My parents have fruit trees. They are prolific producers. We have fruit trees. They, too, are prolific producers. Great! Not so fast.
Every year we wind up with more fruit than we can eat fresh. So do my parents. My mom and I have become masters at freezing fruit for later use, as a result. I also have a dehydrator (my beloved 9-tray Excalibur) that gets a lot of use during harvest time. The frozen fruits get turned into smoothies, and both frozen and dried are used for my various baked goodies. Even so, we just don’t use it all up before the next season.
Eventually I start sorting through the old tubs of peach chunks, persimmon puree, apricots and figs, plus so much more. I’ll find whole bananas that I set aside for banana bread that never materialized. There will be bags of berries that have frozen together in a solid mass. There are tubs upon tubs of fruit, and there is no room for anything else. It’s time.
Some fruits will still be left in the freezer for the beginning of summer. By May it is usually getting pretty toasty here (90+ F), but much of the fresh fruit hasn’t ripened, yet. I’ll puree a random mix of fruits and turn them into frozen fruit-pops to enjoy until the seasonal fruits are ready. The rest of the mess will get turned into an equally tasty treat: fruit leather.This is one of those ridiculously easy things to make, and better yet, a healthy snack the whole family can enjoy. There is no need to add sugar or anything else. It makes me wonder why the ones you get at the store bother to do so. Since the fruit is dried, it will last a long time without needing refrigeration, and makes a great lightweight treat for on-the-go.Though I use my Excalibur to make my fruit leathers, no dehydrator is needed. You can make them in your oven very easily. The benefit of a dehydrator, though, is that you don’t hog up your oven. You will need either parchment paper or some other type of heat-proof non-stick material. Many dehydrators have sheets that either come with the device or can be purchased for use with it. Check out your owner’s manual to see.
Fruit Leather Recipe
Any variety of fruit can be used, however fruits that have a high water content will need to be blended with more pulpy types of fruit to make the leather less brittle when finished. I like to throw in some banana into my puree as it helps create the perfect texture and adds sweetness without needing sugar.
Be sure to puree your fruits until completely smooth. Lumps will take longer to dry and you will either have leather that becomes too brittle waiting for the lumps to dry, or lumps that don’t dry enough and are a spoilage risk. Fruits with hard seeds, like blackberries, should get strained to remove the seeds. If you are using a lot of fruit with low acidity, you can also add some lemon juice to help “perk” up the flavor. Don’t get carried away because the flavors will intensify as the fruit dries!
Place your parchment paper or drying mats onto a firm surface like a cookie sheet. There is no need to use any kind of non-stick spray as the leathers should pull off easily when properly dry. Ladle the puree and spread as evenly as possible about 1/8 inch thick. On my trays I can use about 2 cups at a time. Try to make your edges a little thicker as they will be the areas to dry fastest.
If using a commercial dehydrator for your fruit leather, follow the manufacturers directions for temperature and time. If using your oven, set the temperature to 150 F and place your trays in. If you have a convection oven, you can use that setting, too. The time needed will vary depending on how much you are drying, what fruit you used, temperature around your dehydrator, etc. Plan on anywhere between 2-6 hours.
Check on your leathers occasionally to see how they are drying. When they are done, they will not be sticky anywhere on the surface. It is better to over dry than under dry, so don’t worry about going too long.
Once they are completely dry, remove them from the mats and place them on sheets of parchment paper. If you already used parchment paper to dry them on, you can keep them on there. Fold the parchment paper over the leather on the edges, and then roll them up. Folding protects the edges and keeps them clean. Use either rubber bands or tape to keep the leather rolled up. A word of warning, parchment paper is meant to be a non-stick surface so your tape will need to go all the way around and secure on itself, as it won’t stick to the paper! You could also wrap your fruit leathers in plastic wrap, but really, life is too short for that kind of hassle. Ask me how I know.
I like to store my fruit leathers in large zip-type plastic bags for extra protection. I will also keep them in the freezer as space allows, too, but it isn’t necessary. When we want to eat some (which is all the time), I just undo the tape, unroll the parchment and tear off a chunk. Then I shove it into the mouth of a waiting kid. There is always one waiting.