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Turning fresh fruit into fruit leather, with or without a dehydrator.

Turning fresh fruit into fruit leather, with or without a dehydrator

Leathery sheets of dried fruit puree make delicious snacks. It's a good way to use up fruit that's blemished or too ripe for dehydrating or canning. The fruit shouldn't be overripe or spoiled.

Leathers are especially easy to make in an electric dehydrator; see page 110. You can also sun-dry them successfully if the day is 85| or warmer, with less than 60 percent relative humidity.

For dehydrator-drying, cover each drying tray with a sheet of plastic wrap, extending it over edges; secure wrap with tape. Or prepare special trays for leather (sold with some dehydrators) as directed by manufacturer. Preheat dehydrator.

For sun-drying, start early in the day. Cover shallow pans, such as 10- by 15-inch baking pans, each with a sheet of plastic wrap; extend wrap over edges and secure with tape. Set pans on a level surface, such as a table, in full sun.

To keep puree clean while drying, suspend cheesecloth over top, supported by 2-by-4s placed on each side. If puree isn't dry by day's end, bring indoors; return to the sun the next day.

Fruit leather, step by step

1. Prepare drying surface as directed above for dehydrator- or sun-drying.

2. Peeling most fruits is optional, but peeled fruits make smoother leather. Wash unpeeled fruit, using a mild soap or detergent; rinse well and dry. Rinse berries in cool water; drain on paper towels.

3. Prepare the fruit puree of your choice as directed. Whirl fruit mixture in a blender until very smooth, pushing it into blades as needed; if fruit is quite juicy, you can puree it in a food processor.

4. Pour each 1 cup puree onto prepared surface and spread to about 10 inches square (1/8 to 1/4 in. thick). To dry evenly without brittle edges, puree should be slightly thicker around the edges than in the center.

5. Dry puree until it feels leathery and pliable and top is no longer tacky to touch. It should peel off drying surface with no sticky spots. Most dry in 5 to 10 hours.

6. While fruit leather is still slightly warm, you can cut it into snack-size strips. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Store flat or roll up, enclosing the wrap. Place inside a paper bag; seal bag with tape (paper absorbs any moisture). Store in a cool, dry, dark place up to 2 months, or freeze up to a year.

Fruit Purees (each makes 1 cup)

Because drying concentrates their natural sugars, many fruits don't need added sweetening. If you plan to store leathers at room temperature, sweeten them with honey or corn syrup; sugar-sweetened leathers may crystallize and become grainy. For freezer storage or to eat within a few weeks, use sugar if you prefer.

Apple. Gravensteins, which are juicy, need not be cooked. For other market varieties, follow cooking directions for pulpy apples.

Juicy apples. Core and slice apples to make about 2 cups. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, up to 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste), 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional), and a few tablespoons apple juice or water, if needed, to spread like cake batter.

Pulpy apples. Core and slice apples to make about 2 1/2 cups. Put in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan with 1/3 cup apple juice or water. Simmer, covered, until soft when mashed, about 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice, up to 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste), 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional), and a few tablespoons apple juice or water, if needed, to spread like cake batter.

Apricot. Halve and pit apricots to make about 1 1/2 cups. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and up to 3 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste).

Cherry. Pit about 1 1/2 cups sweet cherries. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Peach or nectarine. Halve, pit, and slice peaches or nectarines to make about 2 cups. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and up to 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste).

Pear. Juicy Bartletts are best. Core and slice pears to make about 2 cups. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Plum. Cut flesh away from pits of plums to make about 1 1/2 cups. Blend with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and about 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste).

Raspberry or blackberry (including Boysens, Olallies, and Logans or a mixture of berries). Blend about 2 cups berries with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and up to 1/4 cup honey or corn syrup (to taste). Press through a wire strainer; discard seeds.

Strawberry. Remove stems from 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups strawberries. Blend berries with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and up to 2 tablespoons honey or corn syrup (to taste).

Photo: Tear off bites of strawberry leather to savor its fresh taste

Photo: Spread fruit puree onto plastic-lined drying tray to cover an area about 10 inches square. Dry until leathery to touch

Photo: Roll fruit leather, cut into snack-size pieces, in plastic wrap. Store at room temperature or in freezer
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:Jun 1, 1986
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