Homemade plum fruit leather. Like rollups (in texture, anyway, they look more like Yonks here.) We didn't really get too many popular kid-type snacks in the lunchbox when I was growing up but I do have a distinct memory of folding a rollup and pressing it across my teeth like a slowly dissolving, sugary mouthguard. It's mildly surprising that I still have any teeth after that. This plum leather is like those rollups except super sour. Like DYC white vinegar in handy chewable form. It's a snack that you can't eat absent-mindedly, I'll give it that.
Even though we're well into January by this point, I still haven't shaken the whole new year contemplation vibe. Is there such thing as a good year? Being such a long stretch of time, it's fairly impossible not to accumulate some form of difficulty and sadness. Even if - just imagine somehow - every single person in the world was somehow able to not murder, attack, assault, rob, or cause any kind of physical or emotional harm or discrimination, and overwhelming poverty and lack of education was overcome with the help of many...well there's still Mother Nature to contend with. No amount of goodwill can hold back the earth's movements. And like most years before it 2010 was an absolute shocker, from the most orchestrated actions of humans to the unpredictability of nature.
On a personal level however, 2010 for me was pretty damn fantastic. Bragging, sure, but some decent achievements really did stack up for me last year and I'm pretty proud of myself.
- I was featured in a CLEO magazine article about food bloggers
- I was nominated for a CLEO/Palmolive Wonderwoman thing
- I was nominated for a Wellingtonista Award for 'Best Contribution to the Internet By A Wellingtonian."
- Tim and I became cafe reviewers for Sunday Star-Times (the lower North Island edition). For what it's worth, I like our reviews better than any other Wellington-based ones I've seen round. You might too...
- I got a small but thrill-making mention in Rip It Up magazine, especially considering the high company my fairly nondescript tweet keeps on their quotes page.
- The seriously lovely Lisa from Sky TV just up and sent me Nigella Lawson's book Kitchen. Seriously.
- Tim and I started up 100sand1000s which has provided nonstop joy, from interviewing and feeding cake to Grayson Gilmour to staring quietly at gifs for hours.
- Tim and I hit the five year mark! Woo! And we got to spend our first Christmas together.
***Edited 13th Jan because I’m such a forgetful and ungrateful clod; clearly it’s a decent year when all the nice things that happened to you start to tumble out of your brain like icing sugar in a sieve.
As well as the above, I was also invited to the launch of Wellington On A Plate by the fantastic Angela Moriarty. I got a nametag with my blog's name on it. I met Angela Walker from Sunday Star-Times and possibly alarmed her with my gratitude. I met the amazing Millie and Florence from Gusty Gourmet, who coolly quizzed a cheesemaker about pasteurising and taught me how to eat oysters. And then the three of us had the singularly thrilling experience of meeting Ray McVinnie, one of my food idols – in fact, one of my idols from any genre of leisure activity – seriously I don’t know how I forgot this from my list.
Angela M also gave myself and Millie the opportunity to meet up with such overwhelmingly legit aussie bloggers as Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul, Helen from Grab Your Fork, Billy from A Table For Two, plus the lovely Andrea from Auckland's So D'lish. In an unrelated piece of organisation, I also got to meet up with some truly lovely and inspiring Wellington food bloggers (check my sidebar).
Go me. Now that I'm back in Wellington, (working again and lamenting the fact that the beach feels like it's several solar systems away), I'm hoping that 2011 will bring some similarly awesome opportunities and that I'll be able to keep blogging, hard. It has been a slow start but today I bring you this plum leather. I happen to get a kick out of making things that already basically exist. Like butter. Or marshmallows. But as far as it goes, homespun fruit leather seems like an alarmingly resourceful task, the sort of thing (like haircuts!) best left to the people paid to do it.
I found a good looking recipe though, the fruit it calls for is easy to get hold of right now and even though I've never felt any real suffering for lack of fruit leather, I felt drawn to making it.
It's basically plums simmered into paste, spread onto a tray and then baked in an oven set to low, about the temperature of heavy mouth-breathing. The only real taxing bit is all the time and patience involved. Plums are cheap as this time of year and apparently this stuff lasts for up to five months so you could make tons now and store it up for the year ahead if you're feeling particularly organised.
It's a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsal recipe, and while I know who he is and that he does good things, I've never actually tried any of his recipes. Having been kindly sent the River Cottage 2011 diary from Lisa and the good people at Sky though, which is filled with the sort of recipes - a generous three per month! - that make you nod frequently and think "I want to cook all those things", I have no excuse not to give him a try.
However I've noticed he's also - and it might just be the brief nature of the recipe layout in the diary - not one to make recipes super simple. The plum leather recipe could have done with slightly more information, which I can hopefully fill in for you now that I've tried it myself.
Spiced Plum Leather
1 to 1.5 kilos of plums
Roughly slice your plums, discarding the stones, and place in a large saucepan. You can be pretty cavalier with the quality of your plums but cut away any really bad bits that look like they're well on the fermenting-into-Moonshine process. Add enough water to just cover the base of the pan, and heat gently till the plums collapse a bit and release a lot of juice - around ten minutes although it all depends on your plums.
Push the pulp through a sieve into a bowl. No-one ever tells you what an excruciating job this is. There's no way to speed up the process or to make it feel like you're not wasting heaps of fruit, but persevere - I used a colander, the sort you'd drain potatoes with, sat over a bowl and a spatula constantly stirring and pressing. You should end up with a seriously good looking, deep cerise, thick liquid.
Scrape this back into the pan and simmer till thickened somewhat, stirring occasionally. Hugh doesn't give a time for this but I found it took about half an hour and even then, there was no dramatic change in the look of the puree, it had just reduced slightly. Add a little honey and a dash of cinnamon at this point.
Finally, spread thinly and evenly across two paper-lined baking trays using your spatula and bake for as long as you can in a very low oven (around 60 C, which feels like barely turning it on). You're supposed to leave it for 12 hours, but I couldn't psychologically deal with having the oven on overnight, even if it is so low. Maybe make this early in the morning when you know you're going to be hanging round. However it can also handle being baked in a few bursts when you have the time. Allow to cool completely in the oven, at which point you should be able to peel it off the baking paper, however you can roll it up and cut it into slices in its paper. Use within 5 months.
It looks truly gorgeous, especially when held up to the light, and has a strong jammy flavour from the slowly heated plums, tempered by an intense fruitish sourness.
But yeah, there's no denying this is fairly time-consuming and takes some effort. While I'd be hard-pressed to say that the flavour entirely outweighs this, if you were one of those kids who ate lemons or always went for the sour gummy worms then you'll love this. I'm sure you could add sugar to the fruit while it simmers without it coming to any harm - I mean, rollups were just toffee dressed up to look like a legit snack. And whatever the flavour may lack in accessibility, it's made up for with the extreme sense of accomplishment you'll probably feel once it's all done.
Title via: local long shadow-casters The Chills and their memorable 1986 tune I Love My Leather Jacket.
The Cure's Boys Don't Cry as covered by Tourettes and Caoimhe for the aforementioned Morning Glory show on bFM. You even have the excellent option of downloading a massive selection of such songs for free here.
Aloe Blacc's Miss Fortune from Good Things...even though there's a fair bit of effort, time and money involved we've booked ourselves in to his Auckland show later this month, I seriously can't wait.
Heidi Blickenstaff performing Kander and Ebb's Sing Happy at some one-off gig in New York...sigh. She's so lovely. Lucky New Yorkers, where things like this casually happen all the time.
Next time: I made an awesome bean salad, hopefully by the time my next blog post rolls around I'll have worked out a better way to describe it though.