|Fruit pastilles or pate de fruit. Not chewy, just soft set jellied sweets. Mmmm.|
Each Christmas my eldest and I make Christmas cards that you can eat, or use. You know the sort of thing: gingerbread men, bath bombs etc. To give out to her school friends. I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from making cards with my daughter. And it’s very useful deadline-avoiding fodder. Please don’t let this make you tense, it’s not everyone’s idea of fun, but it is mine. (Even as a child Id make cakes to avoid doing homework. Then I’d flog them to my dad who had a café.)
So anyway. This year I had the fanciful idea of making a sheet of fruit pastilles, then cutting them into Christmas tree shapes and putting them in clear front photo bags (I got them in bulk some years ago, which was in part what started this Christmas card project thing as I was determined to find a use for them).
This was the idea anyway, making Christmas tree shaped red fruit jellies. In the end, I realised that you’d need an enormous amount of fruit to make the number of fruity Christmas trees we’d need, to enable her to give one to each of her school friends. I’m keen, but not that keen.
But I made the fruit pastilles anyway and cut them into cubes. If you fancy whiling away half an hour, these make a pretty present (although they don't really last long) and are intensely fruity (don’t expect Haribo chewiness, these are like fruit jellies, or pate de fruits). I haven’t yet experimented with other fruit but I know people who make them with all sorts: rhubarb, apple, blackberry, mango etc. The only thing I will suggest is that you think of the final colour and use the fruit accordingly. You want something that looks appealing so if you use a wishy washy coloured fruit (apple, say) don’t let it dominate. Personally I think berries are ideal as the main ingredient.
This is what you need:
Some fruit – you really need to start with about 300g of it to make this worth your while. I used raspberries and apple for the ones here. About 90% raspberries to 10% apple.
Preserving or jam sugar (the one with pectin in it)
Put the fruit into a saucepan – chop up if necessary. Obviously that doesn’t apply to berries and if you’re interested I used frozen berries. Squeeze some lemon on them, I squeezed a wedge on my 300g of fruit. It doesn’t have to be precise, as you can probably tell.
Cook over a gentle heat until sludgy. If you’re using a mixture of fruit (say, like I did apple and raspberry) you may want to start the harder fruit off first. Cook until mushed up. Towards the end, I help break everything up with a stick blender.
Now, take off the heat and sieve into a bowl or other saucepan. Be aware you’ll need to weigh the resulting puree. If you have chickens, you can feed them the sludge left in the sieve.
Whatever you’re left with, weigh it and add the same amount of sugar. I think I was left with about 150g of fruit puree so I added 150g of the preserving sugar.
Put the puree and sugar in a saucepan, and heat gently. Stir until al the sugar is dissolved, then keep heating gently for about 30mins. Stir occasionally. You know it’s done when it’s thickened and if you take a spoonful out it will dangle off the spoon as you drip it off (this will make sense when you do it) instead of just falling off. You want it to be glutinous.
Line a suitable tin/tray with baking parchment. I used the bottom of a loaf tin. It’s easier if you have nice straight sides as they’ll be less to cut off and straighten up later.
Put in the fridge and let it cool. Mine were done after about three hours. You can leave it overnight.
Turn out onto a chopping board. It should be one solid mass. Tidy up the sides but cutting (I use them as fruit snakes), and cut into cubes or whatever damn hell shape you want. Roll in caster sugar and let them air dry for about an hour to set. Personally I store them in the fridge as they can go a bit sludgy (gosh, I've overused that word today).