Friday, February 6, 2009

Making Fruit Leathers

After reading my post about making Pumpkin Pie Leather, Annette asked if I had any more leather recipes. I usually just blend raw fruit, cored or pitted, into a puree. Even mushy, over-ripe fruit makes good leather, as long as any bruised parts are removed. I peel apples and pears, but leave peels on the stone fruits. You can also make leather out of cooked fruit puree, such as applesauce, adding other fruit purees to change the flavor.

For leathers, 1½ cups puree makes one 9" x 13" leather. You want a texture thin enough to pour out and spread out evenly ⅛ - ¼ inch thick. Too thin, and it tends to stick to the drying surface. Too thick and it might spoil before drying. Uneven spreading, such as thin corners and thick in the middle leads to brittle corners and a center that might be too moist to store. Add a bit of juice or water to thin too-thick purees; you might have to cook a too-thin one down a bit, or add a bit of a thicker type of fruit.

I like the sweet-tart flavor of plain fruit leathers, but a couple teaspoons of lemon juice to 1½ cups puree can brighten up both color and flavor, or an added bit of honey will make it sweeter. Use a light hand (say, ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon:1½ cup puree) if adding any spices, as the drying process concentrates and heightens flavors. If using a rimmed cookie sheet, coating the surface with a very thin film of oil or non-stick spray can make it easier to remove the finished leather. If using plastic wrap, tape the corners down so they don't blow onto the drying puree (leathers stick to waxed paper and foil, so don't use them. Edit added later: I now have a couple of silicone non-stick mats cut to fit my dehydrator screens - even better as they're reusable). Leathers dried until sticky to the touch, but that can be peeled off the surface, are ready to eat, but will only store for a few months. Leathers flipped over and dried until no longer sticky store indefinitely in a cool, dark place, when packaged to exclude moisture and pests.

I use a combination of drying and refrigerated oil-storage to make tomato paste, and have played around with dehydrating salsa to reconstitute when camping. For those looking for something a bit more exotic, here are a few leather recipes from "Food Drying at Home the Natural Way" by Bee Beyer. Written in 1976, it has almost 200 pages of tips and recipes for making and using all kinds of dehydrated foods. The book is no longer in print, but I see has used copies listed for shipping costs plus a penny, so you might want to check into adding it to your home library. For the following recipes, puree ingredients together in a blender in order given, spread out and dry. Makes leathers approximately 9" x 13".

Banana-Peanut Butter Leather (1 leather)
2 large bananas
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
(the fat in the peanut butter means this leather will only store for a few weeks in a cupboard; six months to a year if frozen)

Cranberry Orange Leather (1 leather)
¾ cup fresh cranberries
1 orange, peeled and white fibers removed
1 very ripe banana
honey, to taste (optional)

Strawberry Rhubarb Leather (2 leathers)
1¼ cups fresh strawberry puree
1¼ cups fresh raw rhubarb puree
honey to taste

Watermelon-Fruit Leather (2 leathers)
1 cup diced seeded watermelon
1 cup diced banana
1 cup diced fresh pineapple (or canned drained unsweetened pineapple)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Tropical Combo (2 leathers)
1 cup diced strawberries
1 cup diced banana
1 cup diced pineapple
2 tablespoons lemon juice
honey to taste
Optional: sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, or shredded unsweetened coconut over puree on trays before drying

Hot Tomato Leather (1 leather)
1¼ cups tomato puree
up to 1 teaspoon chopped fresh hot pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh onion
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped bell pepper over puree on tray before drying.
If dried to pliable, bendable stage, this can be eaten as a leather; if dried to brittle, breakable stage it can be powered and used as a flavoring.

I like eating leathers "as-is", for snacking around the house or to carry with me hiking. If made on plastic wrap, they can be stored rolled up, wrap and all. If then cut into 1" rounds, kids will eat them up just like the fruit roll-ups from the store, but you control the amount of sugar (adding ripe bananas to any leather is an easy way to increase sweetness without sugar). You can dissolve pieces of leather in water and use over ice cream or stir into yoghurt. These recipes are just a start. Get creative and invent your own!


Carol said...

My boys loved the fruit leathers I made for them when they were children. I haven't made any for years. My sister is going to have 8 children visit this summer - making fruit leather with them and then watching them devour it all would be such fun. Thanks for the reminder and recipes.


My Mum used to make us fruit leather all summer long... I was looking for a blue berry leather in my books and can't find one... But I am excited to find the Strawberry Rhubarb Leather.. We have the largest of both here come fall... Thanks for sharing... I so need that book.


Hey thanks so much I am gunna make this sunday.. I'll take pics... I'm stoked... Thanks again..

frogtailrae said...

Peanut butter and banana.... *NOW* you've got my attention! Whoo!

Barb J. said...

Fruit leathers are one thing I haven't tried yet. I am going to bookmark this page and try them in the coming months. Thanks!

shanna said...

These sound yummy! I can't wait to try them.