After the strawberry picking, we had lots of strawberries to deal with. Zack was so tired and so sniffly when we arrived home and he desperately needed a nap. Before going to sleep he asked, then clarified, then asked me to repeat back to him that HE could do the strawberries. I tried to opt for his doing some of the strawberries, but that was not what he was looking for. Since it was supposed to be a fun project for him, I agreed that I would only "get ready" and leave the actual doing for him. I had originally thought that the berries would keep until the next day, but after the ride home and with the mud from the field on them, there was no way they were going to keep. So I got ready doing the prep. The washing was the most time-consuming and challenging step of this whole thing. The mud and sand were crusted in around all the seeds and it was only through floating them in multiple baths of water (hey! another great use for the salad spinner!) and scrubbing each with my fingertips that they got clean.
After being out in the sun, and also due to his sniffles, Zack slept a loooong time. I had thought to leave some of each step for him to try (like being in a cooking show, ha!), but the washing had to get done and it wasn't really practical for him anyway. After the first attempted wakeup I started hulling. I finally woke him again and explained that I would have to go ahead with the strawberries now, but if he wanted to sleep that was ok. He was groggy, but insisted on helping, so he drug himself around to sit and drink some juice. He must have been a little dehydrated (we had water with us, really) because after getting some liquid he was ready to go.
As I mentioned, I wasn't really planning to buy so much fruit, so I had to figure out what it was we were actually doing. While he was sleeping I chose two projects for us: jam and fruit leather. I wrote the jam recipe out in easy-read form so that he could read it (with help). It was a simple recipe - fruit, pectin, a teensy bit of butter, lemon juice, and sugar. I had pectin from a failed jelly attempt a few years ago or I wouldn't have been able to do this on a whim - lucky! I keep canning jars to house occasional gifts, but I've never "canned". I usually just put granola in them and had never tried the sterilizing part. After two cookbooks and three calls to my mother, I had a plan. The sterilizing is rather easy - just like everything else lately, I'm discovering that a lot of intimidating stuff is not so intimidating and doesn't necessarily need special equipment.
Zack was our official strawberry crusher and boy was it a good job for him! This part is done before the heat is even on, so it was nice to let him just go at it. I thought we wouldn't have enough strawberries to make up two quarts into jam... but the first quart barely made a dent so we made the full two quart recipe.
One by one, we heard the lids suction in with a -pop!- and create the final seal - so cool! After we had it poured, James (my own personal naysayer- harrumph!) wondered out loud if it would set up, considering the original project for which the pectin was purchased hadn't. Gasp! I had not even thought of such and hated to think of our beautiful project failing! Late into the evening, the jelly was still liquid and I was worried, but by morning it was a (loose) jelly consistency. And YUMMY!
Meanwhile, we moved on to fruit leather. This had sounded great last week, and what do you know, it was easy too. It's pureed fruit with applesauce, lemon juice and a little sugar. Zack spread it on a plastic lined tray and we left it in a very low oven for five hours (yes, this meant getting up in the middle of the night to turn the oven off - James more than made up for his naysaying moment by doing this little chore!).
When I cut it the next day, it was still too soft in the center. I put it back in, but then forgot to watch it closely (I was reading this interview - who can blame me!) so the very outside edges got more crispy than leathery. I broke them off and ate them. The rest is wrapped into fruit leathers for Zack to discover a little later.
There were still strawberries left, but it was after Zack's bedtime so I send him to bed and made a set of popsicles, smoothies for me and the hard-working hubby, and still had plenty left for eating. Wow! I have to say, this seemed like a homemade extravaganza. Even with each piece being easy, it still added up to a lot of time on our feet actually doing it. It was fun but I don't need to repeat it right away. As we went to bed I couldn't help reflecting to James that all these prairie-cool adventures add up a lot of time. How did people possibly manage all these things? Well, they didn't spend the next day blogging about it I guess!
Here is that promised recipe!
Here is that promised recipe!
Fruit Leather4 c. fresh strawberries (or a little less)
1 T lemon juice
1 c applesauce
1/4 c sugar
Puree the berries (it will make about 2 c. puree) and add the other ingredients.
Line a 10x15 in jelly roll pan with plastic wrap. Pour puree into the pan and spread evenly.
Bake about 5 hours at 200F or until leather pulls away from wrap.
Cut into slices, roll and wrap each in plastic.
Let me know if you make it, or what other fruits you are making into leather!