When I tell people that I make my own fruit leathers, I see a look of awe and wonderment cross their faces…like I told them that I live off the grid or that I climbed Mt Everest. I admit that I bask in this admiration albeit undeserved. I don’t live off the grid, I just have the proper equipment—a food dehydrator. I bought my Nesco dehydrator about 8 years ago for $65. With it, I have made rolls and rolls of fruit leathers in an array of flavors with very little effort. If you are interested in preserving more local foods, if you like fruit leathers or have a kid (they all like fruit leathers), then read on. You may be able to make them even without the dehydrator. Need more convincing?
Top 10 Reasons to Make your Own Fruit Leathers
- Homemade leathers are much cheaper than store-bought. One half ounce all natural fruit leather goes for about $0.65- $0.80. Depending on the fruit, you can make your own for ¼ of that cost—I’ve done the math.
- It is a good way to use fruit that is overripe or blemished; in fact I purposefully seek out this fruit from the farmer and purchase it at a discounted price.
- Kids love them and they make a good, healthy, easily-transported snack.
- They have more of what you want– the superior taste of fruit harvested at the peak of season
- They have less of what you don’t want–No high fructose corn syrup or chemical preservatives.
- Fresh, cooked, canned or frozen— fruit in any form can be made into a leather.
- You can control the type and amount of sweetener.
- You can make imaginative combinations including spices which you will not find in any store.
- It is extremely easy; the dehydrator does all of the work.
- THE #1 REASON: When you tell people that you make my own fruit leathers, you will see a look of awe and wonderment cross their faces
Now that you are convinced, let’s get started. We first need to choose the right equipment. You don’t absolutely need a food dehydrator. I started dehydrating without one but made the investment after the first year. Here is why.
Choose the Right Equipment
Food Dehydrators generally range in price from $60 – $220. They have several advantages:
- you can set it at the proper temperature of 140° F;
- it doesn’t use a lot of energy;
- it gives reliable results;
- they are safe to use if you have small children or pets;
- it takes only 8 hours;
- they last for years. I’ve had mine now for nearly 8 with constant summer time use and it is still going strong.
- The main disadvantages are that it requires some storage space and you will have to buy it.
- Advantages are that you may already own it and the fan keeps drying time to about 8 hours.
- Disadvantages are as follows: It is expensive to buy if you don’t already own. Counter top models take up a lot of space. Because you must prop open the oven door to allow moisture to escape; it is not safe if you have young children or pets. It requires more energy than the dehydrator. Lastly, it only works if you can set the temperature to 140° F.
- The advantage is that you already own it.
- However, the disadvantages are many. It may take up to 18 hours in a conventional oven so energy cost is high. To speed the process, you could position a fan to blow into the oven but this poses all sorts of dangers even without kids and pets–you will have to babysit it. Finally, if your oven doesn’t have a 140° F setting, then it is impossible. I know. I have tried.
The Sun: This is not possible in Wisconsin. You need daily temperatures above 95◦F and humidity below 35%. Not happening here.
My advice is to buy the dehydrator. Amazon and Farm & Fleet both have a good selection. Besides fruit leathers, you can also make “sun-dried” tomatoes, beef jerky, and countless other pricey dried foods.
How to Make Fruit Leathers in a Food Dehydrator
- Choose ripe fruit.
- Prepare fresh fruit as directed in Chart 1 below. Add water if necessary to reach a thick pouring consistency.
- Add a sweetener if desired. Corn syrup, honey or saccharin is suitable for long term storage. Sugar will form crystals and aspartame will lose sweetness over time. Remember, sweetness intensifies with drying.
- Add spices, extracts and seasoning. See Chart 2. Remember flavors intensify with drying.
- Pour puree into special fruit roll sheets or plastic wrap lined trays, not foil or wax paper. I highly recommend the fruit roll sheets—they are easy to use and last the life of the dehydrator and beyond. Spread to an even ¼ inch thick. (About 2 cups of puree).
- Set to 140° F and check after 6-8 hours. The leather should be dry yet pliable, not tacky.
- Peal from the tray, dust them with 1-2 teaspoons of powdered sugar, and cut into desired sizes. Powdered sugar not only keeps the leathers from sticking together but also extends the shelf life to one year. Alternatively, you could wrap or stack the leathers between parchment or waxed paper but shelf life will be reduced to 6 months.
- Pack stacked or rolled into sealed glass or plastic containers and store in a cool, dry, dark spot.
- Pasteurize raw puree leathers by placing them in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any insect eggs or harmful organisms then store on the shelf.
How to Make Fruit Leathers in an Oven: Follow steps 1- 4. Use a cookie sheet lined with plastic or freezer wrap and spread the fruit puree on it to – ¼ inch in thickness. Keep the temperature at 140° F with the door propped open with a wooden spoon to let steam escape. Use an oven thermometer to keep temperature constant.
These are the step by step instructions for making peach fruit leathers but use whatever you find at the market or whatever you have in the freezer. Use Chart 1 to determine what sort of treatment the fruit needs.
- 2 pounds peaches (8 medium fresh)
- 2 teaspoons powdered sugar
- Blanch peaches—Place peaches in 6 quarts boiling water, cover pot with a lid and time 3 minutes for small peaches/5 minutes for large peaches. Remove peaches with a slotted spoon and transfer to an ice water bath.
- When cool, slip off skin, remove pit and place in a blender or food processor.
- Blend until it becomes a smooth puree--about 4 cups puree.
- Pour puree into trays to a ¼ inch thick.
- Dehydrate at 140 degrees F for 6-8 hours. It is ready when it feels completely dry, not tacky.
- Peal from tray and sprinkle with powdered sugar rubbing evenly on the surface.
- Cut into even sections and roll. Place rolls in a 1 pint mason jar with a lid.
- Stores for 1 year. T
- For a pretty presentation, try to cut the sections to equal the height of the jar.
- Puree can also be made from 2 pounds frozen peaches.
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