Intro: Homemade Fruit Leather
Fruit leather is one of my favorite dried snacks. And PEAR fruit leather is at the top of my leather favorites pyramid, so that's the recipe I'm sharing.
I will also confess up front: I like PAPER THIN fruit leather. I like it to be so thin that it melts on my tongue. So if you want a thicker, more traditional result, not to worry, I'll let you know where and when to make changes to my instructions.
Step 1: Safe Home Food Preservation
This recipe is a project that I made to go with my Instructables Canning & Preserving Class. I will not be going over all the safety ins and outs of drying and dehydrating for food perservation in this instructable, so I highly recommend that you read through Lessons 1 & 6 of my class before you give this a go!
Step 2: Supplies
- Dehydrator (or oven)
- Fruit leather dehydrator sheets (or parchment and spray on oil)
- Ripe fruit*
- Cutting board
- Paring knife
- Chef's knife
- Medium bowl
- Small bowl
- Citrus juicer
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
*Apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears and grapes can all be used by themselves or mixed with one another. Yum!
- Craft wood as spacers**
- Craft wood as leveler**
- Masking tape**
**These are used for a little system I made to get my leather to be a uniform thickness. Check it out in the fruit leather step! Similar wood strips are available at art supply or hardware stores.
Step 3: Using a Dehydrator or Oven
If you plan on doing a fair amount of dehydrating, I highly recommend investing in a good quality electric dehydrator. It doesn't have to be the fanciest on the market, but things to look out for are:
- metal racks (if you're concerned about warm/hot food touching plastic like I am)
- a side mounted fan* instead of a bottom mounted fan
*A side mounted fan more evenly distributes the air to all racks so that you don't have to shuffle the racks throughout the drying process.
Using an Oven Instead
If you'd rather try out these recipes to see if you like the results before investing, not to worry! The oven will work just fine, but will require some extra attention during the drying process.
The dehydrating processes can take anywhere from 6-24 hours (depending on what you're drying) and most home ovens don't have low enough settings to replicate the dehydrator settings, so you end up having to use (and monitor) an oven thermometer and attempt to keep the temp low enough by turning the oven off and on repeatedly, so that it doesn't over heat the foodstuffs. But it IS possible and a good way to start out if that's the only resource you have. If you are lucky enough to have a convection setting on your oven, always use that for dehydrating, as the air flow created cuts down the oven drying times by almost half.
Step 4: Recipe
- 4 cups of washed ripe pears* (approx. 8)
- 4 tsp lemon juice (fresh or bottled) OR 1/4 tsp ascorbic acid
*If pears aren't your jam, you can substitute them for apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, or grapes. These fruits can all be used by themselves or mixed with one another. Yum!
NOTE: Also feel free to add any dried herbs or spices to the mix. Cinnamon Pear? Lavender Pear? Mint Apricot? Yes!!
- dehydrator (or oven)
- fruit leather dehydrator sheets (or parchment paper with spray on oil for use in the oven)
- baking sheets (if using an oven)
- cutting board
- paring knife
- chef's knife
- medium bowl
- small bowl
- citrus juicer
- measuring cup
- measuring spoon
- craft wood as spacers**
- craft wood as leveler**
- masking tape**
*These are used for a little system I made to get my leather to be a uniform thickness.
Step 5: How to Make Fruit Leather Like a (Lazy) Boss
Gently wash the beautifully ripe fruit.
Either juice some fresh lemon juice or take your bottle of store bought juice out of the fridge.
Add a sploosh of lemon juice to a medium sized bowl filled with cool water. This is where we'll put the pear slices as we cut them, to keep them from turning brown.
Use a paring knife to cut away any soft spots or bruises on the fruit.
Cut the pears into cored and speared pieces (like above).
Place them in the lemon water as you go until they are all hanging out together in their temporary pool.
NOTE: At this point, some experts say that it's important to par-cook the fruit before blending it into the spreadable deliciousness that gets dried into sheets of YUM.
As previously mentioned, I'm lazy when it's safe to be, so I skip that step and just store my finished product (fruit roll up) in the freezer in the off chance that there were any spoiler hitch hikers in the un-cooked blender mix.
It's also fair to mention that the National Center for Home Food Preservation doesn't think it's necessary to par-cook the fruit before blending for fruit leather either. So I'm justifiably lazy this time. :)
Drain the pears in a colander and measure out 4 cups of spears. Add both the pears and lemon juice to the blender.
Blend on high to puree. When the mix is smooth without any chunks, transfer to a pouring vessel (like a measuring cup).
Step 6: Trick for Making Evenly Thin or Thick Fruit Leather
And here's where my MacGyver/OCD spirit kicks in and I show you how to make super even fruit leather sheets using just 3 pieces of craft wood and some masking tape.
- For paper thin fruit leather like mine, use two 1/8" (3mm) side wood pieces.
- For a more traditional fruit leather thickness, use two 1/4" or 3/8" side wood pieces.
NOTE: The side wood pieces dictate the thickness of the pre-dried fruit sheets. The thickness of the third piece that is used to push and pull the pulp, isn't as important. It just has to be wider than the drier racks and no bigger than 1" x 1/2", although thinner/smaller is easier to handle.
Here's the how-to in sped up video style:
- Use the masking tape to secure the two side pieces of wood to the counter or to a cutting board.
- Pour a few splooshes of pureed pear onto a drier sheet OR onto parchment paper with a thin coating of spray canola oil.
- Use the third piece of wood to push and pull the puree around on the sheet until you've created an even and nicely shaped sheet of 'future leather'.
Flip up the side pieces of wood if they're covering the edges of the drier sheet or parchment paper. Slide a dehydrator rack (or if you're using an oven, a baking sheet) under the sheet edge and pull it up onto the rack or baking sheet. Place in dehydrator and repeat for 2-3 remaining racks (depending on how thick you're making your fruit leather). If using an oven, set first sheet on top of oven and make one more sheet of leather on parchment.
Step 7: Drying Times
To process in a dehydrator: Turn the dehydrator to 140°F and set the timer to 4 hours. Check it after those 4 hours (there should be no indentation when pressed with a finger) and keep processing it at 1/2 hour intervals until it's done.
To process in an oven: Set oven to 140°F, leave the door cracked open a bit using a dish towel or a wooden spoon handle and follow the above directions. If your stove doesn't have that low of a setting, you will need to get a oven thermometer so you can gauge your 'warm' setting and keep adjusting the heat manually by shutting it off and turning it back on periodically.
Step 8: Storage Tips
Like I said earlier, because I didn't par-cook the fruit before blending it, I store my finished leather in the freezer. If you'd like to be able to keep them in the pantry, simmer the fruit in water until soft, before blending. (NOTE: This will add to the drying time.)
Step 9: To the Pantry and Beyond!
For more drying/dehydrating projects – and to learn about other food preservation methods like:
- Vinegar Pickling
Enroll in my free online Instructables Canning & Preserving Class!