Save money, packaging, and be able to choose your own ingredients by ditching the store bought fruit rolls and making your kiddos their very own homemade fruit leathers. It’s easy peasy, the kids can even chip in and help. With a little time, patience, and a few tools you’ve got a healthy treat packed full of nutrients.
Choose Your Fruit
Thick and / or pulpy fruits work best for fruit leathers so think peaches, plums, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, even persimmons and figs in the fall! Try combining several of your favorites to get a nice blend of textures and nutrients. You might even get adventurous and throw in some greens (kale, spinach) or beets for color.
Cook and Puree
You want to eliminate as much of the water content of the fruit from the get-go, so you will need to cook them down and puree them before drying. Most fruits won’t require any additional water during the cooking process, but if your mixture is thick you might add water to help with thinning for pouring. Fruits should be cooked down until softened (5-15 minutes depending on the fruit). If using fruits with small seeds (like raspberries or strawberries) you might also consider having a strainer handy to remove seeds before drying to create a smoother texture for your leathers. Like the texture? Skip this step.
Add a Little Sweetness, Acid, and Spices
Adding a little lemon, lime, or orange juice to your fruit will help with preservation and darkening of lighter color fruits (figure about 2 tsp of citrus for every 2 cups of fruit). You might find this isn’t necessary for darker colored fruits like berries. If you want to sweeten the leathers up a bit opt for honey over sugar. Sugar will add immediate sweetness but will result in crystal formation on your leathers. Get creative and try adding cinnamon or nutmeg or your favorite spice combos to the leathers for a unique taste.
Drying, either through baking at a low temp or dehydration, helps remove the moisture from the fruits and slow decay and bacteria and yeast formation on the fruit. If using a dehydrator, check the instructions first for optimal temps for fruit leathers, but it should be somewhere in the range of 130-140F. You will want your fruit leathers to be super smooth and even to allow for even drying, shoot for 1/8 inch thickness.
After your fruit has been cooked down and pureed, if using the oven method, line a rectangular cookie sheet with parchment paper and pour the puree onto the parchment and smooth evenly with a spatula. Bake at 140F for 8-12 hours or until the leather is only slightly tacky to the touch. When the leather has slightly cooled, remove (still attached to parchment) from the cookie sheet and transfer to a cutting board. When cooled, slice the leather into strips about 1.5 inches wide and rolls. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in a ziplock bag in the fridge. They should keep 1-2 weeks.
Give this combo a try:
- 2 cups peaches, 1/2 cup strawberries cooked down and pureed
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbs honey
- 1/2 water if needed for thinning
Instructions: Add lemon juice and honey to fruit while cooking, cook down and puree, strain if desired. Pour mixture onto parchment paper lined cookie sheet (if baking) or plastic tray of dehydrator. Follow above instructions for drying. Slice and serve, or slice, wrap with saran and store sealed for 1-2 weeks.