Monday, July 11, 2011

Fruit for food storage – Fruit Leather

Making your own fruit leather or fruit roll-ups is easy to do. There are no rules and anything will work. There are just a couple of things to remember.

First of all, the flavor intensifies when it is dried. So, if you want to add a little sweetener to your fruits you can but know that it will taste sweeter dried than it does when you put it on the trays. Remember the sweeter the fruit is the longer it will take to dry.

Second, you can do anything you want to with your fruit leathers. Add cinnamon or other spices or flavorings if you want. Vanilla and almond or other extracts can also be added. Experiment until you find your own preferences and then write down what you do so you have your own recipes for future use.

Third, when preparing the puree’s to dry, you can add juice or water to make the fruit easier to blend or puree’ but remember the more water you add the less strong the flavor will be and the longer it will take to dry. Taste the fruit after you puree to see if you need to sweeten or flavor at all.

Fourth, before spreading leather on your drying trays, spray them with cooking spray and then wipe off any extra so that the leather can be easily removed from the sheet without tearing. I like to turn the fruit leather over once during the drying process (just my personal opinion) but this makes it easier.

Here are some fun options for drying:

Apples: Process in a food processor or blender, adding liquid if necessary until you reach a smooth consistency. Add spices or flavorings as desired. Spread ¼” thick on lightly oiled drying trays and dry 8 -12 hours or until leather will peel easily off the sheet. Drying time depends on the thickness of the sheet of fruit and the sugar content of the puree.

Applesauce: the applesauce that is flavored works great. You can make applesauce for drying using 1 lb. apples, cored and chopped, 1 c. water or apple cider or juice and cinnamon to taste. Simmer until apples are tender and then puree.

Berries: Puree berries using a little water, orange juice concentrate or other fruit juice. You can also add applesauce to your berries to puree. If desired simmer fruit a bit in the liquid to soften before pureeing and placing on drying trays. Any combination of berries is great. Taste before drying and add sweetener if needed or fruit flavored syrups, extracts or cinnamon, if desired.

I have never made banana leather but you certainly can if you love bananas. Just puree with some fruit juice, apple or pineapple – this helps prevent darkening and spread on drying trays. Know that this leather will be very sticky and thicker than others and will take longer to dry, but kids love it.

Rhubarb: (My personal Favorite) 4 c. chopped (1” pieces) fresh rhubarb, 4 c. boiling water, ½ c. brown sugar and 1 t. ground cinnamon. In heatproof bowl combine rhubarb and the 4 c. boiling water. Let stand for 10 minutes. This softens the rhubarb and removes some of the acidity. In blender puree the softened rhubarb in batches. Add sugar and cinnamon. Taste and adjust flavorings as needed. Puree until smooth. Pour on trays and dry until sheet can be turned over. Dry to desired consistency – chewy to slightly crispy. If desired, add a can of cherry pie filling to blender and puree with rhubarb for a sweet and wonderful flavor.

Apricot, peach or pear leather: These are family favorites. I like to peel the fruits but peeling is optional. Puree diced fruit with a little water or pineapple juice (the pineapple juice helps prevent discoloration). When a smooth consistency is reached, taste for flavor, and pour on trays and dry.

Melon leather: Some people love melon leather, others don’t. If you have an overripe melon that you don’t want to eat, give this a try. Just remove seeds and puree. Remember because of the water content of the melon, it takes longer to dry.

Canned or frozen fruit leather: Canned fruit makes wonderful leather. Canned fruit has already been sweetened so it is ready to go. Drain the juice from the fruit, puree and spread on trays. It is so easy to do. If you have frozen fruit in your freezer that you need to use, consider making it into fruit leather; just blend or process in food processor and puree till smooth. Sweetening as needed; just remember it will taste sweeter dry than it tastes in puree form.

Fruit Leather from Juice: You can also make fruit leather from juice. Frozen juice concentrates can be spread on drying trays and dried. If you have a juicer in your kitchen, juice different fruits and vegetables and make them into leather. Any combination will work. Try carrot juice with apples, grapes (a great way to use grapes that are too soft to eat) or cucumbers. (The carrot juice is so sweet when dried). Add some spinach or any berries you wish. This is a great way to use fruit that is a little too ripe and vegetables that your kids would not ordinarily eat. The great thing about this is that when you dry the juiced fruits and veggies, the flavors intensify and become wonderful as a healthy snack.

Have fun making leather. Experiment with different combinations of juice and fruit. Mix with fruit pie fillings for different flavors and consistencies. Dry Jell-O powder also adds flavor and color in place of sugar and is fun to experiment with. Have a favorite fruit leather combo that you make? Tell us about it.

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