Back when we were in the thick of nectarines, eating them fresh and slicing giant bowlfuls for drying, it occured to me that I should try fruit leather. Because my dehydrator sheets are mesh and the soupy liquid would just drip through, I’d never experimented with leather before. But my new oven, I realized, had a dehydrator setting. Why not give it a go?
And thus started a whole chain of fruit leather-making experiments…
Pureed fruit: cooked and fresh, nectarines and peaches.
Acid: bottled lemon juice and fresh.
Sweetener: sugar, honey, and/or an over-ripe banana
Dehydration: in the oven — two parchment-lined pans in the oven, or a whole stack of pans (here’s where I wish I had four or five oven racks) — or in the dehydrator (hello, parchment paper!)
Everything worked, but there were subtle differences and our preferences to go with.
The leather made from pre-cooked fruit took on a glossy, smooth shine, almost like plastic, and had a more muted flavor.
The fresh peach puree (with lemon, a bit of honey, and one banana per processor blending) resulted in leather flecked with bits of peel, and it had strong peachy flavor.
The addition of banana (our all-time favorite dried fruit) was a smash-hit, providing subtle banana flavor and a nice chew.
Leather made in the dehydrator tended to get a little crispy around the edges, even when I took pains to spread it on nice and thick, and then, when I had to dehydrate it extra long (because it was so thick) it got so dark it appeared scorched, even though it wasn’t.
Leather made in the oven was much chewier (our preference) and it got done faster.
I realize fruit leather seems kind of crazy considering the slow cook time and the lightening fast speed with which it disappears. But keep in mind that it takes minimal prep — no need to peel — and since it’s all getting blended up, bruised, squishy-soft fruit is fine. Plus, there’s no nitpicky slicing and laying out of the fruit, and then, at the end, prying the dried fruit from the sheets. Just, blitz, pour, and roll. Easy!
I keep the fruit leather, rolled and cut into inch-wide(ish) sections, in the freezer for packed lunches and snacks.
The rule is that no one is allowed to just snack on it willy-nilly — it’s to be saved for packed lunches and necessary snacks, and eaten in moderation please — but I don’t think anyone much listens.
Peach Fruit Leather
I’m eager to experiment with other fruits. Maybe this winter I’ll simmer a pot of rhubarb and then add a bunch of strawberries before blending. Or I might buy a giant Costco bag of frozen mixed berries and give that a whirl. And if I ever get my hands on a case of almost rotten bananas, watch out!
So my oven isn’t tied up all day, I usually make the fruit leather at bedtime and then let it dehydrate overnight.
Very ripe peaches, washed, pitted, rough chopped
1 mushy banana
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, either fresh or bottled
2 tablespoons honey or sugar, optional
Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until soupy. It will taste only mildly sweet and fruity, but no worries — the flavor will intensify as it dehydrates. Pour the sauce into a big bowl and blend up more fruit, adding each batch to the bowl as you go, until you have enough sauce to fill your dehydrator trays.
Ladle the pureed fruit onto parchment-lined dehydrator sheets or large, sided, parchment-lined baking pans. Dehydrate (in the oven, at 150 degrees) until no longer sticky to the touch. (If the edges are done, but the middle is not, use a pizza cutter to remove the parts that are done and then return the unfinished portion to the oven.)
Roll the leather while it is still warm and then, using a scissors, cut it into desired pieces. Bag and freeze.
This same time, years previous: a little house tour, the quotidian (8.20.18), the Peru post, miracle cat, the quotidian (8.19.13), the quotidian (8.20.12), this is what crazy looks like, whole wheat buttermilk waffles, Valerie’s salsa.
We swirl blueberry or raspberry on our peach or nectarine base. Very yummy and nice contrast of flavors
I think I brought homemade apple fruit leather to every track and cross country meet I have ever attended. Just applesauce, dried. So simple. So wonderful. We make it for road trips now, sometimes even out of my jarred applesauce if it is way off-season and I haven't saved enough. Sometimes I make batches of sauce just for fruit leather. My peach (and other fruits) stuff always stuck to the racks something terrible, which kept me away from anything but my tried and true apple. My mom would make bags of it and send it to me at college. Eventually she just gifted me the whole dehydrator!
I've been thinking about trying applesauce! And then I wondered: why not just blend up raw apples, including the peels? Then it'd be just like apple schnitz. Have you ever tried that? Apple leather from raw apples?
Never even considered trying it that way. In a way, it is nice to just do it as a product of a process we are already undertaking. But if you are in the mood for experimenting (and it seems like you are!) please let me know how it comes out! Our neck of the woods is drowning in overloaded apple trees this year…
I have also noticed that in commercial fruit leathers, it seems apple is the base for all the other flavors. So that might be an interesting way to try some peach or berry (I have struggled mightily with strawberry batches. They just get crispy and stick to the trays or paper.) Of course, for other seasons you'd have to use preserved apple sauce or something. How far are you willing to take this?!
Also, while it is so picturesque in those rolls, I tear it up into odd shaped chunks and store it in quart bags. Then it is easier to ask or enforce folks just taking a few small pieces rather than a whole fruit roll-up sized chunk at a time.
Actually, I just poured two quarts of applesauce on trays and popped them in the dehydrator! If these turn out good, then I may be willing to take this all the way to the moon. (Or at least into next month…)
I know what you mean about fruit leathers disappearing almost faster than it takes to make it. I've kept mine successfully in canning jars (with lids, of course) in the cool pantry, but freezing it, as you do, would take away any chance of it ever getting moldy. I have several munchkins who pop in here now and then and the question, "Do you have anymore fruit leather?" usually comes up.
One other thing, I've tried using honey as a sweetener but could never get the leather to dry enough. I thought that was 'cause honey liquifys in heat, but obviously it worked for you. Waaaahhhh!