Drying Fruit Leathers
Compiled by Alice Henneman, M.S., R.D., C.N., Extension Educator
|Bananas||Fair to good|
|Berries with seeds||Excellent|
|Blueberries||Only in combination|
|Citrus fruits||Only in combination|
|Citrus peel||Only in combination|
|Crabapples||Only in combination|
|Cranberries||Only in combination|
|Grapes||Fair to good|
|Guavas||Only in combination|
1) Home preserved or store-bought canned or frozen fruit can be used. 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.
2) Drain fruit, save liquid.
3) Use one pint of fruit for each 13" X 15" leather.
4) Puree fruit until smooth. If thick, add liquid to bring to a pouring consistency.
5) Add two teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (375 mg) for each two cups of light colored fruit to prevent darkening.
To add interest to your fruit leathers add spices or flavorings.
Spices to Try--Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mace, mint, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Use sparingly, start with 1/8 teaspoon for each two cups of puree.
Flavorings to Try --Almond extract, lemon juice, lemon peel, lime juice, lime peel, orange extract, orange juice, orange peel or vanilla extract. Use sparingly, try 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for each two cups of puree.
For drying in the oven, a 13" X 15" baking 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, specially designed plastic sheets can be purchased or plastic trays can be lined with plastic wrap.
Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet (13" X 15")or into several smaller sizes. Spread puree evenly, about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, onto drying tray. Avoid pouring puree too close to the edge of the sheet; leave an inch or more of border to allow for spreading during drying. The larger fruit leathers take longer to dry.
Leather dries from the outside edge toward the center. Test for dryness by touching the center of the leather; no indention or sticky spots should be evident. Dry until it is still pliable. While warm, peel from plastic and roll, allow to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic wrap or special plastic fruit leather sheets.
It takes approximately six to eight hours for fruit leather to dry in a dehydrator. Follow manufacturers directions. In general, fruit leather should be dried at around 140° F.
An oven can be used for occasional drying of fruit leathers. Because the oven may also be needed for everyday cooking, it may not be satisfactory for preserving abundant fruit leather. Oven drying may take up to 18 hours for fruit leathers.
Oven drying is slower than dehydrators because the oven does not have a built-in fan for the air movement. (However, some convection ovens do have a fan.) It takes two to three times longer to dry fruit leather in an oven than in a dehydrator; thus, the oven is not as efficient as a dehydrator and uses more energy.
To Use Your Oven--First, check your dial and see if it has a reading as low as 140° F. Check oven temperature on warm setting with an oven thermometer. If your oven does not go this low, then your food will cook instead of dry.
Low humidity aids the drying process. To dry fruit leather, the water must move from the fruit leather to the surrounding air. If the surrounding air is humid, then drying will be slowed down. Avoid drying fruit leather during rainy or humid weather.
Increasing the air current speeds up drying by moving the surrounding moist air away from the fruit leather. To speed the drying time, increase the air flow. For air circulation, leave the oven door propped open two to six inches. Circulation can be improved by placing a fan outside the oven near the door. Change the position of the fan frequently during drying to vary the circulation of the air. CAUTION: This is not a safe practice for a home with small children.
Because the door is left open, the temperature will vary. Place an accurate and easy-to-read oven thermometer on the top tray toward the back. Adjust the temperature dial to achieve the needed 140° F.
Maintain the temperature at 140° F. It takes less heat to keep the temperature at 140° F as drying progresses, so watch the temperature carefully toward the end of drying.
Place wrapped pieces in airtight, moisture proof containers such as freezer bags, glass jars or freezer storage containers. Fruit leather will keep about two to four weeks at room temperature when stored in a dark, cool place. For storage up to one year, store in the freezer.
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