Serious Eats: Recipes
The Crisper Whisperer: How to Make Fruit Leather
Fruit leather tastes good and is pretty good for you, no question. But let's treat the subject of this post like what it is: an Emergency Response System. If you're inundated with fruit, which is bound to happen this time of year due to overgrowth or simply over-enthusiasm, fruit leather is a fun, volume minimizing, and surprisingly simple emergency response mechanism.
You can make fruit leather with almost any summer or fall fruit. Berries, cherries, stone fruits, apples, and pears—they all work beautifully. Choose ripe or very ripe fruit, and remove any blemishes. You can leave skins on or remove them. I usually leave them on for the nutritive value, but if you want a perfectly homogeneous leather, you'll need to remove them.
Taste your fruit so you know how sweet it is. Added sweetener is purely optional, though honey does offer a nice bit of additional chewiness. Keep in mind that as the puree loses its moisture content, flavors and sweetness will concentrate, so the leather will be sweeter and more intensely flavored than the puree.
Seasonings are where you can really get creative. A pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg with your apple or pear puree makes apple pie or pear crisp leather. A little vanilla with berries really makes you glad you didn't just settle for store-bought fruit leather. You can add liquors, chopped nuts, you name it. Your leather is as nimble as your imagination. (That sounds wrong for so many reasons, I know—but it's right.)
You may have noticed that the cooking time in the recipe ranges from two to eight hours. I'm sorry about that, but given that the moisture content of fruits varies so widely, it's just how it's gotta be. Use your senses to determine when the leather is still just barely tacky to the touch, but it peels up easily from the parchment or silicone mat. That's how you'll know it's done. Store fruit leather in the freezer for eons, in the fridge for several months, or at room temperature for up to two weeks.
What about you? Have you ever made fruit leather at home? How do you like to make it?
About the author: Carolyn Cope is the voice behind the popular food blog Umami Girl. In late July, she'll trade the life of a CSA manager in New Jersey for the lively farmers' markets of London. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.