Like hunters and gatherers at the end of summer, Claudia and I are thinking ahead to the less fertile months of the year. On Saturday, we went to the green market at Kollwitz Platz and bought up bags of over ripe strawberries, wasp eaten pears and apples and other fruit at closing time prices. We weren’t looking for beautiful, perfect peaches. We wanted to fruit to transform into winter stores with Claudia’s food-dehydrator.
“In two weeks, none of this will be available anymore,” Claudia pointed out as we cut the fruit into rings and slices to lay out on the drying racks. Both of us have read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, MIneral, Miracle,” an account of an American family’s year eating local. One chapter is devoted entirely to their efforts in late summer to turn their garden’s harvest into food that will keep through the winter. In Italy, Paola told me that growing up she often helped her mother with the process of sealing jars of their homegrown tomatoes for later use.
I had never really done any food preserving and was surprised at how straight forward the process is. You put the sliced fruit on the drying racks, set the temperature and let the machine run for 14+ hours. It dries the fruit at a low heat so that much of the vitamins are preserved. Longer drying will make the fruit crunchier, shorter will make it more pliable. Some of the bananas and apples we dipped into lime juice before laying on the racks, but that was really the only prep besides slicing that we did.
I came back the next day to see the results. The fruit had shrank quite a bit while drying, but there was still plenty for us both. The dried fruit looked so beautiful -especially the almost lacy, transparent strawberries. It was hard not to pop them in our mouths as we packed them into plastic bags, but thinking about how much I would enjoy eating these strawberries in January was all I had to do to seal my resolve.