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Cherry Fruit Leather from Fresh Cherries

Sugar, water, cherries

Sugar, water, cherries (There’s a few Mt. Raniers in there.)

With cherries in season and some deals here and there, I had some on hand. Unfortunately, nobody was eating them and they were just passing their prime. Having recently discovered that my almost 15 month old grandson was very enthusiastic with the discovery of “Fruit by the Foot” snacks, I decided to pull out the dehydrator and give it a shot. By coincidence, I happened to find a deal on some Presto brand liners for making fruit leather and had bought a couple. That probably spurred me on a bit as well. My dehydrator is a Nesco brand, however, and it has a bigger center hole than the Presto model, so the dehydrator motor would not fit through the Presto accessory’s center hole.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole...oops.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole…oops.

Having already poured the fruit puree, my best bet was to put the trays at the bottom with the empty ones on top. Those, plus the lid, got me close…still sticking up a little, but enough for the dehydrator to work.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

As for the fruit leather, I looked around on Pinterest and found a recipe that looked like what I was searching for. The recipe, at http://www.bakedbyrachel.com/cherry-fruit-leather/  (credit where due!), specifies using an oven at 170F and sheet pans with silicone liners, but I figured that substituting a dehydrator would be no problem. I will admit  that I didn’t really measure my cherries…but I think I was in the neighborhood of four cups. In the end, I perfectly lined the 2 inserts, with none left over.

One tip: double check your cherries for pits. I thought I was careful, but a couple made it into the blender and I had  to run the puree through a sieve. I left behind a little fiber and peel, I guess, but I think I would add that step anyway, for a smoother puree. So, here’s the recipe:

 

Cherry Fruit Leather

4 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

 

Directions

Add the water and the fruit to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to mash the cherries as they cook. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until well broken down. (I must admit that I added the sugar also and it seems to have turned out okay, though it was supposed to be added later.)

Mashed cherries simmering.

Mashed cherries simmering.

Transfer the cooked fruit to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. I did mine in 2 batches. Be careful with hot stuff in blenders! I left the center hole open and covered with a towel, to avoid building pressure and causing a hot fruit puree explosion.

Pureed and strained.

Pureed and strained.

Return the puree to the saucepan…after passing through a sieve, if necessary or desired. Add the sugar…if you didn’t do it when I did, by mistake. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened some. Remove from heat and stir bubbles down a bit.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Lightly spray your dehydrator disks with a nonstick spray or lightly brush with oil and place on dehydrator trays. Ladle the puree onto disks and carefully give a jiggle to even out puree.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Add the cover and the motor and dehydrate until a little tacky to touch, but not dried out completely. (Although…it needed to be a little drier than I thought.) Should be between 4 to 7 hours, depending on your dehydrator, humidity, etc. (Mine actually took more like nine hours.) Allow to cool. Peel from dehydrator inserts and store, rolled in wax paper or parchment and stored in an airtight container, up to one month. (Cut in smaller strips, if desired.) Enjoy!

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

I did need to go to the longer period of time for the dehydrator…actually, well beyond. One tray was a little thicker than the other and, when I touched it, it kind of schmudged it some. Yeah…made up that word. And I turned it off after about 5 hours, thinking it was done. I decided it wasn’t done, later, after it had cooled. I popped the trays back in the dehydrator and let them go another 3 or 4 hours. The thicker one then went another hour. But they turned out fine, in the end, and taste good. Live and learn. Next time, the process will be smoother.

 

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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Further Adventures with Jackfruit…Canning in Syrup

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

When I got this jackfruit, I went through quite a learning experience to get the fruit separated from the husk. For that adventure, see my previous post. With some of the fruit, I decided to make a Jackfruit Cider. For that adventure, you can follow his link to my brewing and fermenting blog:

https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/jackfruit-cider-well-see/

With 2lbs of fruit left, plus the seeds, I needed to finish up before things started going bad. First, the seeds. I boiled the seeds for 15 minutes and then roasted them for another 15 minutes at 400F. The skin covering the outside is a little bit of a pain to remove. The seed itself is like a very dry, firm potato. Not bad, though. A nice snack.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Now, for the fruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

Canned Jackfruit in Syrup

2lbs fresh, ripe jackfruit

3 cups white sugar

3 cups water

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a large pot or saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the jackfruit. Boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 2 pint jars, lids, and screw rings for canning. Prepare pressure canner.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Add fruit to jars and cover with syrup, leaving approx. ½” headspace. Clean rims with damp cloth. Place lids and screw down rings to finger tight.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Place jars carefully into prepared pressure canner and close lid. Purge according to manufacturer’s recommendations (10 minutes, in my case). Place weight and bring pressure to 11lbs.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

Process for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in canner until pressure is zero. Remove jars to cloth-lined counter and allow to rest for 24 hours to seal. When cool enough to touch, snug down screw rings. After the rest period, check seal, remove screw rings, and store in cool, dark space.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Note: I had excess syrup…about 2/3 of a pint jar. I let it cool and refrigerated it. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jackfruit: What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Fresh One!

Fresh Jackfruit...oh boy!

Fresh Jackfruit…oh boy!

Through a little twist of fate, I wound up the proud owner of  a large, fresh jackfruit today. It was just going to be tossed, if I didn’t accept the offer, so I took it. I had visions in my head of making a jackfruit mead or a jackfruit cider. I also am considering canning it in syrup…could be an NC State Fair prize winner! But I have no idea how to use it. I’m ruling out mead, because I would need six pounds of honey and I’m not willing to invest $36+ on a project that may not work out. Other options are open and more research is going to take place shortly.

The reason for this post is to let people know, who may be intrigued by this large fruit, normally found in Asian grocery stores (in my area),  what you are about to get into if you make that leap.

First, it is big. My kitchen scale goes up to eleven pounds and this exceeded that. Second, it is hard. I used a 10 inch chef’s knife and did okay cutting it in half and then each half into quarters. Imagine cutting through a very large butternut squash.

Half...then quarters.

Half…then quarters.

When you open it, you will see orange pods held in place by stringy internal fibers, and a core. I cut the core away, like I would from a quartered pineapple. Some of the pods had their single seeds exposed and a few cut through. So, the trick now is to separate the pods from the rind and the fibrous stuff. I decided to cut between the rind and the pods like I cut cantaloupe away from the rind. Then I would pull up a pod, remove the sticky, clingy strands from it. Next, cut a piece from the top and bottom, releasing the seed from its attachment to the pod. The seed, which looks like a large garlic clove is slippery and will pop out of its sheath, which should be removed and discarded.IMG_20150531_162438878

It is at this point that you realize that your hands and knives are becoming more and more sticky and it isn’t rinsing off…not even with soap. The sap is coming from the core and stringy fibers and it feels very much like what I would imagine the sap from an actual rubber tree would feel. So, at this point, I decided just to get it done. *(Update: I later learned through my research that cooking oil keeps what others refer to as the “latex” from sticking. Coat your hands, work surfaces, and knife blades with it prior to beginning. Personally, handling oily knives with oily hands sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, in my opinion. Perhaps I would try it for clean-up.)

This is AFTER I tried to wash my hands with hot water!

This is AFTER I tried to wash my hands with soap and hot water!

This took some time…I wasn’t watching a clock, but it was over an hour, I’m sure. Once I had everything separated, most of the peels, cores, etc. went to the composter. I kept the seeds, pending research. Some seed covers and a fair amount of string/sticky fiber went into the disposer. I would not recommend this…looked like sinks were backing up, but cleared a few minutes later, after running the disposer and some hot water. I had to clean my hands and knives with a solvent!*(see update above)

Yielded about 4lbs fruit.

Yielded about 4lbs fruit.

With all said and done, I have 4lbs of Jackfruit and about a pound and a half of seeds. As I said, I’m not decided yet on what to do with the fruit and I doubt the seeds are useful, but after all that work, I’m going to figure out something!

As for the flavor and texture, fresh jackfruit is hard to pin down, except for banana. Banana is definitely there, but there’s some other stuff there that I don’t really know how to describe. Floral? Peach/mango/pineapple? But with absolutely no acidity. It’s not juicy or lush; the texture is kind of like biting into a slightly limp slice of yellow squash. It’s hard to say I really like it. I would nibble on some, but I would not eat much. Canned in syrup or as the main ingredient in a cider? I don’t know yet…could be fabulous. But before you buy one, if you read this first, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into! Enjoy!

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2014 Crab Apple Jelly

Getting ready to boil the crab apple juice.

Getting ready to boil the crab apple juice.

Yes, it’s time for my award winning crab apple jelly! For the recipe and last year’s notes, check out this link: https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/crabapple-jelly-2nd-place-at-nc-state-fair-2012/

The only differences this year are that 1) I had to forage my crab apples from a neighbor because our HOA Board of Directors had all the ones on community property cut down. *steam*

Community crab apples cut down...have to rely on a neighbor.

Community crab apples cut down…have to rely on a neighbor.

and  2) I used about 5 lbs of crab apples instead of four. I wound up with 7 cups of juice, but I only used six cups and did not have to add any water.

Cooked and strained crab apples=juice

Cooked and strained crab apples=juice

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another winner at this year’s North Carolina State Fair!

Finished crab apple jelly

Finished crab apple jelly

Now I need to figure out what to do with 21 more pounds of crab apples before they start rotting!  I only need so much jelly…maybe one more batch for gifts. I’ll probably do another batch of hard cider…my little counter top extractor is a bit under sized for the job, but it’s all I have. One of these days, I’m going to burn out the motor. Maybe I’ll get a press some day…when I have substantially more money!

 

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Home Canned Cranberry Sauce, Pourable

Home canned cranberry sauce,  jellied style.

Home canned cranberry sauce, jellied style.

Note: This recipe did NOT produce a jellied style sauce. It is a very nice textured, pourable sauce that would be outstanding on ice cream; maybe cheesecake or bread pudding. It is sweet, but not too sweet. It would still be delicious with turkey or other roasted fowl or pork, but it will NOT satisfy your die-hard “has to be shaped like a can” people. Oh, it’s good with a little seltzer and ice. I can imagine it would make a beautiful holiday champagne cocktail!

Very pretty, too...try it in a champagne cocktail!

Very pretty, too…try it in a champagne cocktail!

A very refreshing drink!

A very refreshing drink!

 

I will try another recipe for jelled, jar-shaped cranberry sauce and I will post my results here!

There are two sides to the cranberry sauce argument: whole, fresh cranberries made into a chunky sauce or the commercially canned jellied style that retains the shape of the can when you serve it. My family has been on the canned bandwagon forever. Since I have been getting into home canning for the last couple of years, I decided to make a small batch from fresh cranberries last year, but forced them through a sieve to make the sauce smooth. I canned the batch and it was very like what we were used to having and it held it’s shape! We had a can of the commercial stuff too, just in case, but mine was well-received! I didn’t keep the recipe I used, though…D’Oh!

So, this year, I put together a new recipe. Since there are STILL crabapples on the trees around here, I had to forage a few and throw them in too! You could substitute regular apples and, if you core and peel them and like the chunky/saucy style, you could skip the straining part. These make great little bring-along offerings if you are invited somewhere for Thanksgiving and maybe you’ll have some left for Christmas! Enjoy!

Home Canned Cranberry Sauce, Pourable

Ingredients:

Ingredients.

Ingredients.

2  12oz Bags Fresh Cranberries

12 oz Crabapples, stemmed and blossom end removed,

or regulars apples, cored and peeled

1-1/2 c. Sugar

1/2 box Sure-Jel pectin

6 c. Water

½ t. butter

Directions:

Prepare canning equipment and supplies. You should have 7 half pint jars with warmed lids and threaded rings. Make sure the jars are sterile. In a large sauce pot, add the water and bring to a boil. Add crabapples or apples and cranberries. Return to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cooking vrabapples and cranberries.

Cooking vrabapples and cranberries.

If you are using crabapples and want a smooth cranberry sauce, carefully pour the cranberry mixture into a strainer or sieve and extract the pulp. If you are using peeled/seeded apples and want a chunky style sauce, you can skip the straining and proceed.

Straining out the cranberry and crabapple pulp.

Straining out the cranberry and crabapple pulp.

Return the cranberry mixture to the pot and add theSure-Jel and the sugar. Stir to dissolve and add the butter (helps keep the foam down). Stirring constantly, bring to a boil for at least 1 minute. Skim foam and proceed with the canning process.

Boil the sauce with the sugar and a bit of butter to reduce the foam.

Boil the sauce with the sugar and a bit of butter to reduce the foam.

Fill the jars to within 1/4” head space. Wipe rims with a damp cloth or paper towel to clean. Center lids on the jars and screw on threaded rings until snug. Carefully put jars in a water bath canner with enough boiling water cover the jars by 2 inches. Boil for 15 minutes. Remove jars to a towel-lined counter and leave for at least 12 hours, for lid seals to harden. Remove rings and check seals. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal. Enjoy! To serve, dip the jar in hot water for several seconds to loosen the cranberry sauce from the side of the jar and tip out onto serving dish. Enjoy!

Note/Update: I left out the Sure-Jel originally and was not seeing any jelling, so I opened all the jars, threw away the used lids, prepared new ones, sterilized clean jars and reprocessed the sauce by adding the Sure-Jel (1/2 box) and boiling for one minute. I then processed in the canner again. I wound up with 5 half pints and 1 little 4oz jar. Two days later, I have a beautiful, thick, pourable sauce, but still no jelling. I believe I used WAY too much water for a jellied sauce.

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Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

Foraged wild muscadine grapes

It is unfortunate  that my previous blog host lost all of my posts from August 31 through early October. Fourteen in all! Luckily, I DID save recipes on my computer. If you’re interested, “pin” this one or save it for next August/September when the muscadines are in season again! Muscadines are the native grapes in North America. This would have been the only grapes available to our settlers for wine-making and jelly. It would be a long time before “table grapes” and European wine grapes made it to this continent. I have located a few secret spots to forage enough wild grapes to make a couple of batches of jelly each year. I love the idea of foraging and using FREE fruit! You can, however, get cultivated muscadines (and scuppernongs) in grocery stores and, in some areas, at local farmer’s markets. To be technically accurate, both the purple and the green grapes are “scuppernongs” and the purple ones, specifically, are “muscadines”. Typically though, we use the term “scuppernong” for the green ones. Aaaanyway, they’re both delicious and make great snacks, jelly and wine! I haven’t tried making wine yet. Next year!

To eat these grapes as a snack, you point the end of the grape where the vine was attached into your lips and you squeeze the grape, so that it pops the insides into your mouth. Squeeze the skin for any remaining juice and throw it away. Now, the pulp is a little blob with a couple of seeds. It can be sucked through your teeth to remove the seeds. Spit out the seeds and eat the pulp. A little odd, but fun and delicious!

For making jelly, you cook the whole grapes. The skins give the muscadine juice a beautiful purple color.  This jelly was entered into competition at the 2013 NC State Fair and came in second place! This is a big category and I was very pleased to win a red ribbon! (I also won a red ribbon for homemade ketchup!)

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly

I wanted to get this post back on the books, spread the recipe and encourage everyone out there that might enjoy foraging for grapes or making jelly. Just make sure that you only forage where you have permission or don’t need it . I’m also currently trying to get a couple of grape vines to survive on my property. So far, the dogs have thwarted my attempts. I have a couple outside of their area now…I hope they make it through the Winter! Now for the jelly recipe. Enjoy!

Muscadine Grape Jelly  Originally published 9/5/13  [2nd Place, 2013 NC State Fair]

Ingredients

Muscadines

Muscadines

7 cups Muscadine Grapes

3 cups Water, plus extra, if needed

7 cups Sugar, white, granulated

1 box Sure-Jell Pectin (6 Tablespoons, if using bulk)

½ teaspoon Butter

Directions

Put the grapes and 3 cups of water into a sauce pan, 5 quarts or larger, on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and continue for 10 minutes, stirring often.

IMAG1074IMAG1077

Using a potato masher, mash the grapes.

Mashing the cooked grapes

Mashing the cooked grapes

Prepare a colander over a large pot or bowl with 3 or 4 layers of cheesecloth. Dampen the cloth with water first and wring out. Make sure you use plenty of extra overhang on the cheesecloth, as you will be gathering it into a bag shortly. (If you have a “Jelly Bag and Frame” set-up, you can use that instead.)

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Cooked, mashed grapes, cheesecloth, colander, stock pot.

Pour the grape mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander that is set over a pot or bowl for draining. Next, gather the cheesecloth into a bag and tie with kitchen twine.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Tie and hang the bag to drip.

Make the tie so that there is a loop you can use to hang the bag.

Hang the bag from a kitchen cabinet knob and position the bowl or pot under it. Allow to gravity drain for an hour or so. When cool enough to handle, squeeze any remaining juice from the bag. Some recipes say not to squeeze the bag, but this is a dark jelly and clarity isn’t really a major factor. If you want to wait a few extra hours and waste some juice (which equals flavor!), then go ahead.

5 cups of juice...look at the color!

5 cups of juice…look at the color!

Once all the juice is extracted, pour into measuring cups and, if necessary, add just enough water to equal exactly 5 cups. If you need to take a break in the process, now is the time to do it. The juice can be refrigerated overnight or 24 hours.

Prepare water bath canner set-up and supplies. Sterilize jars and heat lids in water, just below the simmering point. Next, in a 5 quart or larger sauce pan, bring the 5 cups of juice to a boil. Add the pectin and whisk well. [Side note: I use pectin powder because it requires less cooking and, I think, a more true muscadine flavor.] Add ½ t. butter to reduce foaming. Pour in all the sugar at once and quickly whisk until it is all incorporated. As soon as the mixture returns to a full rolling boil, set timer for one minute and continue to whisk constantly. Be careful to keep from boiling over! As soon as time is up, remove from heat and skim off any foam.

Canning the jelly

Canning the jelly

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Wild Muscadine Grape Jelly.

Ladle the hot jelly into jars, leaving 1/4” headspace. Clean rims with a damp cloth or paper towel. Place lids and threaded rings on the jars and screw down the rings until snug. Place jars in the water bath canner with enough boiling water to cover the jars by 2 inches. When canner returns to a good boil, set timer for 5 minutes.

When time is up, remove jars to a cloth lined counter and allow seals to firm for 24 hours. Check seals, remove rings, label and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Any lids that don’t seal can be refrigerated and used right away.

Makes 8 to 9 – 1/2 pint jars. I would have 9 ready plus a 4oz jar, if you have one, just in case. If you have leftover, you can always put it into a small storage container or glass and store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Peanut butter and jelly? Yes, please!!! Enjoy!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!

PB and the best grape J ever!!!

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