Thursday, September 24, 2015

Organic Peaches

Taking the time to trim your fruit trees to allow ample light and air circulation can go a long way in discouraging the proliferation of insects and diseases.  If you're starting from scratch, planting more resistant varieties is the first step, along with finding a location with plenty of sunlight and air flow. Cleaning up any fruit and diseased leaves or twigs and burning or bagging and discarding off the property can be helpful too. Besides planting two fruit trees when needed for pollination, planting more than one when possible is recommended to raise the likelihood of continually getting fruit each year. Some times (especially younger trees) may die for no readily apparent reason!  As challenging and unpredictable as fruit production can be, having fresh organic fruit for you, your family and to share with others is a true joy!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dried Plums And More

As with any dried fruit, the flavor is concentrated in dehydrated form, making them a tastey on the go snack you can store without refrigeration. Stanley plums (pictured) are great for drying. Notice the indented line on each plum: make your cuts parallel to this line as it will be the flat side of the pit for better slicing. With a very sharp thin knife, take an almost paper thin slice off one side about the  diameter of a dime: 1/3-1/2" wide.  This helps the first full slice dry more evenly.  Next slice one or two 1/4" thick slices (depending on the size of the plum) off each side. What is usually left are two small pieces on the edges to remove also. Place each piece on a well oiled dehydrating rack with a bit of space between. Dehydrate at 108-110 degrees F for 18-20 hours, until pliable but not swishy inside. They will solidify more when cooled. A little too dry is preferred. If there is too much moisture left they will spoil.  Remove from trays and allow to cool completely, (5-10mminutes),  and store in airtight containers filled to the top.  Two cup or one quart canning jars seal well to keep the air out.  
Another favorite is dried peaches. Peel and cut in wedges about 1/3" thick.  Dry as above checking after 12 hours. 
Regarding dried apples, some like them quite pliable, others prefer the taste of them dried longer, producing a denser Apple ring. Dried too much though, they become brittle and easily break into a lot of small pieces when stored away. The apple/peeler/corer/slicer tool is wonderful for these three tasks, with the option to leave the skin on if you are fortunate enough to have organic fruit to dry. (There is a small slicing lever that can be flipped up to leave the skin on.)  Apples are a drier fruit and the above tool produces thinner slices, needing as little as 12-14 hours to dry. 
Most any fruit can be dried. A good rule of thumb to remember:  the higher the water content, the thicker it will need to be sliced so there is something left to peel off the trays once they're dried. 
Drying times will vary depending on the dehydrator, humidity level, room temperature,varying ripeness and  moisture level of food used. 
Dried to the proper moisture level, and stored in a cool, dark dry spot, dried fruit will keep for several years, although the pronounced fruit flavor will diminish after the first year.