Fresh fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, or grapes)
Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, optional
When you have your own fruit trees (or access to someone else's), sometimes you can feel a bit buried in fruit. You're overwhelmed by whatever happens to be dropping off the trees at that time. Summer becomes a mad dash of canning, jamming and freezing, trying to preserve the bounty to enjoy throughout the year.
One thing you can do with the excess fruit of the season is to make fruit leather, sort of the beef jerky of fruit. I used to love this stuff as a kid! It made for a great snack, gave us instant energy, and was easy to pack.
Guidelines for Fruit Leather
What follows is a general guideline to making fruit leather, no set recipe. So much of it depends on the specific fruit you are working with.
Do you have a preferred way of making fruit leather? I'm curious to know.
I imagine not all fruits are best processed the same way. Some might work well mixed in with other things, like cherries with ground almonds, for example.
Some people prefer to process just the raw fruit; I like cooking the fruit first to up the intensity of the flavor, and kill any bacteria that might be lurking around on the fruit.
When apple butter season starts, I may make a fruit leather batch with extra ground cloves, cinnamon and cider vinegar.
The leftover fruit mush from making a clear jelly would be great for making fruit leather.
Alternatives to the Oven
If you have a food dehydrator, this would be a great use of it. A friend of mine suggested putting the tray in the Weber grill, and leaving it covered in the sun all day. Sounds like a good trick, but I haven't tried it yet.
My friend remembers the traditional way of making fruit leather was just to tent the tray with some cheesecloth and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.
Fruits and Other Add-ins
Nearly any fruit can be made into fruit leather. You just need to be able to make it into a smooth purée to get the best results. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Berries - like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
Stone fruits - e.g. apricots, plum, peaches
Tropical fruits - like mangos and papaya
Other fruits - like apples, pears, , kiwi, grapes
Sweetening Fruit Leather
The nice thing about fruit leather is that you don't need to add sugar or lemon to preserve the fruit. The process of removing the moisture is what preserves the fruit. You can add sugar to balance out the flavor if needed, but you can use other sweeteners (honey, agave, maple syrup, and the like) instead.
We suggest adding lemon not only to brighten the flavor, but the citric acid helps preserve the color of some fruits.
How Long Does Fruit Leather Last?
You can easily store fruit leather, rolled up and placed in a large lidded jar or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 1 month. For longer storage (up to 6 months), refrigerate your fruit leather. For even longer storage (up to 1 year), you can freeze your homemade treats.
Alternatives to Plastic Wrap
If you don't want to use plastic wrap, you can line your baking tray with parchment or a silicone mat.
The quality of the plastic wrap itself has a lot to do with safely cooking with it. Be sure not to use wax paper, since wax melts when heated.
Fruit Leather in a Dehydrator
Got a dehydrator? Lucky you! Follow the recipe up to Step 4. Then pour out onto the fruit leather tray of your dehydrator (if your machine came with one). You can also cut out parchment paper to size, and line the trays of your dehydrator.
Set your dehydrator to 140°F (60°C) and let it do its magic for at least 6 or up to 12 hours. The actual time will depend on the type of fruit you're using and the thickness of your leather. But we've found that 8 to 10 hours is the sweet range for making fruit leather in our dehydrator.
Check your fruit occasionally. The fruit leather is done when it's dried and not sticky to the touch.
1. Clean and prep the fruit:Rinse the fruit. If you're working with stone fruit, take out the pits. Chop the fruit.If you're working with apples or pears, peel and core them, then chop. If working with grapes, de-stem them.Taste the fruit before proceeding. Note how sweet the fruit is. If very sweet (ripe Concord grapes, for example) you won't need to add any sugar. If it's still a little tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step.
2. Boil the fruit with water, then mash:Place the fruit in a large saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit.Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook on a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir.Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan.
3. Season with sugar and spices, if desired:Taste the fruit and determine how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add.If needed, add the sugar in small amounts (1 tablespoon at a time), to your desired level of sweetness.Add lemon juice 1 teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to augment the flavor, if you'd like.Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 (or more) minutes.
4. Purée the cooked fruit:Put the mashed fruit through a food mill or chinois. Alternatively, purée the fruit thoroughly in a blender or food processor. The purée should be very smooth.Taste again and adjust the sugar/lemon/spices, if necessary.
5. Pour the purée onto a lined baking sheet:Line a rimmed baking sheet with a sturdy, heat-proof plastic wrap (the kind that is microwave safe). Pour out the purée onto the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.
6. Slowly dry out in the oven:
Heat the oven to 140°F.
Place the baking sheet in the oven. Try to keep any plastic wrap from touching the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also, try to make sure the plastic wrap hasn't folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won't dry out.
If you have a convection setting, use it. It will speed up the drying process. Let dry in the oven for as long as it takes for the purée to form fruit leather. We usually keep it in the oven overnight, about 8 to 12 hours.
The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky to the touch.
7.Roll up in its plastic wrap to store:
When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the plastic wrap.