Inside Family Time for Winter: Fruit Roll-Ups

In many parts of our country, it is that time of year when some of us P1010166
are spending more hours (or even days) than usual inside the house
with children. If you have a food dehydrator, you can pull that out and make some simple fruit roll-ups with young ones. Making your own fruit roll-up snacks can also provide a snack option lower in sugar than some commercially made ones.

The major skill needed is to be able to evenly spread a fruit puree in a very thin layP1010165er (about 1/8-inch thick) onto a lined dehydrator tray. So a second skill might be pureeing of fruit if you don’t have an apple or other fruit sauce already canned. You can use your own homemade fine applesauce puree or buy commercial sauce.  More directions for choosing and preparing fruit, as well as flavoring suggestions can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website   or in some state Extension factsheets such as this one from Colorado State University.

Unsweetened applesauce makes an easy already-pureed fruit ready to spread on your dryer sheets. You can add some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to taste; or purchase some applesauces already flavored with spice or other fruits.

Drained canned fruits as well as frozen fruits make other easily available ready-to-puree fruit. You can easily purchase canned fruits packed in water or light syrups to reduce the sugar content, and frozen fruits can be purchased in unsweetened forms if you haven’t frozen them that way yourself. Strained baby fruits also make an even, fine puree to use. If the winter weather is not keeping you from accessing fresh fruits at your local store, be sure to choose ripe to very ripe fruit for pureeing. The Colorado directions for fresh fruits call for cooking a puree; other sources such as in our directions call for just pureeing the fresh fruit.

When preparing your trays, avoid pouring the fruit puree too close to the edges. Leave about ½-inch margin or more so you are able to get an edge to peel the leather away from the tray when it is dried.

Larger leathers take longer to dry; you can cover the dryer tray as shown, or pour smaller, individual sized circles to dry smaller roll-ups. The best drying temperature is 140 degrees F. Test often for dryness; times can vary a lot from 4-10 hours depending on your method and fruit.  No indentations should remain if you lightly touch the leather, even though it might still feel a bit tacky. If the leather peels readily from your tray, and there are no indentations remaining, it should be properly dried. Leaving too much moisture can lead to molding or other spoilage in storage.

See the references above for more complete instructions as well as storage directions. However, if the extra winter-time indoors is really getting to your family, your fruit roll-ups may be gobbled up quickly and not be stored all that long!

For more on recommended food drying procedures, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

What Lies Beneath: Let’s Clean Up Jars for Storage

A home canner recently asked me about “mildew” or mold that had appeared under the rijarswithbandsng bands on the canned jams and relishes she had put up a few months ago for holiday gifts.  That then reminded me about something I noted while judging canned foods at a large fair this past fall. A much larger portion of the fair entries than usual had mold growing under the ring bands,  as well as sticky residues on the jar threads and inside the bands. So let’s review some best practices for storing your home canned prizes to keep this from happening.

Lids and sealing areas of the jars should be washed off and dried before storage.  This is recommended even though you might not see food spill as you fill jars or apply lids, or moldyjarthreadson the outside of jars after processing.  Sometimes small amounts of starches or sugars in your food are there even though not very visible.  These residues can support the growth of mold with even a little bit of humidity in the environment.

After processing jars, make sure they are vacuum sealed before storing. Follow the lid manufacturer’s directions for testing for seals.  For example, if you use the very common two-piece metal lid system, after cooling jars for 12 to 24 hours, remove the ring bands.  Make sure that the flat lid is slightly curved down in the center and no longer springs back when pressed in that center.

When you’ve used a lid with a ring band, if lids are tightly vacuum sealed on cooled jars,
removejarswithoutbands ring bands to wash the lid and jar to remove food residue.  Then rinse and dry jars thoroughly. We recommend storing jars without ring bands.  If mold does start to grow on them, or if seals are broken, you are more likely to notice this and won’t be surprised when you go to use the jar. The bands can also be washed and dried and stored separately for re-use later.  At this point, it is the vacuum seal holding the lid tightly in place, not the ring band.

Label and date the jars and store them in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 °F. in low humidity.  Even with cleaned and dried jars, dampness may corrode metal lids.  Enough corrosion and you could even lose your seal.

Do not store jars above 95° F or near hot pipes, a range, a furnace, in an un-insulated attic, or in direct sunlight. These conditions may hasten loss of quality during storage.  Dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow recontamination and spoilage.

For more on recommended canning procedures, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Preserving Pears

pears, greenPears are a sweet treat over the holidays, some being cultivated and grown specifically for their availability this time of year. So after you’ve eaten your share of fresh pears, what can you do to preserve that special flavor?

If your canner is still accessible (and you have room in your kitchen regardless of holiday cooking!), then you may want to can pear halves. Remember that Asian pears are not as acidic as other varieties and have their own canning procedure which requires that addition of bottled lemon juice.

Pickled Pears are also an option for canning, especially if you have Seckel pears or another firmer, crisper pickling variety.

Pear Relish is another pickled pear product you could try; it includes onion, peppers, celery, and allspice. If you can also get your hands on 2 or 3 chayote, then you could make Chayote and Pear Relish, with allspice and pumpkin pie spice.

pear, single greenA couple of delicious sweet spread choices are available that use pears as a primary ingredient: Pear Preserves is a traditional, no-pectin-added southern-style fruit preserves made with large chunks of pear and a thickened sugar syrup (in other words, not a jam-like spread!).  Pear-Apple Jam is a sweet, gelled spread made with liquid pectin (and a touch of cinnamon!).

Finally, if you are not up for getting the canner going, then you could simply make a sugar syrup and freeze pears.

Got cabbage? Make relish.

cabbageWhile we can’t tell you to can plain cabbage, we can offer ways to incorporate this fall crop into some relishes.

Chow-chow is a popular mixed vegetable favorite, including beans, carrots, green tomatoes, pepper and onion in addition to cabbage.

Piccalilli is another popular favorite, on the sweeter side of the spectrum. Piccalilli makes the most of cabbage and green tomatoes, as well as smaller amounts of sweet peppers, onions, and brown sugar.green tomato in garden

Fall Garden Relish is a simple medley of cabbage with cauliflower, green tomatoes, onions, and sweet peppers, brightened by flavors of mustard and turmeric.

red and green tomatoesRummage Relish is a great relish for using up a mixed assortment of garden veggies: red and green tomatoes, cabbage, onions, celery, red and green sweet peppers, and cucumbers. The plethora of sugar and spices on the ingredients list are no less impressive for their notable variety: brown sugar, garlic, celery seed, cinnamon, mustard, ginger, and cloves!