Do you compost or dump your cull fruit?

Here are some alternatives that can be pulled together at harvest but carried out during winter when everyone is less stressed.

By Gary Strachan I

wish I had a dollar for every conversation I’ve had where someone says “There’s so much waste fruit in BC. Something should be done with it.” In a few cases, the speaker is serious, so we get a coffee, estimate cost of equipment and processing, the income that could be gleaned (pun intended), and try to figure out if a business income is possible.

It’s interesting that even in the face of reasonable estimates, some entrepreneurs still take the risk and proceed with the processing of someone else’s waste.

This is not to say that blemished or cull fruit has no value. In many cases, the cost of recovery is simply too high. The timing for another project when farmers are in the midst of harvest is really bad. If there is value, let someone else do it. On a small scale, say for home use or to sell at a fruit stand, there are simple technologies that make sense. Let’s look at few small projects that can be pulled together at harvest but carried out during winter when everyone is less stressed. The first point is that your product must be protected from spoilage. Don’t use rotting fruit. Freeze it as soon as possible.

A lot of fruits are quite mushy when they thaw, but for many products that’s OK. In some cases it can be an advantage because juice is released more readily from frozen fruit than from fresh fruit. Cell disruption occurs when ice crystals form, and most berries release juice, flavour, and colour better after they have been frozen and thawed.

Ocean Spray even has a patent for the release of cranberry juice by freezing the berries.

One of the most useful techniques is cryoconcentration. It’s a commercial process used for producing premium

fruit juices, because it conserves most of the original colour and aroma of the fruit. On a small scale, you can do it in a home freezer. I’ve had good and bad results.

A method used by early settlers in Canada was to allow apple juice to ferment to cider and leave the barrel outside in winter.

The alcohol remained liquid and could be drained off through a tap or bung. The product I made in my freezer was very potent but tasted ghastly. The tannin and acidity remained in the alcohol and didn’t freeze. This gave the apple jack a subtle “rip your throat out” quality. If I had subsequently sweetened it to (say) 30 per cent sugar, it might have become an acceptable liqueur, but I simply gave it away by the bottle to people I didn’t like. This is also the method used in warmer climates to make fake ice wine. Any juice can be frozen. Much of the pulp remains trapped in the ice matrix. Sugar and other dissolved solids are excluded from ice crystals, so the colder the freezer, the more concentrated your juice will be. Use a plastic container that can expand when frozen. When the juice thaws, the ice will float to the top and juice can be withdrawn by syphon from below the juice. A juice syrup of 50 per cent sugar or higher can be made this way. It can either be preserved by pasteurizing and hot filling or it can be made shelf stable by topping up the sugar content to 70 to 80 per cent by dissolving white sugar in hot juice.

The pH is important in fruit products if you are to avoid browning to maintain colour and aroma. Get an inexpensive pocket pH meter and follow the instructions. Litmus papers are useless and not worth your time. If your fruit is over (say) 3.5 pH, bring it down with lemon concentrate or citric acid. Ascorbic acid or a small amount of KMS (used in winemaking) can also be used to help preserve freshness.

Some fruits brown more readily than

others. I had a terrible experience with frozen Saskatoons that turned dark


To preserve flavour and colour, keep the pH low in your fruit products.

brown while I was thawing them. On my next try, I had to heat them quickly while thawing and add KMS to inhibit browning.

There are lots of other ways to use your syrup. For example, blend the syrup with thawed, whole fruit and dry it to make fruit leather or simply blend it with thawed fruit and use it as a spread.

Many berries are mushy and hard to press for single-strength juice. They will require pectinase to break down the pulp and will probably require a press aid to allow juice to escape. You also have to use a press such as a rack and cloth press that has a short path for the juice to escape. The traditional basket press used for amateur winemaking will simply squirt the pulp from between the slats. Now you know how to respond to accusations of waste fruit. — Gary Strachan is a consultant to the BC wine industry and a former federal government research scientist.

British Columbia Berry Grower • Spring 2018 11

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