NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Fruit Leathers

Fruit Leathers

 

Fruit leathers are nutritious, high-energy snacks for both children and adults. Fruit leathers are very portable, making them convenient additions to school lunchboxes or backpacks when camping or hiking. Making fruit leather is a good way to use leftover canned fruit and slightly overripe fresh fruit.

Because of increasing concerns that bacteria may survive the drying process, fresh fruits must be treated properly so leathers are safe to eat. Not only does heating increase the safety, but the fruit may retain its color better as a result.

Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Thoroughly rinse soft-skinned fruits or scrub hard-skinned fruits under running water. Remove blemishes or defective parts, then peel apples, oranges, peaches, pears and similar fruits before pureeing. Remove seeds, pits and cores.

Cut fruit into chunks and place them in the top of a double boiler. Place water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring it to a boil. Cover and steam the fruit for 15 or 20 minutes or until it is soft and a thermometer placed in the fruit mixture registers 160 F. The fruit mixture may also be cooked in a microwave oven. Place cut fruit in a glass casserole. Cover and microwave on full power (high) for 6 to 8 minutes per two cups of fruit, stirring every 2 minutes.

Most fruit or combinations of fruits can be used to make fruit leathers. Canned fruits can be mixed with pretreated fresh fruits. However, grapefruit and lemons are not recommended because they become bitter when dried.

Drying is not a precise method of food preservation and the amount of drying time will vary depending on the equipment, moisture content of the fruit leather and the humidity in the air. Spray a cookie sheet or similar flat tray with vegetable spray, or line the tray with plastic wrap or parchment paper and spray with vegetable spray. Another option is to use the specially designed plastic sheets for electric dehydrators and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Be sure the tray has edges so the puree will not spill, and be sure the dimensions of the trays are about 2 inches smaller than the dimensions of the oven to allow for good air circulation.

. Place the cooked fruit in a blender. Add ½ teaspoon of ascorbic acid crystals or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per 2 cups of fruit. If desired, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of honey, corn syrup or sugar per 2 cups of fruit. You also may add a small amount of spice (¼ teaspoon of cinnamon or a dash of nutmeg) per 2 cups of puree.

Spread puree evenly onto the drying tray, about ¼ inch thick. A 12-inch by 17-inch cookie sheet holds about 2 cups of puree. Oven drying can take anywhere from four to ten hours. For food dehydrators, follow manufacturer’s directions.  Fruit leather dries from the edges toward the center. Test for dryness by touching the leather in several places; no indentations should be evident.  Be sure the fruit has dried thoroughly or it will become moldy during storage. Properly dried fruit leather will be slightly tacky to the touch, but it should peel easily from the plastic wrap or tray.

After loosening the edge of the leather from the plastic wrap or pan, loosely roll the leather in plastic wrap or waxed paper in one piece. Store the roll in one piece or cut it into strips. Place the strips or rolls of leather in a plastic bag, glass container, paper bag or other container. Until the leather is completely dry, the container lid should not be tightened nor the bag opening twisted tightly. Store fruit leather in a cool, dry, dark place. It will retain good quality for up to one year in the freezer, several months in the refrigerator or one to two months at room  temperature.

Nutritional food values become concentrated in dried fruit, and so do calories. Since moisture is gone, the residue is concentrated. A 1- by 17-inch strip of applesauce provides approximately 40 calories, assuming 2 cups of canned sweetened applesauce were dried on a 12- by 17-inch pan.

You can be creative in your fruit choices for making fruit leather. These are a few ideas provided by the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service.

Rhubarb-Strawberry Fruit Leather: Use 1 cup of rhubarb puree and 1 cup of strawberry puree. Add 2 tablespoons of honey (or to taste) and combine thoroughly. Use less added sweetener if you use presweetened strawberries. Prepare and dry as per manufacturer’s directions for your food dehydrator.   Blueberry-Applesauce Fruit Leather: Use 1 cup of blueberry puree and 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. Add 2 tablespoons of honey (or to taste) and combine thoroughly. Prepare and dry as per manufacturer’s directions for your food dehydrator.

 

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