Thursday, September 18, 2014

I make it myself: Fruit Leather and Jam

My real intent in posting this "fruit leather and jam" post is to introduce you to a wonderful free fruit that grows everywhere here in New England.  It is an invasive species.  It produces prolific fruit that is extremely easy to pick.  Autumn Berries are high in lycopene. The only con to this fruit is that it has a seed in it that must be removed which requires an extra step in processing.  The Autumn Berry or Autumn Olive is a tart berry, that makes a great jam and fruit leather.  It's like a healthy, natural Sour Patch kid.

That's my dog in front of an Autumn Berry bush in my yard.  

First pick your fruit.  The berries grow in clusters along the branch.  Just hold your bucket under the cluster and run your hands over the berries.  Every berry, at least on that branch, is ripe. Sometimes there are other areas on the bush that could ripen more, but ripeness is pretty consistent per branch/area of the bush.  Picking individual berries is not necessary with Autumn Berries.

Too high for me to reach!  See those big clusters of ripe berries!

I filled a whole gallon bucket in about 45 minutes.  My daughter helped me yesterday and we did it in 20 minutes.

Warning! There will be a few little spiders (if that kind of thing bothers you, then don't pick Autumn berries.)  Wash the berries in a colander or salad spinner.  I like to fully submerge the berries in water.   Also, the leaves and stems will float to the top of the water.  I splash out the twigs and leaves and swirl my hand around the berries.  Don't worry about a few stems.  Either lift the spinner basket out or pour through a colander to drain.

Pour into a large pot with about 1/2" of water on the bottom. 

Cook until the berries have broken down into a syrupy mass with seeds floating in it.

Gradually pour the berry-mush into a food mill thingy over a large bowl and turn the crank.  I don't know of any other way to get rid of the seeds.  A sieve might work.

 Keep turning the crank until you just have a bunch of seeds. 

Throw them in your trash.  DON'T put them in your compost pile or into the woods or anything.  Did I mention they are invasive?

For making Fruit Leather:

Add:  2 T. of honey or corn syrup per quart of liquid or so (you don't need to be exact, just squirt some in generously) and 1 T. of lemon juice (not sure if this is necessary, I just followed the strawberry fruit leather recipe I had.) 

Pour the thick liquid onto the fruit leather trays in your dehydrator about 1/4" thick.  I just got this dehydrator and I am SO glad for this purpose alone.  My family eats this FL like it's candy!  Put in the dehydrator at 135º F for 4-5 hours.  Only two FL trays came with my dehydrator, so I cut parchment paper to fit the other 3 racks.   

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can pour the liquid onto parchment paper laid on cookie sheets about 1/4" thick.  Put in your oven at the lowest temp (mine goes down to 180º and that worked fine) for about 8-12 hours.  It takes longer and probably uses a lot more energy.  If you have a convection oven, that will speed things a little bit and heat more evenly.  

Autumn Berry liquid poured onto FL trays in the dehydrator.  

This dehydrator has 5 racks.

The result is a sweet, tart healthy fruit leather!  The flavor is a little like strawberry rhubarb, if I had to describe it.  

For the Jam:

After you run the berry-mush through the food mill to remove the seeds, use about 4-5 cups of the berry juice (sludge) for your Jam.

Place berry juice back into large pot on the stove.  Add 1 T. lemon juice and 4 c. sugar.  Simmer, stirring often until the mixture thickens.  Skim off foam if necessary.

When thickened (like molasses or a little thicker) pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, secure sterile canning lids and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool.  You should hear the lids "pop" a few minutes after removed from the bath.  If the lid still clicks, re-process (water bath) right away (or put it in your fridge for the first taste test.)

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