Thursday, July 23, 2009

Homemade Fruit Leather - And Accidental Berry Jelly

We made up some more syrup for our new Slurpee obsession. This time we used a few Marion berries, that we had stored away in the freezer. And, something about the seedy part of the juice, that we strained off before making our icy delights, reminded me of the fruit leather I used to buy as an occasional treat for the kids.

After a little bit of web surfing, I was pretty sure making a homemade variety was a project we could handle. We sort of morphed together all of the different recipes we could find (special thanks to A Magical Childhood, and Easy Fun School), and relied on trial and error for the rest.

First off, we set some of the seedy stuff out in the solar oven. You can make actual solar driers, that would probably be better for this sort of thing, but we hadn't had a chance to use our cardboard box oven in a while, and it was a beautiful sunny day, so we figured we'd take a chance. We poured the syrup onto some buttered tinfoil, on top of a black pan, covered it with a glass bowl, and set it in the oven.

Then we turned our attention to making a seedless version, in the electric oven. Since our strained syrup was a little thin, we boiled it for a few minutes to thicken it up a little. On our first try, we boiled it just a little too long, and ended up with Marion berry jelly - good, but not what we were aiming for.

We poured a second batch of slightly less thick syrup, into two pans. One pan was buttered, and one pan was covered in a layer of buttered tinfoil. We placed both pans in the oven, at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, for a couple of hours. It was almost too long. The edges of the fruit leather were just beginning to get brittle.

We let the pans cool for a couple of hours, before transferring the leather, from the pans, to pieces of wax paper. This turned out to be quite a bit easier with the tinfoil covered pan.

The process was pretty much identical for the solar baked fruit leather, except we let it bake the entire afternoon, and it turned out just about right.

Finally, after we rolled the fruit leather into the wax paper, we cut each one in thirds. The children were divided as to whether they liked the flavor or not, but they ate it up as quickly as they do the store bought variety. It's a little labor intensive for a snack food, but on top of being less expensive, you can control whether it's sweetened with sugar or honey, and there aren't any other ingredients except the berries. For now though, I think we'll stick with Slurpees.

As to the jelly - it should make a nice literary tie in to Russell and Lillian Hoban's Bread and Jam For Frances story, at breakfast time (and maybe at lunch, and dinner too).

It's great to be a homeschooler!

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