Rather than buy expensive "fruit roll ups" with dubious ingredients (including artificial flavours, colours and preservatives), you can make your own. With one simple method, you can vary the flavour combinations to suit your family's tastes and make great use of the produce available to you.
Fruit leather is easiest to make if you have a food dehydrator, but you don’t need one. Try the oven method and if you think it’s something you will continue to do, then consider investing in a dehydrator. We love ours and use it for drying local chanterelle mushrooms and other fruits and veggies. (Department stores sell them for under $50 and you can find them online.) You can use them to dry slices or halves of other fruit and vegetables and to make jerky.
You will need a food processor or blender, though - it’d be difficult to mash everything fine enough by hand.
I’ll start with a recipe for partridgeberry-apple fruit leather to give you the basics and then I’ll suggest other combinations. Once you’ve made a batch or two, you’ll have the confidence to try your own combinations.
Partridgeberry-Apple Fruit Leather
(makes 3 trays of leather, 14-18 servings)
In a food processor (or small batches in a blender), purée together:
4 cups partridgeberries
4 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped (we used Fuji apples)
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp corn syrup
Dehydrator Method: Taste the purée. If it tastes good to you wet, you’ll like it as leather. If too tart, add more honey or corn syrup. If too sweet, add more partridgeberries. If you’re using a dehydrator, line the trays with plastic wrap and spread the purée in a smooth 1/4-inch thick layer. Dehydrate overnight (or longer) until there are no wet or tacky spots and the leather feels dry but remains pliable. You don’t want to go to the brittle stage. Once it’s dry on the top side, it’s likely still a little moist underneath. Best thing to do is pull the leather off the plastic and flip it over onto unlined trays. Continue dehydrating until no longer tacky.
Oven Method: Heat oven to 130-140°F. Line non-aluminum baking trays with plastic wrap and spread as above. Prop the oven door open a half-inch or so with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape. Bake 6-8 hours or until there are no wet or tacky spots and the leather feels dry but remains pliable. When it’s time to peel off the plastic and flip the leather over, lay a couple of cake cooling racks on the tray and lay the leather on top to finish drying. Drying time for either method depends on the moisture content of the fruit used and how thickly the purée is spread - so don’t worry if your leather is done sooner or takes longer. You’ll know it’s done when it’s dry and leathery, but still pliable. Tear or cut into serving-sized pieces (around 4 x 4 inches) and store in airtight containers. No need to refrigerate. To bring for lunch, simply wrap in a bit of parchment or plastic wrap.
Other tasty fruit combinations to try:
Blueberry-Banana: a half-and-half ratio. Add a little lemon juice to balance sweetness.
Bakeapple-Mango: Half-and-half. Or add pineapple and do a third of each.
Strawberry-Peach: Half-and-half. A little lime zest is a nice addition.
Spiced Apple: Use maple syrup instead of honey and add a little cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.
Raspberry-Pear: Two-thirds raspberries to one-third peeled pears.
Cranberry or Rhubarb: If you’re going to try cranberry or rhubarb leather, you might want to cook the fruit to a thick jam consistency first, sweetening to taste, before dehydrating. Otherwise the texture won’t be as nice. - By Andrea Maunder
Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine. She writes a monthly column, "Everyday Gourmet," for Downhome.