Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nectarines and Stickies

What is it with me and hoarding summer produce? Seriously, it's not like I don't still have 6 or 7 jars of peaches put up from June, or that the house is all settled and there's not a thing left on my to-do list.

And let's not forget that if for some reason I did find time to work in the kitchen for multiple hours, I still have three gallons of muscadine grape juice to turn in to jelly.

But 25 pounds of nectarines from the co-op? Oh, yes, please!


Oh, nectarines, I do love you so. I just can't resist you. But this time around there wasn't enough time to can you in spiced syrups, or dice you into chutneys and pickles... so a quick dip into boiling water to slip you out of your skins, a rough chop, and a bath in vitamin C water is all you got before it was off to the freezer with you!

The real story here, however, is not the nectarines themselves. Oh no. The real story is the help for this project- it was awesome. Let me just say- I didn't have to ask, I didn't have to instruct, I didn't have to assign jobs, these two helpers just showed up, watched for a few minutes, and fell right in to step.

Audrey peeled.

I cut the slices and dropped them into their vitamin C bath.

Henry scooped them out of the wash and put them in their freezer bags.

There was no fighting. There was no yelling. There was no complaining... and there was work that lasted almost an hour and a half.

At one point, Audrey looked up from slipping skins of nectarines and said, "Bubba, you are doing so good! Good job Bubba! You too, Mama!"


So there's that to add to the list of why stone fruit in the heat of the summer, when we're all trapped inside by 109 heat indexes, is so gosh darn irresistible to me.

We froze four gallon-sized freezer bags of nectarines before having a break for dinner and a romp in the sand as the sun went down, and after the kids went to bed I finished the last 5-7 pounds of fruit solo. I decided to turn the remainder into nectarine fruit leather, or "Stickies" as the kids call them (and appropriately so, once they get their hands on them).

It was the least I could do to say thanks to these two helpers of mine... well, that and maybe not get more next week!

Nectarine Stickies
Makes 2 quarts of puree that, depending on your dehydrating methods, 
could turn out a ton of thin leather or a fair amount of thick

5-7 pounds of ripe nectarines, peeled and cut from the pits
1 tsp powdered ginger or 1(ish) inch grated fresh ginger
juice from 1 lime

In a large non-reactive pot, slowly simmer nectarines, ginger, and lime juice until fruit starts to break down and look real soupy. With an immersion blender, or working carefully in batches with a stand blender or food processor or food mill, puree soupy nectarines. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread puree. Place in an oven on your lowest heat setting (probably 200 degrees) for 6-8 hours or overnight. If using a dehydrator, don't forget to spray your fruit leather trays with non-stick spray!

Once dry to the touch, cut into desired shapes and sizes and store with layers of wax paper between them in an airtight container, and they'll keep for a month or three (if they're not gobbled up right away).

While we worked on our fruit, I told the kids that when winter came and all the trees that grow nectarines are sleeping and not growing fresh nectarines, we could go into our freezer and grab a bag of fruit and enjoy them and remember summer, and Audrey said, "And they'll taste even better because not just you made them, Mama, Henny and I helped, too!"

So true, Sister, but then again, anything made with love tastes better... don't you think?

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