One of our favorite ways we eat fruit is to eat just plain fruit!
What is better than an apple or orange—or especially our own blueberries or raspberries right from Our Edible Garden.
And to enjoy "in season" fruit when it's out of season, we preserve summer fruits by drying them with our dehydrator. They're naturally sweet (as opposed to some commercial dried fruits that are further sweetened).
We also freeze some (such as blueberries, raspberries, and grapes) or turn them into sauces and jams. And, of course, pies!
We generally dry fruits we've purchased locally, picked ourselves at local U-pick orchards, or, in the case of melons, just bought at the grocery store when they were in season, which makes them both less expensive and more delicious.
Dried apples are John's and our grandchildren's favorite, but we've also started drying canteloupe, which is my favorite. We hadn't tried this initially since our book on dehydration had rated melon as a poor candidate for drying.
The first time we tried it, we evidently didn't get all the moisture out and they got moldy. With such a moist fruit, it's hard to get it completely dry. And it's a long, energy-consuming process.
Then we realized we didn't have to completely dry them. We simply had to remove most of the moisture and then freeze them. After being semi-dehydrated, a whole melon can fit into a little plastic bag! They're delicious—just like candy—and in the middle of winter, they're an especially welcome reminder of summer.
Whether fresh or dried, fruit is really the easiest—and healthiest—dessert.
These are just some of our jams. Most of our jam we make from our own fruits: raspberry, blackberry, grape, pear, cherry, gooseberry, currant, and ground cherry.
We also buy peaches to make peach jam.
We like making our own jam not only because it's a great way to use our own fruit, but because we use much less sugar than what is typical in store-bought jams.
And some kinds, such as ground cherry jam, aren't even available in stores.
We're hoping to soon have beach plum jam when our shrub matures.
Who needs ice cream when you can have smoothies? We don't make thin smoothies. We make very thick smoothies with very few ingredients—and no sugar added. We love it!
This is one of our favorite fall treats—the only time we make it. We pick bushels of apples at a local organic orchard, some of which we use for this treat, but most of which we dehydrate.
We like fresh fruit, but fruit is available only at certain times of the year, so we try to preserve enough of our home-grown fruit (as well as some U-pick fruit) so we can enjoy it throughout the year. One way to preserve it is to freeze it for pie filling. We try to make it as healthy as possible by cutting back on the sugar and using a less unhealthy pie crust.
Our pies start with the same crust, modified from The Arrowhead Mills Cookbook.
This pie is so good (and our local berries so treasured) that we reserve this treat to celebrate holidays or special occasions. It's roughly based on the Betty Crocker Cookbook I grew up with as a child.
We've modified the same basic recipe to make other fruit pies. So far, they've all turned out great!
Here's the filling:
Unfortunately, it's not as easy to prepare our Concord grapes as it is to prepare raspberries, which need just a quick, easy mashing with a potato masher.
The first step is to pinch the grapes to separate the flesh from the skin (keeping the skins).
After cooking the pulp to loosen its hold on the seeds, we put it through the Foley food mill, a wonderfully effective low-tech device.
While the pulp is cooking, we chop up the skins.
Once the seeds are removed, we recombine the pulp and the skin, ending up with smushed grapes sans seeds.
Finally, we're ready to use the grapes in a pie (or to freeze this mixture for a use in a future pie or other grape creation …)
Grape pie filling:
We've used the basic raspberry pie recipe (above) with other fruits we've grown.
All the variations have been delicious—special treats that wouldn't be nearly as good if we didn't grow our own berries!
In addition to our Concord grapes, we've used blackberries, cherries, currants, and ground cherries, adjusting the amount of sugar for the sweet or sourness of the berries and adjusting the amount of cornstarch for their relative "soupiness."
We use the Foley food mill to remove the seeds from the grapes, blackberries, and currants. It seems very wasteful since so much is discarded along with the seeds, but we think it's essential. They're just too seedy otherwise. At least it's not wasted since we feed the remains to our vermicomposting worms.