Q: I am always so busy during the holidays. Are there gifts I can make now that I can give in December?
Courtney M., Paso Robles
A: There are so many foods that can be preserved now and given as gifts later. One advantage to preserving now is the produce is fresh, in season can be purchased locally at farmers markets and grocery stores.
One easy gift that’s a great way to use ripe fruit is fruit rolls, or, fruit leather.
Wash the fruit in cool water. Then remove peels, stems and seeds. Cut fruit into chunks and puree until smooth.
For light-colored fruit, add two teaspoons of lemon juice for each two cups of fruit to prevent darkening when drying. Pour the fruit puree onto liners or parchment paper for a dehydrator, or onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet for an oven.
Fruit leathers need to be dried at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If your oven does not have a setting that low, it is best not to use it. You will cook the fruit leather rather than drying it when using a higher temperature, trapping moisture in the product.
Fruit leather dries from the outside edge toward the center. Test for dryness by touching the center; no indentation should be evident.
While warm, peel the fruit leather from the liner or paper and roll. Then allow to cool and wrap in plastic wrap.
Fruit leather will last for up to one month on your shelf; but for longer storage, it is best to store in a sealed container in the freezer.
Another flavorful gift idea is peach salsa. With peaches in season, now is the perfect time to preserve them using boiling water canning.
You can pair peach salsa with chips and other items for a great gift basket.
To learn how to make peach salsa, stop by the UCCE Master Food Preservers’ next workshop.
The workshop will be held 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the auditorium adjacent to the parking lot at 2156 Sierra Way in San Luis Obispo.
Students will also learn how to dry herbs, which can be used in homemade tomato sauce. Pair the sauce with fresh pasta and a baguette from a local producer or your favorite grocery store, and you’ll have a gift anyone would love.
To register for the workshop, please visit ucanr.edu/holidaysinjuly2018.