Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fruit Leather

I had a lot of peaches...and not enough jars to make jam so I decided to give fruit leather a try. I remember LOVING the fruit leather my mom would make when I was a kid, and my kids go crazy for fruit leather when I buy it so I figured it was a win-win situation. I chose this recipe.

Fresh fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes)
Lemon juice
Sugar (if needed)
Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Rinse the fruit. Take out the pits, chop the fruit. Taste the fruit before proceeding. Note how sweet the fruit is. If very sweet you will not need to add any sugar. If still a little tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step.

Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts (1 Tbsp at a time if working with 4 cups of fruit), to desired level of sweetness. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to augment the flavor. (I added about 4 TBL of sugar, 2 TBL fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg to my 5 cups of fruit.)
Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more). Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise. Alternatively purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth. Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (the kind that is microwave safe). Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. Place the baking sheet in the oven, try to keep any plastic wrap from touch the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also try to make sure that the plastic wrap hasn't folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won't dry out. Heat the oven to a low 140°F. (My oven only went as low as 170°F. I left it in the oven overnight...about 10 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.

When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the plastic wrap. To store it, roll it in its plastic wrap, put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer. 4 cups of fruit yield about one baking sheet of fruit leather. I made two pans and put them in the oven at the same time. My bottom pan was too crispy! Next time I'll move my racks higher in the oven or only do one pan at a time in my little, bitty wall oven. Seriously, it's only taken us a day to devour almost the entire pan. My kids LOVE it!

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