My parents have a pretty big garden and half of it my Dad uses as a vegetable patch. I remember picking huge gooseberries, loganberries and raspberries which were sweet enough to eat straight off the bush, watching my Mum top and tail French beans ready for the freezer and my Dad making ‘tomato paste’, from his mother’s recipe, with the excessive amounts of tomatoes that we used to end up with in a good year! It taught me not to waste food and to plan ahead when food shopping. I’m a militant list writer…
Dad phoned me the other night as he had some spare plants (two peppers and a pot of coriander!) for the cottage garden. Growing plants from seed is unpredictable, sometimes you’ll plant twenty and two come up or you’ll plant twenty and the whole lot come up! And also, that the strawberries had gone mental this year! I walked into their kitchen to pick up the plants and there were four huge bowls full of strawberries. Mum had already made about a ton of jam and the plants were still groaning with fruit. I carefully liberated two bowlfuls (half a carrier bag!) of the best looking ones!
After stuffing ourselves on thick strawberry pancakes, we needed to find something to do with the rest and works with practically every fruit. Fruit leather!
Fruit, roughly chopped (Core and peel apples, take the stones out of cherries, plums, apricots, damsons, take the tops off and hull strawberries etc) Apples are good for bulking up recipes! I made up 400gr of fruit with strawberries, cherries and apples.
1, For every 400gr of chopped fruit add 100ml of water into a large saucepan with a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and simmer until the fruit is cooked.
2, Mash into a smooth paste or put into a food processor and blend. Pass through a sieve if necessary to get rid of pips (especially if your using fruits like strawberries or raspberries). Add sugar if it needs sweetening up!
3, Line a large baking tray or a big cake tin with greaseproof paper and spread the fruit thinly to about 3-5mm
4, Pop into a preheated oven (60o/c, if possible, or the lowest setting your oven will go to) to dry out. This can take upwards of 8 hours dependant on how thickly it is spread.
5, When it has stopped being sticky on top, peel off the paper, place onto fresh greaseproof paper. Store in an airtight container.