Hello, folks. I hope everyone had a relaxing weekend. Mine has not been as relaxing as it has been productive, and I like that. It makes me feel good to begin a new week feeling a sense of accomplishment. I worked in the yard all weekend readying my raised beds (which I will tell you about in an upcoming post). I also spent a lot of time spring cleaning. My time for cooking was very limited, but I had a project I had been wanting to do that was perfect for this type of busy weekend...homemade fruit leather.
I had several bags of peaches left in the freezer that I needed to use, and I really did not want to use them in anything ultra sweet or dessert-like. I just wanted the taste of pure peaches and in a form I could feel good about eating every day. I decided that the best option was fruit leather. It is easy, requires very little hands-on time, and is a healthy fruit snack.
You can use fresh fruit, but frozen works just as well. Simply thaw the fruit, drain it as much as possible (reserving the juice in case you need a little of it), and puree it until smooth. At that point, you add a little ascorbic acid to help the fruit retain its color and a little sugar if your fruit is tart. I like to taste the puree before adding the sugar. These particular peaches were a little tart, so I added 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 4 cups of fruit. You could add more, if needed, or none at all, depending on your personal taste preferences. At that point, I poured the puree onto a 17 x 11 baking sheet lined with plastic wrap (yes, I know the chemicals may worry some of you, but plastic wrap is one of the surest ways to get your leather to release from the pan).
The pureed fruit gets dried at 140 degrees for up to 12-18 hours. The oven temperature must remain around 140 or the fruit will crisp rather than dry. Begin checking the fruit after about 10 hours. It will dry from the outside edges in, so it will be ready when your finger no longer makes an indentation in the middle when pressed. The leather in the middle should feel a little tacky but should not come off on your finger when touched. If you happen to cook it longer than needed and the leather is somewhat crisp, simply brush it with a little water on both sides and allow it to dry on the counter. It will rehydrate and the texture will improve.
Fruit leather can be made using any fresh, frozen, or canned fruit. It will usually only keep a few days (at most two weeks). It can also be frozen for longer storage. I wrap mine in strips of wax paper, tie them with pieces of twine, and store them in a sealed container. They are the perfect snack...a fruit roll-up to feel good about.
Peach Fruit Leather- adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation
This recipe makes one 17 x 11 inch baking sheet of fruit leather. If your oven will hold more than one tray, you can dry more than one at a time. You can also use smaller baking sheets. Just adjust the time and check them earlier. This method works especially well if your oven has a fan or a drying feature. Otherwise, many ovens do not heat any lower than 170 which is too high for fruit leather.
4 cups sliced peaches (thawed and drained if frozen)
1/4 tsp ascorbic acid (I use Fruit Fresh)
2 tbsp granulated sugar (use no sugar to 1/4 cup depending on taste preference)
Line a 17 x 11 inch baking sheet (with sides) with plastic wrap, working to remove as many wrinkles from the plastic as possible. Set the tray aside.
Place the drained fruit in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Spoon it into a bowl. Add the ascorbic acid and sugar. Taste to make sure it is as sweet as you would like, keeping in mind that the flavors will concentrate as it dries. Spread it in an even layer on the baking sheet. The layer will probably be somewhere between an 1/8 and a 1/4 inch thick. Place the sheet pan in the oven and allow to dry for up to 18 hours. Begin checking it after about 10 hours. It will be ready when it is just tacky in the middle but leaves no indentation when touched.
Remove the pan from the oven. Peel the leather from the plastic wrap while warm. Slice the leather in pieces and wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap for storage.