Depending on where you live, late summer presents us with fruits like pears, apples, cranberries, figs, and cantaloupes. Grapes, too, tend to be late summer fare. If you’d like to take advantage of this bounty, here are some ideas for preserving late summer fruit.
Drying fruits is one of the oldest ways to preserve fruit. The following late summer fruits lend themselves to this method:
* Grapes (dried grapes are raisins)
* Plums (dried plums are prunes)
To dry fruit, you can invest in a dehydrator or use the sun. If you decide to go with the sun, you’ll need a window screen and some cheesecloth. Or, you can stretch cheesecloth or cotton cloth over old wooden frames to make your own drying trays.
First, wash and dry fruit. For pears and apples, remove cores and slice cross-ways. Plums and apricots should have their pits removed; plums can be dried whole or cut in half, whereas apricots can be sliced or dried in halves (the latter just takes a short while). Break the skin of whole grapes in order to dry them. Figs can be dried whole or sliced in half. Dipping fruit in an acidic mixture first – lemon juice, pineapple juice, and/or water – helps preserve color.
Place the prepared fruit on the screens, cover with cheesecloth, and set the tray out in the sun. Raise the trays somewhat by placing them on blocks to allow air to circulate beneath. The fruit should be brought inside every night. When it’s ready, the fruit should be leathery and pliable. Depending on the fruit, the drying process should take 2 to 5 days.
Canning is what many people think of when they consider preserving fruit. Jams, preserves and jellies are a tasty way to enjoy late summer flavors in the fall and winter. You don’t have to make fruits into these sweet treats; you can also preserve fruit whole or sliced.
Acidic fruits like plums, pears, grapes, apricots and berries can simply be washed, cut into uniform pieces, and packed into warm canning jars. Hot liquid such as juice, syrup, or hot water is then poured over the fruit and the lidded jar processed in hot water.
Apples can be made into apple butter, apple pie filling, or applesauce.
Freezing fruit is said to preserve more nutrients than canning. Berries do very well frozen whole in zip-top plastic bags – you can initially freeze them on cookie trays before bagging them if you want to keep them separate. Melons can be cut into chunks and frozen, and other large fruits can be sliced or chopped before freezing.
You can also place fruit into jars or other freezer-safe containers and pour sugar syrup, water, or juice around the fruit before freezing. Make sure to leave an inch of air space to allow the liquid to expand.