Fruit Leather, Food Preservation with Less Mess
If you do not have time or money to can your fruits, try drying them instead. Fruit leathers are the healthy and green alternative to packaged fruit snacks and candies.
To prepare fruit for fruit leather, wash in cool water, remove the peel, seeds and stem. Cut it into chunks for easier blending. For each 13″ x 15″ fruit leather, you will need 2 cups fruit. Blend the fruit until smooth (in blender or food processor.) If you plan on using a lighter colored fruit, add 2 teaspoons lemon juice to prevent browning.
Fruit leather can be made in the sun, in your oven or in a food dehydrator. For best results, use a pan that has edges. You will need to coat your pan with plastic wrap. Fruit leather sticks to aluminum foil and waxed paper.
Pour the fruit evenly onto your tray. The leather dries best with 1/8″ thick. The larger the leather, the longer it takes to dry. Instead of one big sheet of fruit, you could cut it into smaller pieces (uniform sizes, or with cookie cutter for shapes.)
Your drying method depends on the area of the country you live in and the type of oven you have. Many new ovens do not reach temperatures as low as 140; the oven method would not work if your oven does not turn as low as 140. If the temperature is too high, the fruit will cook instead of dry. For proper sun drying, the weather must be consistently dry for the entire drying process. Living in Michigan (with unpredictable weather and high humidity) I am unable to dry food outside. A food dehydrator is the most reliable method, but requires owning a dehydrator.
Drying times vary with your method of drying. If you have a food dehydrator it can take 6-8 hours. In your oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit it takes about 18 hours. If drying in the sun, it will take 1-2 days. To test for doneness, lightly touch the center of the leather. When no indentation occurs, the leather is dried. Peel it from the plastic and roll. Re-wrap to preserve it.
Fruit leather will last up to one month in your cupboard (if you don’t eat it before then!) If you would like to make large batches, it can last for one year in your freezer.
Image Credit: Flickr Creative Commons User: jessicafm
Source: Cooperative Extension, The University of Georgia, So Easy to Preserve