned the heat too high and left it for too long without checking, and the whole batch was completely ruined. I tried tasting some and it was like plum-flavored liquid smoke.
So I dumped it all in the sink and washed it down the drain.
I told Dean, “I guess I still get the blessings for my labor of love, even if we don’t get to eat the fruits of my labor.” He said, “It was like Abraham’s sacrifice.” “Yeah,” I said, “only different.” “The inverse.”
Now that I’ve lost your confidence, here are the instructions for plum fruit leather that I’d been planning to post:
This is what my plums look like. (Image from here.) Our tree came with the house, and the first year I thought there was something wrong with the plums because they’re not plump, juicy, or sweet. Eventually I consulted the Internet and learned that these small, firm, tart plums with a greenish-yellow flesh and a glossy purple skin with a blue waxy coating are known as Italian prune plums, the exact same thing that are called prunes when they’re dried. They’re used in quite a few traditional recipes, such as Austrian potato dumplings and Chinese plum sauce. I tried making several things, and since our fruit leather turned out the best–tangy, sweet, chewy, and just all-around delicious–we’ve never really used them for anything else. (Actually, I only made these observations on our second year here; our first year, without consulting me, Dean pulled all the unripe plums off the tree and threw them away, because he thought having to deal with all the fruit would be a nuisance. I had repeatedly said that I liked fruit and was looking forward to the ripe plums, but he was so set in his opinion that my alternate view hadn’t penetrated his consciousness. His stripping the tree was gallingly presumptuous, a fact I remind him of every year when I’m making fruit leather. He does take very good care of our plum tree and apple tree now, though.)
I use an Excalibur brand dehydrator that we got a couple of years ago, and I love it. We’ll have to use it for several years before it earns back its cost, but it was worth it anyway because it’s so easy to use and works so well. You can also use it for making yogurt (which I haven’t tried yet,) and some time I want to try making meringues. Jerky would be yummy, too, (although these days for safety they say you should really cook the meat first.)
To spread the puree on, I buy disposable 14″ square pre-cut parchments in packs of a hundred from the dehydrator’s manufacturer. The moisture of the puree makes the paper ripple a little, but that doesn’t bother me.
I pit the plums–I wear rubber gloves so my fingers don’t get stained brown–and puree them, adding some sugar and some fruit pectin. I just dump in whatever amount seems good to me–about 1/3 cup sugar per six cups of puree, and a box of pectin for a big pot of puree. Then I cook the puree IN A THICK-WALLED POT ON LOW HEAT, AND NOT FOR TOO LONG. (After I get over my grief from this last burnt batch, I might try making some uncooked; I’ve done that before and it still tastes good, although the color’s not as pretty and it’s also a little more brittle.) Once it’s cooked it looks exactly like stewed prune baby food (because that’s essentially what it is.) Then I use the back of a large spoon to spread 3-4 cups of it on the paper-covered trays, and dry it at about 140 degrees for about 10 hours, or until it’s no longer wet to the touch. When it’s done, I use scissors to cut it into serving-sized pieces–twelfths seems to be a good size. I used to peel off the paper before storing it, but now I just leave it on (that way, the kids can leave the papers all over the house.)
And then my family devours it.
At some future time (tomorrow?) I might summon the energy to take a photo of my finished leather (the batch that didn’t get ruined,) if I can talk myself into using Dean’s big bulky camera that’s hard to upload from. The reason I can’t use the little Canon PowerShot I normally use for quick photos is that I dropped it the other day while it was on, and broke it beyond even Dean’s ability to repair, even after he consulted the Internet.
Yeah, it’s been that kind of week. (Don’t get me wrong. For a clumsy ditz, I still have a whole lot to be grateful for.)