Wordsworth’s “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”; fall is here with a bang! The leaves are turning to their autumn plumage, branches are laden with berries and nuts, and root vegetable plants begin to die back, giving up the summer’s goodness to nourish the hidden treasures beneath the soil.
If you are a gardener and have turned your hand to growing fruit and vegetables, you will already know the challenges and pleasures of the fall harvest. A year of hard work comes to fruition, but it requires a last effort to get it off the trees or out of the ground, and then, once you have put in that work, you suddenly find yourself facing an issue that can seem quite overwhelming when you are used to weekly grocery shopping; what on Earth am I going to do with all this?! How can I make sure I use this beautiful harvest before it goes off?!
There are, of course, all sorts of ways to preserve your harvest bounty; canning, freezing, pickling, and more. But all too many of these require a lot of specialized storage space, not to mention hiding the literal fruit of all your labours from view! If you would like a method of preserving your autumn glut in full view, bringing the harvest spirit right into your kitchen or dining area, you can do no better than string-drying.
What is String Drying
String-drying is an incredibly useful technique for preserving many different kinds of fruit and vegetables. It is low-tech and requires little equipment or specialist knowledge, is an excellent use of space for storage where this is at a premium, and gives a beautifully rustic look to all kinds of spaces.
How To String Dry
To string-dry apples, peel and core them, and then cut into slices. If you intend to leave your apples stored on strings for a while, you may wish to “pasteurize” them before stringing to kill any mold spores or bacteria that might grow and cause them to spoil. You can do this by storing the peeled and cored apples in ziplock bags in the freezer for a couple of days or by gently drying them out in a low-heat oven for 10-15 minutes.
Thread your apple rings onto a string or rope – natural hemp ropes give a rustic look and have antibacterial properties. It is very important that your drying fruits never touch in order to dry correctly – simply tying large knots in the rope in between each individual apple ring is a very easy solution to this. They will be ready to eat after a minimum of 4-5 days, depending on the thickness of your apple rings, but can easily last an entire winter this way – if you can restrain yourself from eating them!
Other Harvest You Can String Dry
String-drying is also ideal for preserving and storing chilli peppers. This is very simple to do – no need to chop or deseed here! Simply wash your chillis and tie them to rustic twine by the stem heads, knotting to leave about an inch between each chilli. They will take a minimum of 3-4 weeks to dry this way, but will keep a vivid colour and lose none of their flavour!
Ideally, suspend your stringed fruits in a warm space with low humidity and at least some air circulation. Direct sunlight is ideal to dry out fruits faster. Strings can be hung freely from shelves or brackets, perhaps weighted with a stone or trinket on the end, or strung in between two points such as shelves, or for maximum rustic chic, even hammer a few nails into your wall to hang your laden strings from.