I spend quite a lot of my time pushing stewed fruit through a sieve, especially at this time of year, when there's so much fruit in the hedgerows. It's very hard work and I've broken several sieves in the process, so as the most recent victim parted company from its handle, I wondered whether it might be time to invest in something that's actually designed for the job of pureeing fruit whilst leaving skin and stones behind.
Discussion on the selfsufficientish forum had alerted me to two possible options, a mouli and a passata maker, originating in France and Italy respectively, the latter being designed for processing tomatoes. I sought advice on which would be best, and found that our local cookshop had a reasonably priced mouli for sale. I discussed it with the shopkeeper, and neither of us thought the screen fine enough to sieve out blackberry pips, so I went back to the forum to ask and, reassured, returned and bought the mouli. I do love that shop - I wish I could afford to buy kitchen equipment for often, but perhaps it's just as well I can't, for the sake of my cupboard space.
Anyway, here's the new gadget:
It comes apart into three pieces, or five if you count the spare screens with different sized holes. There's a bowl part into which the to-be-pureed food goes. In the bottom of this is a disk/screen with holes in, and this is held in place by a third piece, which fits into the bowl and includes a spring to hold the screen down, a blade (not sharp) to push the food against the screen, and a handle to operate it. This might be clearer if you see it in action:
One feature of this particular mouli is that it doesn't have legs on the bottom for standing it over a bowl, just hooks at the top. This means that if fitted over a bowl, there isn't much room for the puree to come out at the bottom. Luckily, it fits very nicely over a ten litre bucket, though it is a little difficult to find a comfortable working height.
My first attempt was stewed damsons, as shown in the picture above. The stones are relatively large, which I find difficult to deal with in a sieve. Recipes often advise taking the stones out before pushing it through a sieve, but that takes ages. So how did the mouli handle it? Brilliantly! This is definitely the right tool for the job. It's still a manual tool, so it's not effortless, but it's a lot easier than the sieve, and it does the job very effectively. I found that the handle needs turning in both directions; clockwise to push the mush against the screen, then anticlockwise to lift it away again. It's also necessary to use a spoon to push stuff down to the bottom, especially as it gets drier.
My next attempt was mashed potato, as I've heard people say how much nicer it is made with a mouli (I'm skeptical). Optimistically, I wondered whether I might be able to boil small potatoes with their skins on then have the mouli extract the skins as it mashes them. No, it doesn't. Oh well, it was worth a try. I also found that, for a meal-sized quantity, transferring the potato to a metal mouli, and then into another container, cooled it a lot. On the other hand, if you have a quantity of blighted potatoes that you want to mash in large quantities to freeze, it's just the thing.
For the third test, another batch of hedgerow fruit for fruit leather, this time crab apple and blackberry. Can a mouli really sieve out blackberry pips, even using the finest screen?
Yes. Yes, it can. At least, I haven't found a pip in the pulp I've sampled so far.
EDIT: Now the leather is dry, it's clear that a few pips got through, but I still think it's not bad.
The only problem I've come up against is that this gadget processes such large quantities (the one I bought is big; smaller ones are available) that I don't have enough baking sheets to spread the pulp out on.
As you can probably tell, I'm very pleased with my new gadget. It takes more washing up than a sieve, but with just three parts it's not too bad, and it more than makes up for it in labour saved. It might even make it worthwhile to pick haws, as I'm curious to try hawthorn ketchup.