Mater Munchies and Apple Leather
For me, late summer means that most of the garden is winding down, but the cherry tomatoes are just hitting their stride and the fruit trees are ready for harvest. This bounty is great, but preserving the excess can be a challenge.
Cherry tomato vines produce prolifically once they get going. We’ll eat them as fast as we can, but the vines always get ahead of us and we start handing excess off to friends and neighbors. At least, those friends and neighbors who don’t grow cherry tomatoes themselves.
Cherry tomatoes do not can or freeze well (too much goop, not enough meat), so how does one preserve the excess? I like to make “Mater Munchies” out of them. Slice each tomato in half along the “equator” and place skin-side down on a dehydrator tray. Sprinkle liberally with garlic salt and dehydrate. They don’t have to be hard as a rock, but they can’t be moist at all. Perfection is when they get crisp. Store the dried tomatoes in a glass jar with a tight lid, and use them as a snack when you want something sweet and salty to nibble on.
I have apple, pear, and peach trees. The peach tree just sprang up years ago, and we let it grow. It’s big now and puts on a heavy crop most years, but they almost always rot before they’re ripe. Maybe the ground is too wet (it is near a spring), or maybe it doesn’t get enough sun. I’m not sure, but we seldom have excess peaches. If we get any at all, it’s just a few, and we eat those. Our pears are (I think) Seneca pears, and are too hard and gritty to be used as “eating pears,” fresh or dried. These and the apple tree were planted by our predecessors who preferred cooking with fruit rather than eating fresh fruit.
The apples are okay as eating apples, but not the best. Far better suited to pies and apple sauce.
I don’t douse the fruit with insecticide, so the apples tend to come in pretty ugly. They can be cleaned up and made into sauce, but a single, small tree doesn’t produce enough apples to to make much sauce. A couple of jars, maybe. But I can cut around the ugly spots and slice them up for apple leather. Dehydrating them to a leathery state concentrates the sugars, making for a sweet, chewy snack that is almost as satisfying as candy — and much better for you.
Again, seal them up in a jar (vacuum pack some for longer storage), and you’ll have a tasty treat to enjoy through the winter and into spring that needs no refrigeration.
Any tree-fruit that you grow can be dehydrated and made to last for months. These can be eaten as dried fruits or rehydrated by soaking in water for use in pies and tarts.
Even an inexpensive dehydrator can serve to help you preserve excess food and make special treats that you and your family will enjoy all winter long.
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