Homemade Fruit Leather: Bringing Back the Best Memories
Why my kids will eventually pick the very best nursing home for me.
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Hello, my friend,
When waxing nostalgic, the best thing to do is to indulge the fantasy that you are back in that time, when things were simpler. Sometimes that is enough to scratch the itch of wishing for better times.
“Let’s do X, like we used to,” is a common refrain, where X is what people did at the time to rally their spirits. Reviving X is a light-hearted attempt at closing ranks and lifting each other up, as if to say “See? Thing are difficult, but we still have each other and our fun.”
Fruit leather — and the branded Froot by the Foot, which came pre-sliced and rolled in paper — was on hand at all times in my house when the kids were little. It was a favorite snack, and I always knew where the kids and their friends were by the trail of paper strips left behind. It was oddly reassuring.
Now my children are young adults, and the world is a very different place. There is little I can do to protect them against being buffeted by life’s strong winds, but I still have a few tricks in my maternal back pocket. Something that will make them open their eyes wide and say, “Wow! I haven’t had that for ages!”
Fruit leather is one of the easiest nostalgic treats you can make, as long as you have three basic kitchen ingredients: fruit, sugar, and lemon juice. If you want the leather to be a bit more pliant, get your hands on some liquid pectin.
Oh, and life is much easier if you own a dehydrator. You can make fruit leather in an oven set on low heat, but it’s harder to control how the leather comes out. Fruit leather made in an oven has been known to burn and get extra crispy, which is a much better quality for fried chicken than it is for fruit.
I much prefer letting appliances do the work for me, and besides, I can’t sleep if I know the oven is on, no matter how low.
Dehydrators come in all sizes, functionalities and price ranges, but after years of watching them break and wear out, I broke down. I bought myself an Excalibur. I have no connection to the company, but the Excalibur is the Jaguar of dehydrators. I own a nine tray contraption because I am insane, but most people would be perfectly happy with a four tray dehydrator.
If you can blend and pour, you can make fruit leather. All it requires is blending up about 3 lbs. of fruit, adding sugar, lemon juice and the pectin (if using), blending it all together once more and then pouring the mixture onto plastic-wrapped dehydrator trays. Or, if you are planning to make a lot if it — and having a lot of fruit leather is by no means a bad thing — invest in silicon trays that make it much easier to peel the fruit leather off when it’s dried. Take it from your friend: Get the ones with the rims. You won’t be sorry.
Oh, and did I mention that you can used frozen fruit for this? It makes things so much easier.
Just thaw a 3 lb. bag of whatever fruit you like in the refrigerator and pour that baby into the blender. I use frozen fruit almost exclusively now, because the level of ripeness is much more consistent than 3 lbs. of fresh fruit.
So. Are you ready to relive your childhood?
3 lbs. of fruit1
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon or so)
1/2 of one packet of the liquid pectin2
A dehydrator plus silicon sheets
Parchment paper, cut just a wee bit longer than the size of the silicon sheets
Pour the bag of fruit into the blender, and pulse until the fruit is evenly pureed.
Add the sugar, lemon juice and pectin. Pulse some more until the sugar is well dissolved3
Put a silicon sheet on as many dehydrator trays as you think you will need (mine usually just cover three sheets/trays.)
Ladle the puree onto the silicon sheets and spread it to fill the entire sheet.4
Place the trays in the dehydrator. Set it for 125 degrees for 8-10 hours. There is wiggle room here. You can also set it for 135 degrees for 6-8 hours. The most important thing is that the leather looks somewhat shiny but dry, and that your finger doesn’t sink into the puree when you poke it gently.
6. When the leather is cooled, carefully peel it off the sheet, trying to get it in one piece. This may or may not be one of the most satisfying things you do all day.
7. Holding the parchment paper open to keep it from curling (this may require another person), place the fruit leather on the paper, leaving about 1/2 inch paper at one end. Roll the leather up in the paper, leaving the 1/2 of exposed paper on the outside for easy peeling.
8. Slice or cut the leather into 2 inch wide rolls. We’re friends, so let me save you a lot of grief: Use culinary scissors. Slicing is miserable.
9. Place the fruit leather rolls in an airtight ziploc bag or container. It will last about a week or so in the oh ha ha ha ha who are we kidding these will be gone in a day or three.
But your kids, no matter how old they are, will look at you as if you just performed a magic trick. And you will know that you can still make them smile.
Until next time,
Hey! Let me know if you made the thing! I love you!
I don’t need to tell you this, but if you are going to use fresh fruit, peel and stone it as necessary. Do not attempt to use fruit with the skin on. I started with frozen strawberries because a) I had it in my freezer, and b) no peeling or stoning. I’m all about the easy.
Optional, but it can help keep the leather pliant.
I use the clean finger test: Dip the tip of a clean finger into the puree and taste. If it’s gritty, the sugar isn’t completely dissolved, and back to pureeing school you go.
Do NOT be tempted to spread the puree too thickly. It will thin out as it dries, but if you spread it too thickly, it may never dry. Don’t ask me how I know. Let’s just call it a Buddhist koan.