Here is another article by a friend.
Just about everyone knows about the zucchini curse. Plant even a single zucchini seed in the spring and by midsummer you’re getting so many zucchinis you don’t know what to do with them all. Steamed zucchini, zucchini bread, zucchini jam. Some desperate people go so far as to unburden themselves of extra zucchini by secretly putting bags of them on the front seats of unlocked cars. It’s a sin. If only watermelons were that prolific.
The sad truth is that the same thing happens with fruit trees. It doesn’t take many years after those first slender twigs are planted in the yard before you’re awash in fruit. That very first apple, pear or plum, it’s a miracle of nature, a gift from God. But a few years later, it’s a disastrous flood. Before long, bushels of rotting fruit filled with little wasps are lying wasted under the trees and you’re filled with guilt. At least I am. What are you going to do with all of that fruit? The answer? Delicious, nutritious, storable, fruit leather.
Fruit Leather Basics
Fruit leather is, simply put, dried, concentrated fruit. It’s light in weight, easy to make and a great way to use up that extra fruit. Best of all, according to the Colorado State Extension Service, it will store “for a year in the freezer, several months in the refrigerator, or one to two months at room temperature.”
Just about any type of fruit – or combination of fruit — can be used. Apples, berries, pineapples and bananas, peaches, plums and – so it is said – even melons. The best fruit seems to be fruit that is sweet and slightly overripe. You can even use leftover canned fruit. One year we made fruit leather from the mush left over after canning grape juice. And it takes no special equipment. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use your oven. Yes, fruit leather is very easy to get along with.
Wash your fruit. Scrub it up under running water and get rid of any blemishes or rot spots then peel the fruit. Pit or core it then chop it into chunks. Be merciless.
Put the fruit chunks in a large saucepan and add some water. A half cup for every 4 cups of chopped fruit should be enough. Cook on low heat for 10 – 15 minutes or until the fruit is soft then mash it up like crazy.
A quick note from the legal department: you should make sure the fruit reaches a temperature of 160 degrees so that any bacteria is killed. E.Coli is nothing to fool around with. The heat also stops the enzymes that mature the fruit which is another good thing.
Puree the cooked fruit in a blender then strain it to get out seeds such as those found in raspberries. At this point, it’s also probably a good idea to taste your fruit mush. If it’s a bit tart, you can add a little sugar. A tiny bit of lemon juice can also help to brighten the flavor. Simmer for a few more minutes, usually 5 – 10, to dissolve the sugar and thicken the mixture.
Pouring It On
Spray a cookie sheet with a little vegetable oil or, better yet, line it with a baking parchment or plastic wrap. Spread the fruit mixture out to a depth of 1/8th to ¼ of an inch. In our experience, it’s better to go thin rather than thick but the most important thing is to keep the layer even. Otherwise you’ll get some areas of fruit leather that are too dry and others that are too moist. It’s probably not all that sanitary but we use the edge of a steel ruler to even it out.
Set your oven for 140 – 150 degrees or so and slide in your trays. Leave the oven door open a few inches. Check the temperature from time to time and adjust the door opening to control the temperature. Drying time can vary greatly, depending on the temperature, humidity and amount of moisture in the fruit. Expect anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.
(Old timers might remember a less exacting method in which the fruit is spread out on a cookie sheet, tented with some cheesecloth to keep out bugs and left outside on a hot summer day but the legal department says that we cannot recommend that, either. Nor can we recommend drying your fruit leathers in a hot greenhouse during the summer.)
So When Is It Ready?
There are a couple of ways to tell if your fruit leather is done. Touch it. It should not be tacky. You
should be able to touch it without it sticking to your finger. It should easily peel off the backing. If it peels off smoothly, it’s done. Finally, you should be able to cut it with scissors without it becoming a gummy mess. (If it has cracks, it’s too dry but is still edible. The only problem with it is that it will stick to your teeth all day.)
Cut your fruit leather into strips and roll it ever so loosely. Then put it in a plastic or paper bag. Do not close the bags until the fruit leather is completely dry. Putting them in a tightly sealed jar can cause the development of mold.
Fruit is both scarce and expensive this time of year. Why write about fruit leather now? Practice. When the flood of cheap fruit comes in this summer, you want to be able to make the most of it. So get yourself a can of your favorite fruit or applesauce and try it out. Then you’ll be ready to add a delicious, nutritious snack to your family’s pantry that’ll keep for the good part of a year.