Fruit leathers are easy to make and loved by many people. They can be a healthy snack and are a great way to use that overripe fruit. You can start simply with simple fruit leathers or experiment with different flavor combinations. You are only limited by your imagination—and the capacity of your dehydrator!
Leathers from Fresh Fruit
Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit. Wash fresh fruit or berries in cool water. Remove peel, seeds and stem. Cut fruit into chunks. Use 2 cups of fruit for each 13 inch by 15 inch fruit leather. Puree fruit until smooth. To prevent darkening, add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or ⅛ teaspoon ascorbic acid (375 milligrams) for each 2 cups of light-colored fruit.
If you choose to sweeten the leather, add corn syrup, honey or sugar. Corn syrup or honey is best for longer storage because they do not crystallize. Sugar is fine for immediate use or short-time storage. Use ¼ to ½ cup sugar, corn syrup or honey for each 2 cups of fruit. Saccharin-based sweeteners could also be used to reduce tartness without adding calories. Aspartame sweeteners might lose sweetness during drying.
Leathers from Canned or Frozen Fruit
Home-preserved or store-bought canned or frozen fruit may also be used to make leathers. Drain fruit and save liquid. Use 1 pint of fruit for each 13 inch by 15 inch leather. Puree fruit until smooth; if too thick, add liquid. Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or ⅛ teaspoon ascorbic acid (375 milligrams) for each 2 cups of light-colored fruit to prevent darkening. Applesauce can be dried alone or added to any fresh fruit puree as an extender. It decreases tartness and makes the leather smoother and more pliable.
Preparing the Trays
For drying in the oven, a 13 inch by 15 inch cookie pan with edges works well. Line pan with plastic wrap, being careful to smooth out wrinkles. Do not use waxed paper or aluminum foil.
To dry in a dehydrator, purchase specially designed plastic sheets or line plastic trays with plastic wrap. Items placed on the trays should not touch; allow space between items for air flow. Remember to watch food more closely at the end of drying times, as the decline in moisture causes food to dry faster and may scorch.
Pouring the Leather
Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet (13 inch by 15 inch) or into several smaller size pieces. Spread purée evenly, about ⅛ inch thick, onto drying tray. Avoid pouring purée too close to the edge of the cookie sheet. Larger fruit leathers take longer to dry. Approximate drying times are 6 to 8 hours in a dehydrator or up to 18 hours in an oven.
Drying the Leather
Dry fruit leathers at 140°F. Leather dries from the outside edge toward the center. Test for dryness by touching center of leather; no indention should be evident. While warm, peel leather from plastic and roll. Then, allow the leather to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic.
Chances are, the fruit leather won’t last long enough for storage. If it does, it will keep up to 1 month at room temperature. For storage up to 1 year, place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer.
Andress, E., and J. Harrison. So Easy to Preserve. 6th ed. Athens: University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, 2014.
Kendall, P., and J. Sofos. Drying Fruits, Food and Nutrition Series, No. 9.309. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Extension. Accessed on August 5, 2014. extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/drying-fruits-9-309
USDA. “Fruits: Nutrients and Health Benefits.” Accessed on August 5, 2014. www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-nutrients-health