Winterize Your Summer Produce Plastic-Free

By Beth Terry, My Plastic Free Life

I often get questions about how to store summer produce in the freezer without plastic bags. People who are trying to eat locally or who have big gardens want to be able to enjoy summer and fall fruits and vegetables through the winter without plastic. I personally use glass mason jars and airtight stainless steel containers in the freezer.

Jean Nick, who writes the Nickel Pincher column for Rodale's, has this method for turning your summer strawberries into fruit leather. But first, here are photos of my own attempt to make fruit leather, with interesting results:

Fruit Leather, According to Jean Nick of Rodale's:

You can make leather from a single type of fruit, or throw in a couple different kinds (remember pumpkin and winter squash are fruits too!). Whatever you decide on pick organic, wash, peel, core, pit, or seed as needed; cut into small chunks and place it in a saucepan. Two cups is a good amount to start with to make a single sheet of leather.

Mash soft fruit lightly to release juice, or add a small amount of fruit juice or water with firmer chunks. If you want the end result to retain some of the color of the original, add a ¼ teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals or one crushed 750-milligram vitamin C tablet.

Cook on low, covered, until everything is soft. Whir the fruit mush in a blender or force it through a sieve or food mill for smooth leather. Or just mash it to break up the big chunks if texture is OK. Add sweetener if you want (I like honey, stevia, or none) and flavorings such as cinnamon or ginger to taste. Go lightly with both, as everything will get more concentrated as the puree thickens and dries.

Continue to cook the puree on low, with the lid off, stirring frequently (a double boiler or slow cooker is good for this, as it’s easy to scorch your puree if you get distracted as easily as I do) until the mixture is very, very thick.

Spread it in an even 1/8- to ¼-inch layer on a cookie sheet lined with organic waxed paper or a silicone sheet and place in an oven set at the lowest temperature. The leather is done when it’s still slightly sticky on the surface but looks pretty leathery overall. Speed the drying by carefully peeling the leather off the paper or liner when it is almost done, turning it over, and putting it back in the oven for a little longer.

Total drying time will be one to three days. Roll the finished leather up with a sheet of organic waxed paper or parchment paper to keep it from sticking to itself (or dust it with organic corn starch) and store in airtight jars at room temperature. Cut off pinwheels with a sharp knife to serve.


This post is excerpted from the post "Dry Summer Produce to Keep Through Winter Plastic-Free," which originally appeared over at Beth Terry's blog, My Plastic Free Life. View it here.

Top photo credit: Noema Pérez / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA; slides: Beth Terry.