Fruit leather

bottleboatShearing finished on the farm yesterday. I don’t envy them that job in this heat. This morning the cattle were in the shed at 5am for their vaccinations so as to be done in the cooler part of the day. Here’s the boat Little Owl and I made as an alternative to our wooden boat that kept capsizing. It sailed merrily on the water and Little Owl worked it hard, continually going back and forth across the river rescuing imaginary animals that had become separated from their friends on the other bank.

As well as making boats I’ve been trying my hand at fruit leather. I’ve been at a loss as to what to do with all our rhubarb. It’s such a brilliantly prolific plant that I feel I must preserve its quiet valiance somehow. As you might remember, my attempt at jam last year didn’t go too well. Big Dreamer produces vast quantities of wine and cider from it, and I do make various puddings but there’s only so much crumble you can eat. So, fruit leather!

Essentially you puree the rhubarb, dry it, slice it up, and keep it in an airtight container for later. The recipe I used was actually for apple and blackberry leather but worked out fine for rhubarb. I don’t know who to credit for the recipe as it’s one of those ones that I’ve scribbled down on the back of an envelope some time so sorry if it’s yours! The recipe said 200g caster sugar to 900g fruit. I easily had double that amount of fruit so did 1800g, which produced two baking trays of leather.

I stewed my rhubarb for about ten minutes with the sugar and a minimal amount of water. I whizzed it with my handheld food processor, then put it through a sieve. I know, sieving is such a faff. In general I never put ingredients through sieves when you’re supposed to, mainly because I hate washing the flipping thing up! Anyway, you have to with leather otherwise it doesn’t dry properly. I left the sieve for Big Dreamer. Then I oiled some greaseproof paper, put it on a baking tray and poured the puree on to the tray so that it was less than the thickness of a pound coin. Then I left the tray in the oven at 80 degrees C. Now, my recipe doesn’t specify a time so I got all impatient, turned up the oven and burnt it. Subsequently I’ve learned you need to leave it for twelve hours.

Aside from burning the leather, it was a total nightmare to get it off the greaseproof paper. We managed to rescue a bit from the centre of one of the trays which was absolutely divine so I’m now on a mission to do this fruit leather thing properly. For next time I’ve ordered those brilliant re-usable non-stick baking sheets so that should sort out the sticking problem. I think I’ll also do the drying bit over night so that I don’t get impatient. I wasn’t sure how cost effective it was to leave the oven on for twelve hours even at that low heat, but Big Dreamer did a sum and we’ve worked out it costs about ยฃ2.40. Put that together with some extra oven shelves to take me up to four trays in one go and I think I’m away. I just need the rhubarb to grow back!

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