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December 2021 Trail Bytes: When Life Gives You Lemons...
December 22, 2021

There is that saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. In these challenging times, that’s a workable theme for a newsletter. Make the best of your situation. However, in this case, the moral was preceded by a literal start—Migros had lemons on sale at a good price.

Dominique and I have one of those carafes with a metal spike running down the center that you spear chunks of lemon with to make lemon-water. We often drink it with our dinner. Ask Google if lemon-water is good for digestion, and you will learn that, “Drinking more water can help to reduce the risk of constipation, and the lemon will help to stimulate healthy digestion and elimination of waste. The acid in lemon juice will also help to break down your food more efficiently, making it easier for your body to extract maximum nutrients from every meal.” If Google says it’s so, it must be true. Minimize constipation, maximize nutrition—sounds like a plan.

Two other beverages in our fridge are cranberry juice and carbonated apple juice. One evening, when our lemon-water supply was low, I mixed the three together: One part apple juice, one part cranberry juice, and two parts lemon-water. This cocktail was worthy of wine glasses, like pink Zinfandel with bubbles. It was so refreshingly light and sweet, that we started taking it on our hikes around Pfäffikon.

Which brings me to the irresistible next step: Dehydrate two sacks of lemons with the idea of making lemonade on the trail. We already know from experience that rehydrating other fruits with twice as much water as fruit produces well-rehydrated fruit, plus a serving of sweet fruit juice. Rehydrated fruit cocktail is our favorite 4 pm trail snack.

I assumed that the tartness of lemons would intensify during dehydration, so I rubbed a quarter-teaspoon of sugar into each slice of lemon that I dried. Things got sticky after that.

I should have remembered from all the different fruit leathers we have made, that adding too much sugar or honey causes stickiness. Perhaps Google could have reminded me that, “when simple sugars are heated, they melt and break down into glucose and fructose. The increase in temperature causes the sugar to darken in color.” The sugar-spiked lemon slices took a long time to dry. With each passing hour, they got stickier and browner. Obligated as I was to see the experiment through, I took one swig of the resulting caramelized lemonade before dispatching the project to the compost bin.

The moral of the story is… when life gives you lemons, dehydrate them without adding sugar. A few slices of dried lemon in your water bottle will boost nutrition, and you can add sugar separately. Slice lemons thinly and dehydrate them at 135°F (57°C). If you want to include a few pieces of dried lemon in a fruit cocktail mix, trim off the skin before drying. Leave the skin on if you just want to float them in water, as the skin contains healthy flavonoids.

If at first you don’t succeed… dry, dry again.

Cranberry-Infused Apples

I had better results drying apples basted with cranberry juice. Leaving the skins on to retain the flavonoids, I cut six apples into eighths and sliced those pieces thinly. As I cut the apples, I dropped the pieces into two cups of cranberry juice. I then placed the apple pieces on two dehydrator trays over nonstick sheets. Normally I don’t use nonstick sheets when drying apples, but it was necessary to keep the cranberry juice from rolling off as it was added during the drying process. After all the juices had been absorbed into the apples, I removed the nonstick sheets.

Before applying the first basting of cranberry juice, I let the apples dry at 135°F (57°C) for four hours. Using a medicine dropper, I then dribbled juice over the pieces, which had become absorbent. A spray bottle might have been faster, if only I had one. I repeated the applications of cranberry juice every hour or so until the original two cups were used up.

Because nonstick sheets slow down the rate of dehydration, and considering the repeated applications of juice, it took about eighteen hours for the apples to dry. Was it worth the wait? The apples were a little stickier and a bit darker than apples dried without juice, but perfectly acceptable. Popping a few dried pieces into my mouth, a delightful juice welled up as soon as I started chewing. After that, I ran half-a-cup of apples through the thermos fruit cocktail test, rehydrating them with one cup of cold water for one hour. The apples rehydrated well, and the remaining water took on a fresh cranberry-apple flavor.

A future plan for brewing cranberry-apple lemon water on the trail will be to skip drying the lemons and repeat the apple-basting project a second time using lemon juice. In previous apple-drying projects, we learned that grated apples dipped in lemon juice were delicious, and we used them for snacking and to make overnight Bircher muesli. Because of the strength of lemon juice, only one juiced lemon is needed for five or six apples. Combining apples infused with cranberry and lemon juices will make a very refreshing afternoon fruit cocktail.

This being the last newsletter of the year, we would love to hear from you. Did you have an adventurous year on the trail or in the kitchen? What’s on deck for 2022? If you’re busy wrapping presents and baking cookies, a friendly holiday greeting will warm our hearts.

Frohi Weihnachte und Alles Guete im 2022!

Chef Glenn & Dominique

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