Summer is here and that means fresh fruit and produce is starting to appear are much more economical than buying them in the dead of winter, so why not take advantage of the bounty and preserve some for later? There are a number of ways to save fruit for later days and most are pretty easy to do. Freezing is fast, easy and economical. Drying is another simple way of preserving fruit that is economical and easy too. Preserving fruits by canning or making jam and jelly is another way of making sure your fruit lasts and there is always brandied fruit that can make the holidays more festive.
Freezing fruit is easy and economical
Freezing fruit is the easiest and best way to save your harvest. Just about every fruit freezes well. Just remember that the quality will not improve after freezing, so only choose the very best, freshest and ripest fruits to freeze. Berries are the easiest. Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries are simple. Just wash the fruit, Take the tops off the strawberries, pick over them to make sure there are no bruised spots or bad places and put them on a cookie sheet. Pop them in the freezer for a few hours and when they are frozen, bag them up in freezer bags. Make sure you purchase bags specifically for freezing, the ordinary storage or sandwich bags are not air tight enough. Many people mix the fruit together and it is ready to pop in the blender for smoothies. The frozen fruit helps make the smoothie thicker. Peaches and plums need a bit different treatment for the best results. Cut an x on the bottom of each fruit and drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. This loosens the skins and makes them easier to peel. After a couple of minutes, drop them in an ice water bath and you should be able to peel the skins right off. Slice the fruit into usable pieces and add some citric acid (usually sold as Fruit Fresh) to keep it from turning dark. You can purchase the powder or add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to the fruit. Seal in freezer bags and freeze. Frozen fruit makes great pies and cobblers, smoothies or even just served over ice cream.
Drying fruit for winter use
Drying fruit is also an easy and economical way of preserving the harvest. You don't have to have a fancy dehydrator, your oven will work on its lowest setting (around 170F) so no special equipment is necessary. I have an excellent dehydrator that I've had for over twenty years, so they do pay for themselves if you choose to invest. Again, use fruit that is at its peak and free from blemishes. Apples, pears, plums, nectarines and even peaches dry well. Most do best if you peel them because that prevents curling during the drying process. Wash and peel the fruit. Drop the slices in a bowl of water with a couple teaspoons of lemon juice for about ten minutes. This will prevent browning. Pat dry and place on cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper and place in the oven turned on low. Dry for about six hours. The pieces should feel flexible and leathery. Remove the fruit and place in an open container for a couple of days to finish drying, Seal and store. Grapes, strawberries and even citrus will dry nicely, so whenever there is a sale or extra fruit, go ahead and dry it. Dried fruit makes for a great addition to granola and it can be re-hydrated with a bit of water to use in cobblers, cake filling and even old fashioned hand pies.
Can or bottle fruit to preserve it
Canning or bottling is another way of preserving fruit that is quite popular. Fruits are easy because they are an acid food and you only need to process with a boiling water bath instead of using the pressure canner. A large stockpot is even acceptable as long as it is deep enough for the water to cover the jars.
To can apples, simply peel and slice the apples into even slices. Drop the apple slices into a bowl of water treated with citric acid or a couple teaspoons of lemon juice. After soaking for about 10 minutes place the sliced apples in a stockpot and cover with a light syrup, 2 cups of sugar to 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Pack in pint jars, seal and process in the boiling water bath for 20 minutes. For soft berries like blackberries, raspberries or strawberries, cover with your hot syrup and leave a ½ inch headspace. Process pints in the water bath for 15 minutes. Of course, there are always jams and jellies as well. There are many recipes for just about any kind of fruit, so do a search when you have an excess of your favorite.
Brandied fruit is an old method of preserving for later use
Preserving fruit in liquor is another way to extend the harvest. A couple hundred years ago, plums, peaches, cherries, apricots and citrus were often known as brandy fruits simply because that was the most common way of preserving them. At Christmastime, these treats were brought out and enjoyed during the festivities. It is actually quite easy and you come out with two treats. The fruit is spooned over puddings and cakes and the alcohol takes on the flavor of the fruit that was stored in it. Add fresh, clean unblemished fruit to a quart jar and toss in a couple tablespoons of sugar. Cover with vodka, rum, brandy or any other spirits with at least 40% alcohol by volume. Set in a dark cupbord and give the jar a shake every couple of days. The sugar and the alcohol act as a preservative and enhances the flavor of the fruit. Most stone fruits work great and just about any alcohol is acceptable. Right now would be a wonderful time to set some to percolating for the holidays.
Take advantage of summer bounty
Summer fruit is plentiful and inexpensive this time of year. There are a number of ways to put some by for colder weather and tasty treats for the holidays. Wherever you live there's bound to be berries, apples, citrus or stone fruits available at farmer's markets or even the local grocery store. Whatever is in season and plentiful will be perfect for one of these methods. Choose a couple of fruits and try your hand at putting some by for the winter season.