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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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Pumpkin Bread

Mini Loaves, just out of the oven...oh MY!!! You want it.

Mini Loaves, just out of the oven…oh MY!!! You want it.

Every now and then, I use someone else’s recipe pretty much as is; especially when it comes to baking. The recipe below came up along with a number of others on Pinterest when I searched for “pumpkin bread best ever”. Obviously, they can’t all be, but this one turned out so yummy, that I’m going to file this one and keep using it! Thanks to “Mom’s Menu with Cindy”! (see her link below) I have copied her recipe, as is, with the exceptions that are my notes, in parentheses. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Bread

From: http://www.momsmenuwithcindy.com

1 3/4 cup fresh pumpkin puree*

Wet ingredients.

Wet ingredients.

4 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sweetened applesauce (I’m using homemade crabapple butter)
2/3 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups white sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon**
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg**

I half-melted the butter in the microwave. Used wire whip and it looks kind of weird, but it worked.

I half-melted the butter in the microwave. Used wire whip and it looks kind of weird, but it worked.

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves**
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger **
raisins and/or walnuts, optional

*Or substitute one 15-ounce can pumpkin puree or solid pack pumpkin

**Or substitute 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice for these individual spices

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour well three 7 x 3-inch loaf pans. (I used 7 mini loaf pans that were about 3×5 and filled them ¾ full and it worked out perfectly.) In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, butter, applesauce, oil, water, white sugar and brown sugar until well blended. (I blended the wet ingredients first, then the butter that I half-melted in the microwva followed by the sugars.) In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger (or the pumpkin pie spice). Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Do not over mix. IMAG1653

Add chopped walnuts and or raisins, if desired. (I had a handful of pecan pieces left over from a previous recipe, so I threw them in.) Pour equally into the prepared pans.

Mini loaf pans, ready for the oven. Do not over-fill.

Mini loaf pans, ready for the oven. Do not over-fill.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until done. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Since I used the mini loaf pans, I checked mine at 40 minutes. They were just right at 45 minutes.)

Good texture.

Good texture.

Slightly cooled loaf. You can only wait so long!

Slightly cooled loaf. You can only wait so long!

Update: 11/16/13     I made a double batch of Pumpkin Bread today. It produced 2 large loaves and 5 mini loaves. I had a little left over, so I sprayed inside of a coffee mug with the cooking spray that has flour in it. I could have greased and floured it, but this was easier! Anyway, I filled the mug about 2/3 full with batter and microwaved it for 2-1/2 minutes.

Poof! It's pumpkin bread microwaved  in a mug!!!

Poof! It’s pumpkin bread microwaved in a mug!!!

batter in a mug

batter in a mug

My microwave oven is a small, weak one. If you have a good and powerful microwave oven, 2 minutes will probably be sufficient. It also puffed well above the rim of the cup, so 1/2 full would have been enough, but it was very good. It doesn’t brown like it would in a regular oven, but tastes just as good!

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Pumpkin Soup with Cumin and Ginger

Soup and grilled cheese...perfect comfort meal on a chilly Autumn evening!

Soup and grilled cheese…perfect comfort meal on a chilly Autumn evening! Pumpkin on the left and Tomato on the right.

So, I just made a few quarts of pumpkin puree (see previous post). I guess I need to do something with some of it before I prepare the rest for storage! It’s raining and chilly outside and it’s the first of November. How about a nice soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner? Enjoy!

Pumpkin Soup with Cumin and Ginger

Ingredients:

1 t. Olive Oil, extra virgin

IMAG1618

Some of the ingredients….

1/2 t. White Pepper

1-1/2 t. Cumin Powder

2 Garlic Cloves

½ c. Onion, chopped

1/3 c. Celery, chopped

¼ c. White Wine

2 c. Vegetable Stock

2 c. Pumpkin Puree

1 T. Honey

Pinch of Kosher Salt, to taste

½ c. Half’n’Half

Sour Cream for Garnish

Directions:

Sauté onions, celery and garlic in olive oil over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes to soften. Add spices and continue until fragrant, about a minute. Add stock and wine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Soup base.

Soup base.

Puree soup base, carefully, with an immersion blender or in a regular blender, with the center of the blender lid removed and a folded kitchen towel to cover the hole.

Pureed soup.

Pureed soup.

This prevents pressure build up and painful burns! Add pumpkin puree and honey to the soup base. Season with salt. Bring back to simmer. Just before serving, add half’n’half. Garnish with a small dollop of sour cream on top of the soup.

Soup with a dollop of sour cream. Dollop...fun word...dollop. Heh.

Soup with a dollop of sour cream. Dollop…fun word…dollop. Heh.

Pass additional sour cream separately. Offer croutons, if you like. (I tried some roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish, but they got tough and chewy in the soup. They would be good on the side, though!) Serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and you have a bone-warming autumn meal! Enjoy!

Note: Leave out the Half’n’Half and sour cream (and use vegan substitutes, if you like) and go salad instead of grilled cheese and you have a nice vegan meal.

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From Pumpkin to Puree

You're going to do WHAT?

You’re going to do WHAT?

I have had people say that you HAVE to use canned pumpkin to make a good pumpkin pie. Poppycock! (There’s a word I don’t use often…but I try to keep the blog clean.) What you need is pumpkin puree that isn’t too watery. At the start, let me just state that this process takes awhile, but it is very easy and you get a LOT of pumpkin puree! You can use the small “Pie Pumpkins”, but there’s nothing wrong with a regular pumpkin. In fact, for this blog, I used our Halloween Jack O’Lantern! It wasn’t out for too long and it didn’t get burned by the candle or covered in wax, so I decided to put it in the refrigerator overnight and use it. Basically, the pumpkin should be baked, rather than boiled, to avoid adding water to the pulp.  Then it needs to be pureed, to eliminate any stringy texture, and simmered to evaporate more water. This can be done on the stove or in a Crock Pot (depending on how much time you have and how much attention you can devote to supervising the process). So, you only need a couple of cups of puree for a pie or pumpkin bread and my average sized, grocery store pumpkin gave me enough puree to fill a 5 qt. Crock Pot, before simmering down, so this should last me through the holidays!

Since I am into canning, it is with some disappointment that I find that pumpkin puree is not safe for home canning…even pressure canning. The only safe method is to can pumpkin chunks in a pressure canner and I believe that will produce a product that is too watery for baking, unless you go through the rest of the process I’m doing here anyway. So, I’m going to put my pumpkin in jars anyway, because I have some extras, but I’m going to vacuum seal some and refrigerate them for baking in the near future (more on that soon!) and then freeze the rest. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t make a pie with fresh pumpkin puree. You just hand them a slice and tell them, “Enjoy!”

Ingredients:

1  Pumpkin

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break down pumpkin and reserve seeds for roasting (see previous post), trim inner sides of pumpkin pieces and place inner side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes or until tender all the way through. Test with a knife or fork.

In the oven.

In the oven.

Remove from oven and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove pulp from skin either by scooping with a spoon or peeling with a knife.

Discard skins and process pulp in batches through a food processor to break up any stringy texture, until smooth. You may further process the the pulp through a strainer or food mill, if desired. (I ran mine through a china cap strainer with a wooden pestle.)

Finished baking.

Finished baking.

Cooked and peeled.

Cooked and peeled.

After the food processor, I used the strainer for a smooth texture.

After the food processor, I used the strainer for a smooth texture.

Transfer pulp to a large sauce pan or a Crock Pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until puree is the desired consistency. I used a Crock Pot on “High” for about 4 hours, until the puree was fairly thick and no longer watery.

Evaporating more moisture from the puree.

Evaporating more moisture from the puree.

Cool the puree and either freeze in freezer zippered bags or airtight containers or refrigerate and use within a couple of days. Enjoy!

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