Friday, 9 January 2015

How to Make Sun Dried Plum Fruit Leather

It's summer here in southern Australia - and that means gorgeous summer fruits by the bucket load!

Recently I was gifted a huge haul of the most beautiful plums. Firm, juicy and nicely tart they made exquisite jam. And, having made three batches of jam I found that I had a bowl full of fruit left over - but not enough to make the fourth batch of jam!

Not wishing to waste these beautiful fruit, and mindful that young grandsons were coming to stay during the school holidays, I decided to try making a simple two ingredient fruit leather. An opportunity to make a healthy snack for the boys, I thought!

The days at the time were gloriously sunny with temperatures ranging from about 28 - 34 degrees Centigrade. On a whim therefore I decided to try drying the fruit leather in the sun. I shared the results on my In My Kitchen ... in January post here, and was amazed at the interest in this method of drying fruit leather.

At this point I need to confess that my motivation to try the magical power of the sun was actually two fold. Firstly, I do not own a dehydrator, and secondly, my oven has an annoying safety feature - it automatically switches off after two hours! While I still have not worked out how to overide this, but there must be a way! Suggestions anyone?

I was thrilled to find that my solar powered drying experiment worked so fabulously well!

The fruit leather strips have been a hit with the grandsons who gave them a double thumbs up!

What more could a Granny want!

Sun Dried Plum Fruit Leather


1kg plums
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water


Wash the fruit. Cut the plums in half, remove the pips and any bruised flesh. The plums I used were dark skinned but pink inside (I'm not sure of the variety) - but any type will do.

Place the sliced fruit in a saucepan together with the water. Bring to the boil, turn back the heat and simmer gently until the plums are cooked through. Add the sugar and, stirring constantly, cook for 5 minutes more. Taste the fruit mixture and add a little more sugar to taste if the cooked plum mixture is too tart for your palate. This will depend very much on the type of plum you have used.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the fruit mixture to cool. When just warm use a stick blender to puree the fruit.

Line baking trays or roasting pans with baking parchment paper. Pour in the puree and spread evenly over the tray to a depth of about 3 millimetres. I used three roasting pans.

Place your trays in the sun and cover, if necessary, with a fine nylon mesh cloth to keep any insects out. I use a curtain bought from an oddments bin at IKEA for this! It's perfect for the job!

We have a stone topped picnic table that gets quite hot in the sun so I placed the baking trays in full sun on the table. This meant the fruit leather was heated from the bottom as well as the top, hastening the drying of the fuit leather significantly! The leather, using this method, was ready in only four hours!

Using kitchen scissors and leaving the backing baking paper on I cut the leather into strips about 3 centimetres and rolled them up for storage in an airtight container.

Harnessing the magical power of the sun is a not only a cost effective means of preserving, but planet friendly as well! I encourage you try it!




Thursday, 1 January 2015

In My Kitchen ... in January 2015

Happy New Year, Celia and fellow In My Kitchen devotees! I do hope the coming year for each of you - and IMK readers - is full of love and wonderful things cooking in your kitchens!

In My Kitchen in January we are enjoying fresh produce picked from my first attempt at straw bale gardening. I'm very pleased with the garden so far - we'll see how it fares with 40 degree plus days! Fingers crossed!

With lots of tiny tomatoes to use I decided to try lightly oven roasting a few and tossing them into a jar with sea salt, thyme and garlic and topping the lot with EVOO. Served as part of a meze plate they are delicious!


Summer time equals fruit time in our garden! With a bumper crop of Anzac peaches this year, together with buckets of beautiful apricots and plums given to me by my brother-in-law, Con, I've been busy!

I have filled a cupboard with, and gifted, jars and jars of peach, apricot and plum jam. I find jam making a relaxing and rewarding pastime. It also brings back beautiful memories of my late mum - I have posted her recipe for amazing apricot jam here!

My grandsons were thilled that I had so many peaches to use! It meant that after a 12 month absence (there were no peaches last year) their favourite Peach Ice has reappeared in the freezer - and so on the dessert menu - at Granny's house! Take it from me - Peach Ice is incredibly easy to make - you don't even need to peel the peaches!

Fruit leathers have also been on the list of things to do. I do not have a dehydrator so have used the magical power of the sun to make these! I do love our Mediterranean climate here in South Australia!

Inspired by my success with the fruit leathers I tried sun dried Apple Cinnamon Chips! Oh my! How tasty and healthy are they! I'll post how I made these little beauties very soon!

Finally, I have to share - well, brag a little - if I'm honest! The Christmas Pudding was an absolute triumph!!! I've been looking for the perfect Christmas Pudding recipe for a long time - and I've found it! I extend a huge thank you to the wonderful Stephanie Alexander, for sharing with us all, her Grandmother's recipe. You will find the recipe in her fabulous book The Cook's Companion. If you don't have a copy - take it from me - you need one!

I love the In My Kitchen series, hosted by wonderful and generous Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Click through to check out her amazing blog, and to visit kitchens of participating bloggers from around the world. They are such an interesting lot!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about my kitchen adventures this month, as much as I have enjoyed writing about them! Thanks for dropping in!



My Mum's Amazing Apricot Jam

What is there not to like about a luscious Apricot Jam!

During our Australian summer we are certainly spoiled when it comes to an abundance of this favourite Mediterranean and Middle Eastern fruit . Apricots, grown since antiquity, are thought to have originated in China and to have been bought to the western world by Alexander the Great.

We have a family Christmas tradition of enjoying seasonal homemade jams with our buttery crossiants for Christmas morning breakfast. Imagine my excitement then when I received a call from brother-in-law Con, to help myself to the abundance of fruit on his loaded tree - before all the fruit were eaten by pesky parrots!

The arrival of the apricots in my kitchen started a flurry of jam making activities! And, on Christmas morning, we spooned generous dollops of apricot jam onto our warm crossiants - and were instantly transported to heaven!

For me the ritual of making apricot jam is also an activity loaded with loving memories of my late Mum. Of the huge apricot tree that grows outside what was her kitchen. And, of carefree holidays on the family farm - my childhood home. Just precious weeks before she passed away Mum closely supervised my making of the annual supply of apricot jam! How I treasure the memories of that jam making - and those special moments spent with her - in her kitchen, stirring that jam on her stove.

Naturally I use my dear Mum's tried and true recipe for Apricot Jam - and continue to use imperial measurements for this jam!

Do invest in a good candy thermometer - it takes the guessing out of when your jam has reached setting point - and results in perfect jam every time!

Jam making takes time and patience - and so is a rather 'zen-like' activity in our busy, rushed lives! Do breathe deeply, relax and enjoy the whole experience!

My Mum's Amazing Apricot Jam

4lbs sliced apricots
3lbs white sugar


Choose apricots that are not over ripe. Wash and drain the fruit. Cut into slices discarding the stones and any bruised areas. Place in a large bowl and cover with the sugar. Let stand overnight.

Next morning place the mixture into a large pan greased with butter - this step of greasing the pan is important!

Bring the apricot mixture slowly to the boil, stirring regularly and watching carefully, adjusting the temperature where necessary, during the 'foamy stage'. The butter will make the sides of the pan more difficult for the foam to climb and help to ensure your mixture does not boil over. Believe me when I say that boiling the jam over creates an incredible sticky mess on your stove top - and spoils your jam making experience! See below - I should have followed my own advice!

Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil and stir constantly using a long handled wooden spoon - do not leave your jam! Do be extremely careful tending the jam during this cooking stage as boiling jam spits and can cause nasty burns if it lands on your bare skin.

I prefer my jam to be 'soft' in consistency - and have found that boiling the jam until it reaches 103 degrees Centigrade achieves my desired result.

Take your jam off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Use a pyrex jug (this is not a sponsored post!) to pour the hot jam into sterilised jars. I used to sterilise the jars in the oven but now using the dishwasher is my preferred method.

Fill the jars almost to the brim - the jam will shrink slightly as it cools. Screw on a sterilised lid, or top with transparent preserve covers. I use Kleerview made by FowlersVacola (this is not a sponsored post) - which are found, at this time of year, usually located somewhere near the sugar in your supermarket aisle.

Label. Store in a cool dark cupboard - and enjoy over the coming weeks and months!



 Footnote: It can be tempting to use the cheapest sugar on the supermarket shelves for your jam making. I have found through experience that these sugars result in a poor quality jam. Mum did warn me! She always used sugar made by CSR (this is not a sponsored post!) - and believe me when I say it does make a difference!

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