Total Pageviews

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Making Fruit Leather

This information is provided by: Washington State University Cooperative Extension
How to Make Fruit Leather
  • Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap and tape it to the edges. Do not use wax paper or aluminum foil. The fruit tends to stick to these.
  • Wash and core fruit. Fruit may be pureed with or without the skin. The skin on red apples will give the puree a nice pink to reddish color.
  • Place pieces of fruit in blender. Puree until smooth. Some fruits make a smoother puree if they are cooked first with a little water, then pureed.
  • If desired, add any combination of the following flavorings: allspice, cinnamon, cloves, honey, lemon, mint, nutmeg.
  • When the puree is smooth, pour onto the prepared cookie sheet. Spread it around so that it is even and not too thick-1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Leave at least 1 inch around the edges so that the puree has room to spread and the plastic wrap can be removed easily. You can make smaller pieces of fruit leather by pouring small "pancake" size spots of the puree onto the cookie sheet.
  • Dry the fruit leather by using one of the drying methods (at end of document). Dry it until it is still rubbery (pliable). The center should not be sticky. Remove the leather from the tray while it is still warm. Peel away the plastic wrap and roll up the leather. Cooled fruit leather does not roll as easily.
  • Individually wrap the leather in plastic wrap or put it in an airtight bag or container.

Combine 2 or more fruits for a unique flavor:
  • Apples combine well with all fruits, especially berries.
  • Apricots with apples, plums, or pineapple.
  • Bananas with apple-berry, lemon-walnut, orange-pineapple.
  • Blueberries are best when combined. Try them with apple, peach, or cantaloupe.
Spices and Flavorings

When the puree is dried, the spices and flavorings will concentrate, so use them sparingly. Add one spice or flavoring at a time in small amounts. Blend and taste. You should not be able to tell what has been added, only that something has. If you really taste a strong flavor, too much was added. To weaken strong flavor, dilute the puree by adding more fruit. If additional fruit is not available, dry the puree, then put a filling with the fruit leather or spread on a topping such as cream cheese. This will help tone down the flavor.
  • Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon extract per quart of puree.
  • Begin with one tablespoon fresh juice (lemon, orange) for each quart of puree.
  • Wash the orange or lemon before grating it. Try one teaspoon of grated peel per quart of puree.
  • For added variety and texture add a garnish. Just as frosting garnishes a cake and strawberries garnish a dish of ice cream, fruits, nuts, seeds, and cereals can garnish fruit leather.
  • After pouring the puree onto the cookie sheet or after the puree has begun to dry but is still very sticky, add a garnish.
  • When dry, roll up as usual or cut the leather into bite size pieces.
  • Garnish ideas include chopped, dried fruit, chopped dates, shredded coconut, granola, chopped nuts, raisins, whole or chopped, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds.
Storing Fruit Leather

Fruit leather can be left whole or cut into 4- to 6- inch pieces. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap so that fruit leathers do not stick together. Put these wrapped pieces into an airtight container. Label container. Freezing is ideal for longer storage. Leathers that contain nuts, coconut, or fillings should be stored in the freezer.

Methods of Drying

There are several methods of drying; each has advantages and disadvantages: Sun, Solar, Oven and Dehydrator. Choose which method is best for you.

Sun drying depends on the temperature and the relative humidity outside. If you live where the temperature is in the 90°s with low humidity and low air pollution, sun drying can be used. A major advantage is low cost. Drying trays, netting to protect against bugs, and the fruit are the only investment. Another possible advantage is the sun's sterilizing effect caused by ultraviolet rays that may slow the growth of some organisms.

Sun drying is dependent on the weather. If it is sunny one day and not the next, you have to finish drying your fruit by one of the other methods before it spoils. Also, when it cools at night you have to bring the food inside. Spoilage can occur while the fruit still has enough moisture for microbial growth. Another disadvantage is time. What would take 6 to 8 hours to dry using another method, may take 2 to 4 days in the sun.

Solar drying is like sun drying, only better. The sun's rays are collected in a solar box; drying temperature is higher and drying time is shortened. With a shorter drying time, microorganisms have less chance to cause spoilage. If you don't want to buy or build a solar box, the back window ledge of an automobile where the sun shines through can be used as a solar dryer. Crack the windows slightly to allow some air flow so it doesn't get too hot. Stack the trays like you would for other methods. Cover the trays so insects don't ruin the food.

Oven drying. To dry small amounts at one time, the oven drying method is a good choice. There is little or no investment in equipment. You don't have to depend on the weather. Most foods can be dried in an oven.

One disadvantage to oven drying is the cost of the energy used. Oven drying takes 2 or 3 times longer to dry foods than a dehydrator. The food dried in an oven is more brittle, usually darker, and less flavorful than food dried in a dehydrator.

Test the temperature of the oven for about one hour with a thermometer. Prop the oven door open as you would when actually drying fruit. The oven should maintain 140°-150°F. If the oven cannot maintain this temperature, it may not work for drying. If the oven is too hot, your food will begin to cook instead of dry. If it is too cool, it may not dry fast enough and food will spoil.

Dehydrator drying. Electric dehydrators can be purchased or made. A dehydrator should have a heat source, a thermostat, and some method of air circulation. Dehydrators yield a better quality dried product than any other method of drying. They also allow greater flexibility because they don't depend on the weather or tie up your oven. Follow the directions that come with the dehydrator. Many of the basic principles that apply to oven drying also apply to using a dehydrator.