Sunday, 18 July 2010

Strawberry Leathers

I've been making plenty of fruit leathers or, as I've rechristen them, fruit pleathers recently. It's a lovely way to use up gluts or preserve some of the super cheap local berries in green grocers at this time of year.

The one I've had the most success with is Strawberry. I'm absolutely head over heels about my little stock of Strawberry Pleathers. But how do you get enough strawberries to preserve? Well I've got a hierarchy. Because I spend far too much of my life thinking about Strawberries. Balcony Strawberries (the best!) or Riverford strawberries are just shoved in the mouth. Supermarket organic strawberries that I found irresistible (don't shop hungry!) likewise. Cheap British Strawberries from the green grocer are cheap and plentiful enough to preserve. Out of season and imported Strawberries don't taste anywhere near as good, leave on the shelf. And run away.

So once I had got hold of some cheap and plentiful seasonal strawberries what then? Well this is my working recipe for Strawberry Plether. The hardest thing about it is making the time. It can take 8-12 hours in the oven but that's largely untended. Sometimes we have to take it out to juggle the other cooking or turn it off to pop out. A little bit of timing imperfection isn't going to hurt anyone.

(makes one sheet)

250g of Strawberries
Caster sugar (to taste)

  1. Preheat the oven to 60° C and line a baking tray with baking parchment
  2. Remove the little green hats from the strawberries and put them in a pan. Heat to medium. Give the strawberries a brief mash and let it cook down into a thick purée. You want the liquid to look about as thick as ice cream sauce. This should take about 20 mins but keep checking.
  3. When you are happy with it's thickness remove from the heat. Set a sieve up over a large bowl and pour the mixture through it. Use a spoon to press the remaining mixture through the sieve until nothing more will go. Scrape the stuff on the underside of the sieve into the bowl and chuck the remaining gunk away.
  4. Give the purée a quick mix and taste. At this point it's usually a tiny bit bitter so add the sugar, one table spoon at a time, tasting as you go. It's really important to taste as you go here, all strawberries will be different. I end up using between 2-4 table spoons but that's just me.
  5. Spread the mixture out onto the baking parchment, about 3mm thick, and put it into the oven.
  6. Again this depends on your strawberries, the humidity, your oven, and where Mercury is* so keep checking in the last few hours. It takes 8-12 hours to cook. When the Pleather has dried out, and comes away from the parchment with little persuasion it's done.
  7. Roll the Pleather into another piece of baking parchment, trim the edges and roll up. Slice the roll into bite size pieces.

*Stephen would like me to point out Astrology is rubbish.

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