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Start with fresh fruit

Recipe: Garden-Fresh Fruit Leather

Preserving the harvest was never so fun as when making fruit leather. It’s simple and easy and is far better for you than the sugar-laden stuff you get from the store. Kids love it, and grown ups do it. Here’s our first attempt at making two different kinds.

We use our solar food dryer as much as possible during the summer, and this was the perfect experiment to try outdoors. If you don’t have one, you can make fruit leather in the oven, or outside on screens (just bring it in at night or it will get nibbled by critters).

Start with fresh fruit
Start with fresh fruit

We received fresh, local “Anna” apples at the last produce exchange and obtained organic strawberries from the farmers’ market. The recipe calls for lemon juice to prevent darkening, so we pulled one off the tree. The rest of the ingredients are up to you. It was recommended to add chia seeds as a thickener (which came in handy with the strawberry mixture) and we added cinnamon to our apple mixture. Here’s the recipe we based it on.

Chia seeds thicken the batch, cinnamon flavors it, and lemon juice keeps it from darkening.
Chia seeds thicken the batch, cinnamon flavors it, and lemon juice keeps it from darkening.

For Apple Cinnamon Fruit Leather

4 large apples
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS chia seeds
1 TBS lemon juice

Puree the apples in a high-speed blender, then add chia seeds and cinnamon and lemon juice and blend to break up the chia seeds.

Apple mixture on a dehydrator sheet
Apple mixture on a dehydrator sheet

Spread the mixture on a dehydrator sheet or a cookie sheet that has been lined with plastic wrap. It should be no thicker than 1/8″. (We’ll show you what happens when it’s too thin…)

For Strawberry Fruit Leather

1 pint of strawberries (should really be 5 cups)
1 TBS lemon juice
1 TBS chia seeds (optional)

Note: this produces a tart leather. If you like your strawberries sweeter, add some honey to the mix.

Our strawberry mixture was so thin that we were worried about it spilling over the edge of our dehydrator mats, so we added chia seeds to thicken it up. It worked!

2 sheets of strawberry and 1 sheet of apple cinnamon fruit leather in the solar food dryer
2 sheets of strawberry and 1 sheet of apple cinnamon fruit leather in the solar food dryer

Bake at 140 degrees until the leather is dry but still tacky in the center. That can be 6-18 hours, depending on your oven or solar conditions. We over compensated with the strawberry mixture and spread it too thin, and we may have left it in too long. By the time it was done, it was no longer tacky at all. Here’s what happens when you pour too thin a layer, or leave it in too long:

Thin spots show up clearly once dry.
Thin spots show up clearly once dry.
Pliable but dry in places
Strawberry leather is pliable but dry in places

Notice the mat in the right of the photo above? The thin, dry parts stuck to the non-stick mat and became more like chips than leather. Still good though!

Fruit leather chips
Fruit leather chips

Our apple cinnamon fruit leather was much thicker and remained pliable. Success! After pulling off the dehydrator mats, we rolled the whole sheet up in parchment paper.

Apple fruit leather in parchment paper
Apple fruit leather in parchment paper

Next, we taped the roll closed in 1 inch sections for cutting.

Note to self: tape doesn't really stick to parchment paper.
Note to self: tape doesn’t really stick to parchment paper.

Then we cut the roll into segments for storage.

Use sharp scissors or de-boning shears to cut cleanly.
Use sharp scissors or de-boning shears to cut cleanly.

In the end, we have plenty of snacks at the ready for summer and our 4th of July celebration (backpacking in Yosemite).

Strawberry and apple/cinnamon fruit leathers ready for snacking.
Strawberry and apple/cinnamon fruit leathers ready for snacking.

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