Dried Ground Cherries

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left to right: naked ground cherries, cinnamon raisin dried ground cherries, whole ground cherries with their husks, ground cherry plant 

photo by vsimon

Last year we had 1, this year we 7 ground cherry plants. Some we paid for, some were grown from saved seeds. Some were volunteer plants from last year. This could get out of hand.

A purchase plant was labeled “pineapple ground cherry”, most were simply “ground cherry.” We taste tested each one and didn’t notice any difference in flavor, size, or color. I think the pineapple name is just a marketing ploy.

Vince has already put up 26  jars of ground cherry jam. That is probably enough, even for gift giving. We have also had ground cherry and raspberry crisp. But what to do with this continuing embarrassment of riches? Dry them!! 

We have a super duper commercial quality dehydrator, with a thermostat and a fan. We use it every year for sliced dried tomatoes. Dried until they are thin and crispy, they are easy to crumble by hand into recipes. 

Reasoning, if we didn’t dry them as long, dried ground cherries might be like raisins. They are a similar texture.

We tried drying them whole and halved. Whole took much too long, up to 24 hours. Halved, they are done overnight.

Since ground cherries are not as sweet as grapes, it follows dried ones are not as sweet as raisins.

So they could go either way, sweet or savory. We tried many seasonings. Sugar and cinnamon for sweet. Simple salt and pepper, garam masala, smoked and hot paprika for savory. You can probably think of many other combinations.

The sweets can be summery additions to your breakfast cereal or muffins this fall and winter. The savory ones make good bar snacks. Think of munching on chewy nutless seasoned nuts.

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whole and halved ground cherries with sugar and cinnamon on drying racks photo by vsimon

Sugar and Cinnamon Ground Cherries

These are plenty sweet. As sweet, or sweeter than raisins.

2/3 cup sugar (we used white granulated)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

8 cups husked ground cherries, halved (about 2.5 pounds)

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix sugar and cinnamon together.

Toss with halved ground cherries.

Place in a single layer on 5 drying racks.

Dry overnight at about 115 degrees. We put the dehydrator outside so it doesn’t heat up the house.

Store in glass containers. Or plastic, if you must. I like to put them in the freezer, they don’t take up much room. It isn’t necessary, I just like to store lots of things in the freezer.

Savory Dried Ground Cherries

Simply halve and sprinkle your choice of seasoning on them. Be careful, a little goes a long way. Start with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for 8 cups of ground cherries. They shrink by more than half and the flavoring gets concentrated. You can always add more after they are dry.

What seasonings would you try?

Nosey Tomatoes

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According to Will Rogers, “An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.”

Until now.

nosy peach tomatoes

nosey little peach tomatoes photo by vsimon

Speaking of vegetables, or really fruits in this case, head over to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness January newsletter. The monthly Nourish column (by moi) calls for a New Years Snack Revolution!! Up the fruits and veggies!!!

How close do you come to the recommended 5-9 servings per day?

Fireside Apple Sauce in a Pressure Cooker

fireside apples

Fireside apples from our tree photo by vsimon

You are kidding, right? Make my own applesauce? I can buy it in the store.

You can buy applesauce in a jar. Open it up, and it will not give you the deep apple flavor. Or fill the house with warm cinnamon scent. Or have the this chunky texture.

We make applesauce every fall. Clients even pay us to make applesauce, repeatedly. One client says it reminds him of his mom.

I have used many varieties. Courtland, Gala, Honey Crisp, Ida Red,  Macintosh, Paula Red, Yellow Delicious. I love them all. Well, maybe I love Macs a little less. They fall apart so much the sauce is not chunky. But you might prefer that.

Don’t bother with Red Delicious apples. They are red, but they are not delicious.

This year we are making Fireside applesauce at home. We have had a Fireside tree for 13 years. The first harvest was 1 apple. Most years we got about half dozen, easily eaten out of hand.

This year we harvested about 60 apples!! In early spring, we cut down a large Chinese Elm that was shading this tree all along. We knew fruit trees needed full sun to produce well. But we didn’t know how much we were missing.

So this year we have eaten lots of fresh apples. Dried lots more. And made applesauce.

Fireside apples are sweet, crisp, and very large. It took only 6 apples to weigh 3 pounds. That weight is my standard recipe, and sometimes that is a dozen apples. And that is what fits in my pressure cooker.

No pressure cooker?

You can make this on the stovetop. It will take longer, you’ll probably need more water, and you’ll have to stir it frequently to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

But the house will smell even better. I encourage you to make homemade applesauce, with or without a pressure cooker. You will be rewarded with fall comfort food.

Applesauce also freezes well. So go ahead, buy a bushel of apples, and make lots.

Peel after cooking?

Yep, that is what I do. I simply quarter, and core the apples. Cook them, and fish the big peels out of the cooked apples. It is easy, the flesh falls away from the skin. And it does not take any longer than peeling the apples first.

Still, some will say that is too much trouble.

I say it adds flavor, and sometimes color. Especially with Paula Reds, they have a nice blush just under the skin. This is lost if you peel them first.

Note: don’t try this if you do not have a pressure cooker and are cooking applesauce in a regular saucepan on the stove top. That would be an exercise in frustration. Peel those apples first.

Fireside apple sauce

Fireside applesauce with cinnamon photo by vsimon

Homemade Applesauce in a Pressure Cooker

Serves 4-6 generously metric measure
3 pounds apples about 1.5 kg
1/2 cup water 120 ml
1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 gm
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar, maybe 12-25 gm
1 tablespoon butter, optional 15 gm

Quarter apples and remove centers.

Put apple quarters and water in pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and cook for 3 minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow to cool until pressure drops.

Open the cooker and pour apples into large shallow bowl.

Allow to cool enough to be able to handle comfortably. Remove skins from apples, using tongs and a spoon.

Stir to desired chunkiness.

Add cinnamon and taste. You may not need any sugar at all. I didn’t use any with the Fireside apples. No butter either, though this is a nice rich addition sometimes.

What is your favorite apple?