Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to Make Purple Plum Leather

The Isle river which passes close to Montpon, a village in the Dordogne region, has a pastoral aspect that's soft and inviting.

The Isle river near Montpon, about an hour's drive from us

We were at Montpon to prepare for the arrival of some family members at their gite.  As we had a hard time finding the place, the Calm One set up a paper-towel flag to help them find their holiday home.

This building appears to have original half-timbered walls so I am  guessing it is several hundreds of years old.  And no, that is not their gite!

Since it was blackberry season, I had an eye out for wild bushes.  My eyes lit up when I found these bushes, but the super sharp Yucca spikes guarding them made me realize despite my being a blackberry addict, no way was I going to slash my arms to get to them.  I hope any birds interested in them were careful.

We did not stay long as not to get in the way.  Also, though Monsieur and Madame M kept a careful eye on both Dayo and the garden, they were all on my mind because an unrelenting heat wave in the blasting furnace category would not let up.  Before our departure, I had moved the many pots from the marble garden table into shade.  Upon our return, I accepted how inconsiderate I was by not keeping that surface free sooner.  It was embarrassingly obvious how deprived Dayo had been. 

A calm but alert Dayo surveying all that is his

The plum d'ente tree like most of my fruit trees this season put out a much smaller harvest than usual.

As I already made plum jam with a much more ample harvest of Mirabelles, and as The Calm One likes purple plum leather, purple plum leather it will be.  Fruit leather is an effective way to preserve lots of fruit.  Wash, pit, and chop plums.

Add 1/2 water to four cups of chopped, pitted fruit.  Let it simmer gently for about 10 to 15 minutes until tender, mashing here and there.

Start with a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice for each four cups of plums. Stop adding lemon juice when you can begin to detect a slight 'burn' when tasting.  Add some freshly grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon to taste.  Cook another ten minutes until thickened.

Sieve through a Foley mill.

If not convenient to use the puree soon, freeze it.  Line shallow baking pans with oven-safe plastic wrap.  Silipat or its equivalent can be used as plastic wrap tends to flap over the leather as it is drying in the oven, especially in convection ones, which causes the leather to stay moist along the edges and corners making its removal a bit tricky.  In that case, cut off the sticky bits and then pull the remaining leather away from the plastic.  Oiled parchment paper has been suggested as an another alternative.  I would test its waterproof worthiness with a small amount of puree overnight in the fridge before actual use.

For my size pans, I pour in about a quart of puree to a 1/4 thickness, using a soft spatula to spread it out evenly.

What a superb burgundy colour!

Place pans in a oven set at 50 degrees C, cracking open the oven door if necessary.  My pans took about twelve hours to dry sufficiently, most of that time was overnight.  If the puree is spread to only an 1/8 inch, it will dry faster, but I personally prefer leather that is thick enough to retain some moisture. When testing if it is ready, touch lightly the whole surface--it needs not to be wet, soft, or sticky.  Slightly tacky is OK.  Be careful not to dry the leather too much or it will become brittle.  If that does happen, it will still be edible, just not possible to roll up.  Peel plastic off and place the leather on parchment paper.

Using scissors, trim any ragged edges and cut the paper-backed leather into strips, roll up, and store in a lidded container in the fridge.  I cut it just like I do fabric, with my left hand holding down the leather while my right hand takes long, clean sweeps with the scissors.  However, leave your sewing scissors in their basket and use only kitchens shears!

All those fresh plums became one medium-sized jar of leather

My leather resembles a thinner, plebeian version of pâte de fruits--it's moist, thick enough, with intense flavour to be considered more like an informal dessert than a snack.  I like having a strip or two with coffee.  The colour is warming on a chilly autumn day also!