Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Strawberry Leather

Strawberry-apple leather, rolled up in wax paper. A great snack!

Strawberry-apple leather, rolled up in wax paper. A great snack!

When I was a kid, my dad built a solar food drier – he was a craftsman by trade for most of my childhood. It was a box made of plexi that had screens as sliding trays, and the sun would bake the box passively, drying anything inside. My parents made dried fruits, mostly apples. But my favorite favorite was the fruit leather. Mom mashed strawberries and put them on wax paper – that’s all. No store bought fruit rollup has ever come close to that flavor. So I’ve been wanting to try it myself.

Strawberries, after a few days in the fridge. Not amazing, but still worth using!

Strawberries, after a few days in the fridge. Not amazing, but still worth using!

The strawberries I had on hand weren’t actually that great – they were kind of old. I had tried to get strawberries at the farm near my work, to make jam, but sheesh. I got there 3 minutes after they opened and they had already sold out! So I bought strawberries at my grocery store. They were fine, but not as good as the ones I have had straight from farmers. Sad face.

Chop those strawberries!

Chop those strawberries!

After making jam, I had a couple pints of berries left over. So… fruit leather time!

“The Dehydrator Bible” – my resource for food drying – doesn’t have any recipes for plain strawberry leather. I took that to mean that maybe strawberries would be too runny on their own. They suggest either strawberry-apple or strawberry-banana. I went with strawberry-apple.

I realized that I needed to blend the strawberries with the apples, or the apples wouldn't blend well.

I realized that I needed to blend the strawberries with the apples, or the apples wouldn’t blend well.

After cutting out the bad parts of the strawberries, I had the perfect amount: 2 cups chopped. Then peel and chop up an apple – something firm like granny smith – and blend the two together. I also added about a quarter cup of sugar, for flavor, but don’t add much more than that. It won’t dry right and will be tacky or sticky. And if your fruit is tastier than mine, no sugar necessary.

All smooshed up. Here's where I taste tested, and realized it needed a little sugar. I added bakers sugar because it's finer and would mix in quicker.

All smooshed up. Here’s where I taste tested, and realized it needed a little sugar. I added bakers sugar because it’s finer and would mix in quicker.

Then just pour the mixture onto a leather tray (solid plastic, no holes) and put in the dehydrator at 135 for 5-8 hours. Mine was on the upper end of that range. If you don’t have a leather tray, you can try putting parchment on a jerky tray.

Pour and spread the fruit until it is about 1/8" thick. Try to make it even so it dries at the same rate. The 2 cups of mashed fruit took up 2 leather trays.

Pour and spread the fruit until it is about 1/8″ thick. Try to make it even so it dries at the same rate. The 2 cups of mashed fruit took up 2 leather trays.

Once it’s done, while still warm, pull off the tray and put right onto wax paper or saran wrap. It may not look pretty or square, but it’s all good. Then just roll it up in the paper and seal in a plastic bag. They say it’ll last for 6 months in an airtight container, but I can’t imagine how it could last 6 days. It’s far too delicious!

Dried and ready to peel!

Dried and ready to peel!

I have about 10 rollups. I’ve been taking them to work as snacks all week, and it is such a wonderful treat! I’m excited to try making other leathers throughout the summer.


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Anyone Need Any Banana Chips?

Have a banana chip, please! (I will be storing any I don't eat soon in plastic bags inside the jars, but they are so much prettier this way for now.)

Banana Bonanza! (I’ll keep the ones I plant to eat soon in jars, but most of these will be put into will be plastic bags inside the jars. But they are so much prettier this way for now.)

So get this. I went to the fruit stand the other day, looking for a snack. I was buying smoothie fixins at the sale fruit table, when I saw it: a box of about 30 bananas for $0.99! A dollar? Sure, they were ugly, but even if only half were edible, that’s still an insane price. I had to stop myself from buying 2 boxes.

Box of bananas for a buck!

Box of bananas for a buck!

If you’re reading this blog, chances are that you’ve done this kind of thing before. You see a great sale on something, buy too much, and then have it coming out of your ears for months. It’s the same with gardening, you love tomatoes so much you plant 6 plants, and then are finding ways to eat tomatoes with every meal. No? Come on, be honest, we’re all friends here. Learning food preservation has enabled my habit, because now sale food isn’t as likely to go to waste.

It turned out the bananas weren’t as bad as they looked. They were actually slightly under-ripe, with only a few bad spots on the flesh. My guess is that they were unsellable because the peels were covered in brown spots, or were the onesies left over by people breaking off a few from a bunch. I think there was only one that was actually mush.

Letting bananas sit in cool water with lemon juice, to keep them from browning.

Letting bananas sit in cool water with lemon juice, to keep them from browning. But don’t let them sit in there too long, they go soggy.

And as it happens, D doesn’t like bananas. So here I had 30 bananas that I needed to use up all by my lonesome, and I knew just what to do with them… dry them!

I got a wonderful gift this year for Christmas from my S-I-L, a food dehydrator, (plus a great book called The Dehydrator Bible.) I’ve wanted a dehydrator for a year or more, but never felt like shelling out the money for something my oven or the sun could do just as well. But of course, the oven is too hot, and I never use the sun, because I’m not that on top of it. I’d probably forget them outside.

There she is! I keep the dehydrator in the basement, even though it's nice and quiet. It's just so big and I don't have many outlets in my old kitchen.

There she is! I keep the dehydrator in the basement, even though it’s nice and quiet. It’s just so big and I don’t have many outlets in my old kitchen.

My dehydrator has been great so far. I’ve dried apples, blueberries, pineapples (my favorite!), and bananas. They haven’t all been hits (I don’t recommend Pink Lady apples for drying, they turn into something not unlike Styrofoam), but even when they weren’t great, it was always fun or unexpected. I didn’t dry the blueberries correctly, but I still thought they were really good on oatmeal, little bursts of flavor.

My dehydrator is definitely making it so that I’m seeking out the cheapest fruits, because I know I can extend their life and create lots of great snacks.

I think I dried a total of 8 trays, each holding about 3 bananas. Try to keep them spaced so they aren't touching, to allow for better air circulation and also so they don't dry stuck together.

I dried a total of 8 trays, each holding about 3 bananas. Try to keep them spaced so they aren’t touching, to allow for better air circulation and also so they don’t dry stuck together.

The last time I did bananas I got those tiny bananas and sliced them length-wise. This time they were full sized, so I sliced them in rounds (more or less) about 1/3” thick. I let them sit in a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice to keep them from browning while I chopped (and chopped, and chopped). Then I dried them for 8.5-10 hours at 135 degrees.

Here they are finished. You can see they stick a bit to the tray, so do remove them while they are still warm.

Here they are finished. You can see they stick a bit to the tray, so do remove them while they are still warm.

And now I have banana chips. Lots and lots of banana chips. They are slightly chewy, they should be firm and almost leathery when done, not like those rock hard ones you used to get in trail mix. Some slices took longer than others, but that was easy enough to remedy. I pulled them all off the trays and any that were very squishy got put back in for another hour or so.

When they are done they should be a little flexible. However, you don't want them to be "juicy" anymore. A fine line, perhaps? I did notice that the bananas that weren't as ripe dried faster and have a chalkier texture, although they are still quite tasty!

When they are done they should be a little flexible. However, you don’t want them to be “juicy” anymore. A fine line, perhaps? I did notice that the bananas that weren’t as ripe dried faster and have a firmer texture, although they are still quite tasty!

Also, I learned from my book that bananas should be removed from the trays when still warm, or they stick. I can attest to this! Also, things the book won’t tell you: my basement smells like bananas, and I’ve had that song lyric “this s**t is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s” in my head all week.

If you want some banana chips, come on over, I’d be happy to share!