Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fruity yum yums

Fruity yum yums reminds me of birdy num nums, howdy partner and other silliness. And when I think of Peter Sellers and the brilliance of another of his films Being There, I can't help feeling sad about how he didn't get an Oscar for it (probably the greatest acting performance not to receive an Oscar). If you haven't seen go get it out. Anyway, I'm getting side tracked a bit so I'll get back on track.

Mid spring is mulberry season in Perth and the fruit is bountiful. It's one of the few berries that do well here since most need lower temps than we get, so it's something to look forward to. The season is fairly short (around 6 weeks) and this means that huge amounts of fruit are available in a short space of time. This can happen with many fruits and the challenge is to find ways to preserve it so it doesn't get wasted and so you can have fruit out of season, without the food miles and packaging, preservatives, etc that come with shop bought produce. Kids love most fruit fresh off the tree, but even they can't gorge themselves on it all.

This is where preserving comes into its own. There are loads of ways to preserve fruits (jam, cordial, chutney, preserving juice or fresh fruit in vacuum sealed jars, drying, freezing, etc.), but one method I hadn't tried until recently was making fruit leather. I saw a recipe which caught my fancy and have just been trying it out. It's yum.

The recipe is one of Pam Corbin's (or Pam jam as she's sometimes known) of River Cottage fame, in River Cottage Handbook No.2, Preserves. I don't think she'll sue me if I tell you the recipe. Mix 500 grams of fruit (could be any, recipe says blackberry, I used mulberry, my mum did figs) and the same amount of cooking apple (500g after peeling and coring) with the juice of 1 lemon.

Cook these gently in a saucepan until they're soft and pureed (20-50 mins).

Then rub them through a seive or mouli into a bowl. You should have about 700g of puree. Add 150 grams of honey and mix well.

Divide the puree between 2 baking trays (24 by 30cm, line with baking paper).

Put the trays in the oven and cook for 12-18 hours at a very low setting (60C or gas mark one eighth). I found I couldn't get my old oven that low, so in the end I turned it way down and left the door open a crack. This made it between 75-90C, which seemed to work for the 12 hours. 12 hours in the oven, won't that bankrupt me I hear you say. Don't worry, it used about 6 kW of gas which costs us around 60 cents. Peel the leather off the sheets, it should be soft and pliable and peel off easily. I was surprised at how easily it came off.

Voila, the leather is done! The first batch was a disaster (good for nowt but compost), but undeterred I tried again. I think the oven temp was too high and I left it for too long. I recommend putting it on around 8pm when you have the next day free, this way you can check it when you get up and either take it out or keep it going a while.

The second batch turned out beaut. Wrap it in greaseproof paper and store it in an airtight container, it should keep up to 5 months. Needless to say it's absolutely gorgeous. My taste is more more on the umami side, but I still love it. 

I'm just about to do my third batch, trying to get as much fruit off the neighbour's tree before it gets pruned. Many (crazy) people actually think of mulberries as a nuisance because of the stains it can cause. This is a real shame because it means so much is wasted, but it's also good in a way because you can harvest as much as you want even if you don't have your own tree.

It's the school hols right now, but when school starts again I'm betting that all the kids will be jealous of Quin's mulberry leather in his lunch box...


  1. When the weather is hot you can dry it outside. We cover ours with some netting to keep the flies off but it saves on using the oven.
    Yours looks good though.


  2. Hmm... maybe there'll be another kid in Quinn's class who'll have some of her own. Yum!