|It has been an awesome berry year--even for wild strawberries.|
Ooga has already canned about four gallons (yes, gallons) of strawberry jam and we still had plenty of berries for me to continue my experiments with drying. Unfortunately, the wet weather has prohibited me from sun-drying, so I've moved my drying operation into our oven. Theoretically, this would be faster than sun-drying, but our oven has no setting lower than 170 degrees F, a temperature that I worry would do more cooking than drying. So I spent a lot of time babysitting the oven during this process turning it on and off throughout the day. Even so, it was still a lot less work than canning the fruit. Here's my process.
|Greasing the surface that the berries dried on made all the difference.|
- Puree: I usually crush the washed and stemmed berries in a bowl with a potato masher. I mash coarsely, leaving big chunks of fruit for that cave man feel. Though next time I'm thinking about running them through a food processor to see if I can mimic the texture of the commercial leathers.
- Grease: This was my big mistake last year. I just poured the puree right onto some waxed paper and thought I was hot stuff because I wasn't pouring it right onto the baking sheet. Then I spent almost an hour scraping the leather off the paper. This year, I coated the paper with some butter and the leather can right off. Awesome! I've also seen some folks using plastic wrap. I wonder if that would work without greasing, but I'm not so excited to use plastics through the higher drying temps.
- Spread: The trick here is to keep the layer of even thickness about 1/8 inch. I take my time here to make sure it's really well spread before . . .
- Dry: Sun-drying on a roof might seem like a good idea, but it only works if the pitch is very shallow. Otherwise your leather slowly flows downhill. Sun-drying takes time. I like to start before 9:00 am on a day that will be sunny and hot all day. Our oven is OK. If I had my druthers, I'd find one that could go down to 120 degrees F, though.
- Flip: Once the leather is dry enough to peel off the waxed paper, I flip the whole thing and give the bottom side a little time so that it's not overly sticky.
- Store: I sandwich the finished leather between two fresh pieces of waxed paper. Then I put them in a sealed container. I once did not put them in a sealed container and ended up feeding some grubs. You could also keep them in a freezer, if you could handle the irony.
|Spreading the puree.|
|The finished product getting wrapped.|