Last week, I wrote about the sweet little apricots that grow so easily in our Far West Texas dirt. After posting about them on social media, I was surprised with all of the feedback I got from fellow apricot lovers. From recipe ideas, to stories of their own trees, to offers of letting me pick from their trees during next year’s crop, I couldn’t not write about them again this week.
When I was a little girl in 1983, Fruit RollUps fruit snacks were a brand new thing. If memory serves, they they came in two flavors – strawberry and apricot (note: I just found apple and cherry were original flavors… I remember them now).
I desperately wanted them and would practically beg my mom every time we went grocery shopping, but my pleas fell on deaf ears, because Fruit RollUps were weird and I should just eat real fruit.
Little did I know, there was actually no fruit in Fruit RollUps – it was all artificial – but it was intriguing to me, having seen all the commercials during Saturday morning cartoons.
It looked so fun and easy… and there’s even a coupon!
Get real fruit and fun rolled up in one. Real fruit. Yeah, right.
Around that time, I took a road trip with my grandparents. My grandfather pulled a box of apricot Fruit RollUps from our grocery bag, and presented it to me with a smile. I was overjoyed and immediately dove in. Grandparents can get away with so much good stuff.
FINALLY… I was going to experience the fun times that all the kids on tv and in magazines were having!
I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get the rubbery sheet of “fruit and fun, rolled into one” off of the plastic it was glued to. Once I did, I was able to eat it and determined that Mom was right – Fruit RollUps were weird. It’s funny the things we remember… the Fruit RollUps Saga and the strong “apricot” flavor I experienced back then is still clear in my mind.
With the last batch of apricots we were given, we decided to try an experiment. We wanted to try drying apricots. Our food dehydrator had long ago been rehomed, but we figured with the low humidity and high heat we’d been experiencing, life in the high desert was dehydrating enough to get the job done.
I washed and pitted about four dozen of the little gems. I probably cleaned more, but I didn’t fight the urge to eat them as I cleaned them, so we ended up with 45 fresh apricots on a parchment paper-lined tray. Then, we found a really hot, sunny window inside and stuck the tray in the sunshine. When the sun moved, we moved the tray to the dashboard of the car, where the sun was blazing. The car smelled so nice!
(Note: a sure sign that you live in West Texas is having a cracked windshield and not being in any rush to get it repaired because you know it’s just going to get cracked again… fortunately (depending on who’s driving), it only affects the passenger side.))
We moved the tray back and forth for a little over 24 hours, depending on the sun and whether or not we needed to drive the car. We put the tray in the window at 1 p.m. on Thursday, and by 3 p.m. on Friday, we were eating dried apricots. The tray got so hot in the car that we had to use an oven mitt to carry it. The intense flavor of the little dried fruit was amazing! One friend told me her grandmother used to dry apricots, and then bake them in pies… the flavor must’ve been out of this world.
I ran into my apricot-gifter Dusty at the grocery store after last week’s paper came out, and he told me he’d already cleaned and frozen 43 pounds of the little apricots from that big tree, and more were about to be ready for the pickin’ and were headed my way. I can’t wait to get them.
Make Your Own Fruit Leather Rolls
(No need for artificial fruit flavors when you can have real fruit)
1-1/4 pounds chopped fruit (apricots, pears, plums, berries, apples, peaches, mangos, and Concord grapes work well)
¾ cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the fruit and sugar in a blender, and add lemon juice to taste (use 2 tablespoons if you’re making apple leather). Purée until fruit, sugar and lemon are smooth.
Pour into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally at first and then often when the liquid evaporates and the fruit blend becomes thick. This should take between 35 and 45 minutes. Watch out for splatters!
Line a 12×17-inch rimmed baking sheet with a silicone mat or non-stick foil. Spread the fruit on it in a thin layer. Bake until it’s just barely tacky to the touch, about 3-3.5 hours.
Transfer the baking sheet to a rack and let the fruit leather cool completely. Peel the fruit leather from the mat or foil. If it’s still wet on the bottom, put it back on the sheet, sticky side up, and pop it in the oven for another 20 minutes so that it’s dry.
Lay the smooth side of the leather down on a piece of wax paper and use kitchen shears to cut it into strips on the paper. Roll up the strips and store in ziplock bags for up to one week.
Printed with permission of the Alpine Avalanche