Do you have fruit trees that have produced more than you can eat? Are you overwhelmed with fruit, and don’t want it to go to waste? Do you have a source for fresh fruit, plucked from the tree, and want to take advantage of it? If you answered yes to any of those questions, have no fear – you’ve got options for keeping that fruit delicious for a long time to come.
Of course, you can clean, cut and freeze it. You can make jams and jellies and preserves. You can dehydrate it, but you can easily make fruit leather, too. Fruit leather won’t take up nearly as much pantry space as jars of jams and jellies, and kids love it, too.
With the last large batch of apricots we were given, 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.
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.
I recently dried blueberries for homemade pemmican in the same hot, sunny window. It took four days on a tray in the window (rain clouds and cooler temps worked against the dehydration) and a pint of big, juicy blueberries shriveled up to a half-cup of flavor-packed dried berries, ready to be ground with the mortar and pestle and turned to blueberry powder.
When I was a little girl in 1983, Fruit RollUps fruit snacks were a brand-new thing. If memory serves, they they came in several flavors including strawberry, cherry and apricot. 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.
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.
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.
Homemade fruit leather isn’t weird, nor does it contain anything artificial. These sweet, healthy snacks are ideal for traveling or camping, for people of all ages.
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 at room temperature, out of direct sunlight for tow months or store them in the refrigerator for up to six months.