Fruit abundance is one of the greatest pleasures of summer, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. From strawberries & raspberries in early June, we quickly move to peaches, plums, blueberries & cherries in July, right to apples & blackberries in August… and the apples keep coming often up to October. We eat our fill, make jam & freeze lots of the bounty but then what? FRUIT LEATHER!
Fruit leather is a great snack to enjoy once fresh, local produce is no longer available. It’s a nice addition to school lunches, a healthy on-the-go snack or something to munch on while watching Thurston Colt Football (yes, it pairs well with popcorn).
There are numerous recipes and methods out there but I try to go the EASIEST route possible. It is a bit like smoking meat and fish, it’s not an exact science, ie. dry @ 135º for 12 hours. Times and temperatures vary given type of fruit used, brand of dehydrator and even outside temperature but once you get the hang of how it feels when it is done, there really isn’t much more to it.
By this time in the summer, my dehydrator is running 24/7, thank goodness they don’t use much electricity. I’ve used a NESCO brand dehydrator with great success for the past 20 years. I can tell you it was a huge improvement on the fruit leather I made growing up that was sun dried out on the deck stuck to plastic wrap. (There was something about the ants & flies that sometimes dried right into the puree that left it unappealing.) Prior to our big move to Alaska we borrowed a neighbors home-made dehydrator to dry several hundred pounds of fruits & veggies knowing we would have NO access to any fresh produce for 9 months. I liked the fact that I could dry so much but have never found myself needing that volume but I did want to go larger than the NESCO.
Bigger than my NESCO but smaller than the commercial-grade dehydrator, the Cabela’s 10-Tray Digital Dehydrator ( Item: IK-540062) is the perfect size for about a blender and a half of fruit puree. I also like to combine and maybe do a blender full of puree which may take about 6-7 racks and dry apples or tomatoes on the remaining racks. One thing you will need if using the Cabela’s dehydrator is fruit roll sheets. Cabela’s makes some just to fit this dehydrator (Cabela’s Commercial Dehydrator Fruit Roll Sheets Item: IK-516767) but I have found my round fruit roll trays will also fit. Another option is using thin plastic reusable cutting boards, they just need to be cut to size, keep 1.5″ open on all sides to insure proper air flow.
So now, to the creations… I don’t measure anything, I just go by blender space. I have found that using at least 2 medium-sized apples makes the mixture thick enough to be manageable on the sheets. When we have a lot of apples I go about 1/2-1/2 with another fruit such as cherries, plums, peaches, blueberries or strawberries. I don’t add any sugar or honey as we like the tartness of the fruit once it has dehydrated. If it is super-sour, just tell the kids it is special “Warhead” leather (after a really sour candy).
- Wash fruit, pit and/or remove seeds (do not peel… fiber is good!)
- Fill blender or VitaMix to the top & blend until no chunks remain
- Lightly spray food-safe plastic sheets or fruit roll trays with cooking spray (optional-I like how easy fruit removes from my trays)
- Pour fruit puree evenly on to fruit trays and spread thinly with a flat blade spatula to about 1/4″
- Load dehydrator and set temperature to 135º
- Dehydrate until leather is no longer sticky, 10-12+ hours
- Remove trays and peel leather off
- Place sheets on a cutting board and cut to desired size (see options below)
- Lay on plastic wrap and roll up or roll up then wrap in plastic
- Store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator or vacuum seal for longer term storage.
Some fruit leathers may become brittle in the refrigerator but we have found once they reach room temperature, they soften up. It is kind of fun to break the leather into pieces and use it as an addition to cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
The only leather we have not been very excited about is blackberry leather with full seeds. It is okay if eaten right away but if stored in the refrigerator, it gets a bit dry and the seeds give it a bit too much fiber. To remedy this, run the berries through a food mill to remove most or at least 1/2 of the seeds.
For more information on Cabela’s newest dehydrator go to: Cabela’s
My personal review of this product is a positive one. Easy to use with only a few settings (temp & time), easy to clean trays, removable drip tray in the bottom, it’s very quiet and keeps a pretty even temperature throughout. It seems the bottom trays may dry a bit faster than the top trays but I have a little more experimenting to do. Great product!