Sun to Snacks

Hola, all you Girl in the Orange readers!  I happen to be in a very Mexican mood at the moment, owing largely to the fact that it is currently 97 degrees and humid.  Read: sweltering hot.  While I did get out and about for a run early this morning, for the good portion of the day I’ve been shut up in my room with the curtains closed to prevent the house from becoming one giant thermos, trying to mow through my latest exceedingly large order of library books (I bit off quite a bit more than I could chew.  But it’s a happy dilemma!)  My bird, Citrus, has officially declared it ‘Sleep-All-Day Day’ since the curtains are staying closed, which is usually his signal to GO TO SLEEP.  😉

(Citrus says hello.)

But, the magical thing about all this heat is that (much to my excitement when I found this out earlier this week) we can dry food with it.  You were probably enlightened to our current plight of being up to our elbows in plums in my first Wordless Wednesday post.  Again, a happy dilemma.  But clearly, something needed to be done!  I think there’s an inner OCD-sufferer inside me whose greatest ambition is to rid the world completely of food waste–sometimes I plan my meals centered around what’s about to expire in the fridge.  True story.

So we couldn’t let these plums go to waste!  Believe me when I say, there were plums coming out of our eye sockets.  Even after several pounds of the golden beauties had been unloaded onto unsuspecting parent coworkers, we still had buckets full.  We made three batches of jam and froze about three pounds, and we’re still swimming in them.  As I type, we’ve got two very large bowls of them unassumingly waiting for their death sentence on our counter.

Our solution to the excess of the fruits was, naturally, to make jam.  My brother dislikes all sorts of preserves save homemade plum jelly (the kid hardly eats ANYTHING).  So we knew someone was going to eat it.

But if you’ve ever made jam or jelly before, you know that after you strain out your juice and pulp, you are left with this:

Which most people chuck.  Which is sad.  We threw away our first batch, composted the second, and finally I hit upon an idea.

Well, to be fair, it wasn’t really my idea.  I’m a chronic Googler, and I did my fair share of poking around on other people’s blogs before I had my epiphany–which, again, wasn’t so much an epiphany at all as it was marveling over how smart other people can be.

What I eventually surmised from my “research” was that you could take this leftover pulp, puree it, spread it out on a baking sheet, cover it with some sort of bug-proofer, and leave it out in the sun for two days.  And then you would have fruit leather.

As a wee young sprite, I thought fruit leather was pretty much the neatest thing since sliced cheese (which is pretty neat).  If you want insight as to what my, erm, colorful thought process was like back then, I can tell you that when I ate fruit leather, I used to pretend that I lived on a magical planet where EVERYTHING was made of fruit and I was on a horseback ride.  And then I got lost and had to eat my saddle and boots, which were made of leather.  Another true story.

(Man, what’s with me and the confessions/reminiscences/digressions today?)

The idea that I could make my own fruit leather was practically mind-bending for me.  I had always assumed that its making was a carefully guarded secret, and that you had to work at Stretch Island to know how to do it.  Not anymore, mis amigos!

All you have to do is blend the stuff until it becomes a lovely solid yellow (sorry for the clutter in the background! 😉 )…

add a few nice gobs of honey until sweetened to your liking…

smoosh it all out on a baking sheet coated with plastic wrap, and cover with cheesecloth…

and let bake in the sun for 8-15 hours (mine took two full “sun days”–about 10:00 to 5:00) somewhere high where your dogs cannot reach them.  In this case, on top of a (currently) unused birdcage.

Once our loyal friend the sun has worked his (her? its?) magic, you must peel your leather from the sheet.  And, incidentally, the cheesecloth.  Note to all who would like to replicate my doings: I would NOT recommend laying a cheesecloth in the wet leather!!!  Use a baking sheet with sides if you have one, and rubber band the cloth around the edges or something.  As it was, it just dried in the leather and made for a fuzzy treat. 😉

After this, you can either roll the leather up into one big roll-up and slice it into little segments, or slice it into segments first and then roll up.  Either way, you have your own completely homemade, eco-friendly, and pretty durn healthy “fruit roll-ups”!

If you reuse the plastic wrap it dehydrated on, you can cut little wrappers from it and wrap up your roll-ups.  Thus resulting in a totally portable and chewy snack for anywhere!  I’m thinking sack lunches, future cross-country meets, those brother-has-a-boy-scout-meeting-and-I-must-go moments…everywhere. 😉

And then you decide that you actually need a somewhat aesthetically pleasing picture on this post.

Somewhat.  Somewhat aesthetically pleasing.  (I’m signing up for a photography course ASAP, schedule allowing).

If you want to check out this technique elsewhere, I can’t point you to every site I searched on, but here’s one post from My Happy Homestead that actually convinced me I could make my own fruit leather, and got me raking other sites.

Did you know you could make your own fruit leather in the sun?  How are you taking advantage of the summer heat (if you’ve got it)?


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