Mystery Food Week 7, Vacation, and the Fresh-Food-Panic

15 Jul

We’ve all been there.

A fridge full of beautiful, fresh food. And you’ve tried, (oh you’ve tried) to eat and use as much of it as possible. Alas, here it is the day before your vacation and well…there’s still food.

It makes me really sad to waste food. There are a lot of hungry people in the world and I am grateful to have a job that allows me to put healthy meals on the table. I became really interested in canning when I was still living in Boston. After a trip to pick apples at a farm not too far from the city, I realized rather sheepishly that in my excitement seeing all of the delicious varieties of apple trees, I’d bought far too many. Lots of people got spiced apple pie filling for Christmas that year, but nothing went to waste. I don’t even peel thin-skinned fruits like apples, tomatoes, or peaches.

In this instance, it was the drupe-fest that came last week, and in Mystery Box Week 7:

I got a lovely napa cabbage, yellow and white peaches, spring onions, purple frilly basil, summer squash, cucumbers and apricots.
Last week’s mystery box was also full of peaches, apricots and some red plums. Swimming in stone fruit, (I know, woe is me right?) I needed to take care of it all before leaving for a trip to Pittsburgh-yay!-to see my family and party with them.
In light of that, I thought I’d share some of my favorite last-minute techniques for preserving things when you just don’t have time to can.
Drupe Project 1: Fruit Sauce
Applesauce is awesome, but stone fruits make some excellent fruit sauce. My “drupe-sauce” was simply peaches, plums, and apricots cooked on the stove until nice and soft and then mashed up. If you like smoother sauces, go ahead and run it through a blender. Add a little bit of lemon juice so it doesn’t lose the pretty color. Stored in a well-sealed container, you can keep it for a good week or so.
Drupe Project 2: Fruit Leather
I have a dehydrator, but you can also do this in your oven on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set the oven to its lowest temperature–don’t worry if it doesn’t go as low as the dehydrator temperature I mention. Using a food dehydrator, about 135-140 degrees is fine. Blend pitted, diced fruit together with a tablespoon of honey (this keeps fruit leather pliable) and then spread the mixture out on a cookie sheet or dehydrator tray. It is ready to remove from the oven when it is dry all the way through and feels pliable, but not mushy. Store in a cool, dark place in a jar between slices of wax paper.
Drupe Project 3: Brown Sugar-Spiced Peaches
Another dehydrator/lowest-oven-setting project. Dice up some peaches, toss them with lemon juice to keep them from browning, and then toss with a tablespoon of brown sugar and a few shakes of cinnamon. Lay the fruit on a dehydrator tray or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake until dry, but still pliable. A fantastic addition to cookies, muffins, or quick breads. You can also rehydrate them later for fruit compote.
This dehydration technique (minus the sugar/cinnamon/lemon juice) can be used with tomatoes and peppers as well. Great for making homemade cayenne powder. Mmm.

Drupe Project 4: Dreams of Future Baked Goods
Just freeze them! Pit and dice your fruit, lay them on a baking sheet and freeze. When the pieces have frozen, put them in a labeled/dated freezer bag and store in the freezer for…a long time. Doing this keeps the individual pieces of fruit from sticking together in a frozen lump. Oh, it’s the middle of the winter and you want peach crisp? No problem, just grab that bag out of the freezer and you get a little piece of summer back.

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