October 27, 2008

Autumn Olive Jam and Leather

Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive) is a ubiquitous invasive species in Michigan but up until this year I had no idea it was edible. Then I came across this post on a blog called Tea and Food that mentioned autumn olive fruit leather. I knew immediately that I had to harvest some of the numerous bushes on our land and I've been waiting for them to ripen ever since. Alex has loved knowing there is something to nibble on while walking in the forest and has been taste testing them for me. Unfortunately he's as bad as the birds for spreading the seeds since he spits them out as he walks. I was surprised by how tasty they were the first time I tried them. The berries are tart and vaguely cranberry-like. My husband John thought they tasted like tart grapes. Finally them seemed ripe enough on our last trip so I picked a couple of bags and brought them home.

When I got home I looked around online for recipes. There was one blog called Dreams and Bones that had great information about using autumn olive berries. The writer Leslie had recipes for both jam and fruit leather. I rinsed and cooked my berries with a little water per Leslie's instructions. Then I put the pulp through a food mill to separate the seeds. I only had a packet of full sugar sure-jel left from all of my jam and jelly making this fall so I used it and the berry jam instructions included in the package for my jam. For my fruit leather I decided to sweeten the pulp with all honey instead of stevia and honey. I had some local raw honey that was light in flavor so I added just enough to balance the tartness of the berries, about 1/4 cup of honey for 2 cups of pulp. I used my food dehydrator but there is an oven dried method on Dreams and Bones that I'll link to at the end of this post.

The fruit leather is wonderfully chewy, tangy and sweet! I like Leslie's idea to cut up the leather into small bits and use them in place of dried cranberries in salads. I think the same bits would be great in bread or cookies as well. The jam is equally good. It's a beautiful, rich red color. In my reading I found out that autumn olive berries can have as much as 17 times the amount of lycopene as tomatoes and it really shows in the color of the jam. I'd love to pick some more berries and try them in savory recipes. I think they would be great in a barbecue sauce. I should have plenty of time when we move to the new house so it's probably a project for next year. The only problem is that I might get attached to these tasty invasives. I'll have to spend lots of time looking at plant and seed catalogs for natives to replace them with...
A berry laden branch of Elaeagnus umbellata (autumn olive) Washed berries ready to be smashed and cookedFinished rolls of honey sweetened fruit leather

Dreams and Bones for the recipe for fruit leather and a link to a low-sugar jam recipe
Tea and Food
Autumn olive wine recipe
Wikipedia Article on autumn olive

27 comments:

VeggieGirl said...

Oooh, lovely!

Lexy said...

One of my friends has a lot of autumn olive trees on his parent's land out in central MA. We're planning on making wine with them in the next week or so. If you have a homebrew shop in your area you should try it out! Here's the link:
http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/request115.asp

doggybloggy said...

aces--this is the best and the coolest, well besides the mushrooms and the cool house and the cool kid and everything else this is right up there.

maybelle's mom said...

Great picture at the end. i wonder if we have this in ohio. will try to figure it out. love that you are getting back at those invasive species.

_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver said...

Ooh, ooh, I also made fruit leather! Will be a while until it's posted. I made grape. Fruit leather is too cool. =D

Hannah said...

I've never heard of these berries before, but they sure are lovely. I would be happy for them to invade my yard!

Adam said...

That's so cool to find edible berries right in the backyard! I have berries near my house, but mom always said to not eat things that you don't know what they are :)

The fruit leather turned out beautifully. That's a perfect "make the school kids jealous snack"

Jeanine said...

Wow, those berries sure make a beautiful coloured fruit leather! Very nice!

Aaron said...

Wow, the fruit leather looks as good as the kind that's bad for you!

So glad you tried it out. I'll put a link to your post up on T&F.

smörgåsbroad said...

ooooh! what a great use for invasives! :)

shellyfish said...

Wow! What a fabulous find...I know I saw those in the woods growing up, but sure didn't know I could eat them! Love it!

Elle said...

Those are such a gorgeous color!

muddywaters said...

Great post. I need to open my eyes. There's a lot growing out there that I need to try. I also like the recipes.

Also thanks for recommending Dreams and Bones, which is a great name for a blog.

Great pictures.

prtybrd said...

I remember we had these bushes in our backyard in Virginia when I was a kid, but I never knew they were edible. The birds sure loved them though.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Interesting! I'm sure that jam tastes really heavenly!

Cheers,

Rosa

Maggie said...

VeggieGirl: Thanks!

Lexy: Wine is on my list to make next year.

doggybloggy: Thanks! I have to get my mushrooms started back up.

maybelle's mom: I was just in Ohio this past weekend (the west side though). I was talking to my cousin about it and it's not as common but is around.

_ts of [eatingclub] vancouver: I really love my dehydrator. I'll be looking for your post.

Hannah: They are pretty bushes but boy do they spread.

Adam: Definitely don't go nibbling on the berries before you know what they are! Unfortunately Alex likes the raw berries but turned his snotty little nose up at the leather. He's a punk.

Jeanine: Thanks! I really loved their color too.

Aaron: Thanks for the link! I have my trusty Excalibur dehydrator to thank for the quality of the leather. It's a great machine.

smörgåsbroad: Thanks! I can't wait to try them in other recipes too.

shellyfish: As far as I've heard they planting them in Michigan as deer fodder but it was a failed project. I've seen them all over the state.

Elle: Thanks!

muddywaters: Dreams and Bones is a great blog name. I'm always surprised when I find such a great tasting foraged food.

prtybrd: The birds are really fond of them.

Rosa's Yummy Yums: The jam was delicious. Thanks for stopping by!

PG said...

from the description, i think, i woud loe this fruit. Never heard of it before.
the jam and the fruit leather - both look marvelous!

Chef E said...

Wow, I am impressed! When my kids were growing up I made everything from scratch, but limited their sugars, and that was when fruit leather hit the markets. They would have loved this recipe, thanks.

There is still the grandchildren, some day!

Shaheen (Coco) said...

I really like your blog! The berries look gorgeous. I'm so glad I discovered it thanks to you comment on mine. :)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've never tried making a fruit leather (or heard of autumn olives). Looks great--I love the photos!

breadchick said...

Now I had no idea they were edible either! I can't wait to find some next fall when I'm up at my folks house and try them out! Thanks for turning me onto a native fruit I had no idea existed.

Scott Palmer said...

Here's a very good article on Autumn Olive that I saw a few weeks ago:

http://www.edibleboston.net/content/pages/articles/fall08/beansAnAutumn.pdf

Leslie said...

Maggie,

Thanks for the nod to Dreams and Bones ... your photos are luscious looking. Glad to have found your blog.

julie jams said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! Your photos are really amazing. I was reading your booklist...mentally checking off all the books I love. I think I could just cut and paste your list onto my site! You have good taste in reading. Although, I'm surprised by the combination of "vegan" and "tony bourdain". Didn't know the two could coexist! (he's my favorite!!)

Lori said...

Maggie- great job on the challenge. Very yummy looking.

I now have a quest for this fall. I hope I can find them here in NY. I love foraging!

Debra said...

I made autumn olive jam twice last year. I found it can take a long time to boil down and over cooked it the first time into autumn olive butter - edible but not very spreadable. The berries seem to be ripening earlier this year. I plan to use a jelly thermometer this time - no errors with this delicious fruit.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

I've been doing things with them as well. They are tasty! Your pix are great! grazingtheditches.blogspot.com