Thursday, July 15, 2010

Solar Energy

Cheaper than solar panels, yes?

It's been perfect weather for line drying - hot and dry and slightly breezy - so all the laundry has been getting done. After the cedars got removed, Q moved the end hook for my line to the fence so I could have more space (I've got a retractable line like this), which is excellent since we got a HE washer over the winter so loads are a lot larger.

It also seems silly to be running a dehydrator and blowing warm air around in the house that we air condition. Besides, it would take a lot of trays to dry this many cherries - 5 1/2 pounds. My setup is composed of a repurposed light cover (like the put over big fluorescents in public buildings) set on two sawhorses. There's a layer of tulle below the cherries and a layer above. They're pretty well protected from anything that might be interested in sampling and from any wayward dust. I take up the corners of the tulle to make a bundle at night and take them in for storage in the fridge.

This is the beginning of the second day. They dried for about 8 hours yesterday. I'm really happy with the way they're keeping their color. I put 1/4 c. of citric acid in a couple of quarts of water and submerged the cherries as I quartered them. I know quartering seems like overkill but the halves were a little large in the baked goods last year and it's quite a bit easier to cut them fresh. Dried fruit is so sticky and leathery.

There were still 2 1/2 lbs. of cherries that didn't fit on the dryer yesterday so I juiced them for fun and tried to modify our ginger ale recipe to make cherry soda. Even with straining then, there's still a lot of debris in the bottle. It carbonated really quickly and is now in the fridge. It will be interesting to see if it's any good. We have to strain ginger ale when we make it anyway, so pouring it through a filter won't be anything new.
The recipe...
  • Combine 1 c. sugar, 1 T citric acid, and 1 t yeast in a 2 liter bottle. Use a funnel!
  • Place 1 qt. of strained cherry juice in a 2 qt. measuring cup. My pyrex measuring cup also has liters so I added water to just a little below the 2 liter mark.
  • Add a little of the diluted juice to the bottle and swirl until most of the sugar is dissolved. Add the rest of the juice.
  • Screw on the lid and leave on the counter (no direct sun) until the bottle doesn't indent when squeezed. (Test how much give it has when you begin so you can tell the difference.)
  • As soon as the bottle is very hard, refrigerate the soda. Drink it in the next few days. Make sure to hold the bottle over the sink as you open it. It could easily be over-carbonated!
I also made what is effectively this recipe for Washboard Cookies from the American Test Kitchen Baking Book for a neighborhood dessert potluck last night. They're quite good - not overly sweet and very buttery. If you make them, DON'T omit the nutmeg like the blog author suggests. It's absolutely necessary to add a hint of spicy bitterness that allows the coconut to shine. Without it, there would be very little dimension of flavor. Like hers, mine also came out soft instead of crunchy but I don't consider this a bad thing. I'd probably try thinner slices next time just to see if I could achieve crunchy, wafery status.

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