Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wild Plums! Chokecherries! Fruit Leather!

Looking Forward, Looking Back pt. 4-
Chokecherries and Plums

basket of wild plums
Sometimes, in th' midst of life, th' camera just doesn't come out. So it was with our fruit leather last year. We made plenty, but failed to get a single picture of it once we got it off th' drying trays. Heck, we could barely let it dry out. Usually, by th' time a batch was dry, it would have bunches of little chunks missing from it already. Here's a  tutorial on making fruit leather. It's really a simple, great way to preserve food. There's also some nice photos to get you excited for the upcoming summer harvest. 

Th' first thing to do is to find your fruit. We used Chokecherries, Plums, and Crab Apples, in many different combinations, but the addition of th' crabs really added a nice tartness to all th' leathers.

That same apple orchard i wrote about before also contained some plum trees. 

purple plums

pink plums

We got'em home and separated them into nice pretty piles.

five different types of plum

And here's me picking Chokecherries in th' mountains. 

Rocky mountain Chokecherries

Choke cherries follow most of th' water courses here in th' Rockies. So do th' roads. It's somewhat like driving through an orchard. This is a very important food to th' people who lived here before us.
They would dry them in large quantities in th' late summer sun, which works quickly around here. They would mix them with buffalo meat and dry them together. We heard they also crushed th' pits into th' drying fruit, so we had to try that. Th' pits are one of our favorite flavors- kinda like an almond, or an apricot kernel. It's very addictive, and we eat loads of them. They do contain Cyanide when eaten fresh, so bear that in mind, and don't eat too many. When dried they are fine, th' Cyanide gets released. But i hardly need to say that, as we don't know anyone who wants to crunch that hard pit just for a taste of an almond. But we do, and OH is it good! 
Just in case you're wondering why we would eat something with cyanide in it anyway... for th' same reasons we drink coffee, or whisky. It's really good. Exercise moderation. Don't over do it. Supposedly apple seeds contain cyanide too, but we eat loads of them as well, and have never felt th' worse for it.
Chokecherries are extremely astringent when under-ripe, even though they may've turned from red to black on th' tree weeks ago. When picking, just taste some, if they're very astringent, you probably want to wait a while. When they do ripen, they taste amazing, and there's nothing else like them. If' there's not bunches and bunches of trees however, you'll want to get 'em quick, or th' birds and bears will do it for you. 

We found a nifty fruit strainer at th' local hardware store, and that's what we used to strain the cherries that we didn't want pits in. 

making fruit leather
We also used it to strain th' plums, but we cooked them first, for about fifteen minutes to loosen 'em up a bit. That's a good time to add your crab apples.
Just mash 'em through th' strainer onto a tray, smooth it about a quarter of an inch thick, and place it in a sunny location. A couple of times it was too cloudy, so we dried it in our oven. That worked ok, but it turned out too dry, and we had to pay a lot more attention to it. Didn't quite taste as good either.

  Here's some of the trays drying out. 

And here's a batch with pits in it. Nobody shared that one with us. Oh well.

chokecherry fruit leather with crushed pits

flipped over and sliced.

And here's some for you.

Rocky Mountain Chokecherries



  1. You have a fine blog here, I look forward to reading through more of your posts. Love how you are drying your fruits, we do it in a similar manner.

    1. Thanks Mr. H., that's a very mysterious sounding name by th' way, i like it... ~rico

  2. How many hours to sun-dry the chokecherries?

    1. Depends on where you live, here in northern colorado th' summer sun is hot and th' humidity is dry, usually takes around 3 hours per side...but just keep an eye on it, you'll know when it's ready

  3. Do you have any suggestions on where to find wild plums in northern CO?

    1. Daniel, Yes! check along irrigation ditches- you're sure to find some ...