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Sugar plum fairy

Sabine Schneider
Sabine Schneider

Why sugar plum fairy, you might ask. She's a character in Tchaikovsky's ballet Nutcracker. And she's a keeper of sweets. Such as the sweet I'm about to make - plum leather.

The branches of our Billington plum tree are groaning, so I've come up with a few ways of using up the fruit I don't stuff into my mouth straight away.

I'm gonna dip the plums into boiling water, peel the skin off and take the stone out. The fruit halves go into the food processor and are pulped for a second or two. Then, I'll line a colander with a clean tea towel (best keep one for this purpose alone, because it will discolour) and sit it on a bowl to catch the juice. In goes the pulp. I'll leave that for an hour or so (cover with another tea towel, otherwise the flies will have a ball!). Don't throw out the juice - drink it or use it to make gravy for a pork roast. Pork and plums go well together!

If your plums are a bit tart there's another way of making the pulp: Just boil the plums - with the skin, but take out the stones - in a large pot with a little water (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan so it doesn't stick, take more if you like). Add some sugar, only a few teaspoons at a time, you don't want it to overpower the plummy taste. When everything is nice and mushy (after about 15-25 minutes), run it through a food mill and catch the pulp. Or use your food processor...

The pulp then goes on to the leather sheet of my dehydrator. Such useful machines! I admit I like kitchen gadgets and one of these days I'll post my badlist of the ones I've never ever used and also a hitlist of the ones most practical or at least quirky.

Where were we? Ah - dehydrator. I have a large one made by Harvest Maid and when I use it I even feel like a harvest maid.
Spread the pulp evenly over the sheet. Alternatively, you can pour the pulp into a baking tin lined with cling film and put it in a warmish oven for ages. I haven't tried that. If you've done this, let me know how it went.

Gotta go, the sugar plum fairy is calling...

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