Autumn has arrived here in the UK and our trees are heavy with fruit that needs to be harvested soon or else it will go to waste. We have a glut of apples and plums this year and, apart from making a litre of plum gin (can’t be touched till Christmas) little has been done.
Funnily – this is an age old problem. In 1656 one John Boyle wrote – ‘Noe plums ever dryed, nor peares, except in a few houses.
Here in the UK with our colder, wetter climate, the drying of fruit has always been difficult because it could only be done indoors by the oven or fire and the cost of keeping fires going was prohibitive. Cooling bread ovens were used to dry whole apples, pears and plums otherwise they were sliced into rings, threaded on string and hung up in the kitchen for several days.
It is believed that the old English tradition of making marmalades, jams, preserves and jellies came about as an encouragement for people not to waste their fruit.
Mushrooms were also a favourite for drying. Like apples they would be strung and hung over cooling wood ash to give them a smoky flavour.
Louis XIII of France loved the woodland scent of mushrooms dearly and in 1643, as he lay on his death bed, he spent hours threading mushrooms on strings.