Last summer my friend Laura introduced me to a healthier version of the sticky, prepackaged fruit roll-ups of my childhood. We’ve made them several times since, and I even sneak in veggies and the kids still love them!
I’m actually not sure who likes the homemade fruit leather more — the kids or me and my husband. A batch of fruit leather which should last a week is usually gone in four days in our house.
It all starts with a dehydrator. Excalibur makes a fantastic dehydrator (see it here) which was tested and recommended by my friend and cookbook author, Laura Piazza. She bought the 7-drawer and found she wished she had sprung for the 9-tray. I went with the 9-tray and am so happy I did!
Another important tip is the importance of apples in your fruit mix. Apples have a natural pectin which is what makes the fruit turn into a leather instead of a chip. About half of the fruit mix should consist of apple if you want a chewy vs. crispy finished product.
You’ll also need a food processor to make the fruit mash. I haven’t tried a blender, but you could give it a shot if don’t have a food processor available (it may just take longer).
The beauty of making your own fruit leather (or chips) is that you can use whichever fruits and vegetables you prefer. The juicier the fruit (think watermelon or grapes) the longer it will take in the dehydrator to reduce the liquid. It can take up to eight hours to cook through, so I recommend starting this process in the morning so you’ll have a finished snack by the end of the day.
- Food processor, 7 cup works well
- Parchment paper to line the trays
- Apple peeler
- Paring knife & cutting board
- Large mixing bowl
- Ladle or large spoon
- Spatula for smoothing
- Kitchen scissors
- Granny Smith apples, 3 pounds (could substitute with apple sauce)
- Bartlett pears, 2-3
- Strawberries, 2 pints
- Bananas, 4
- Mango, 1
- Carrots, peeled, 3-4
- Grapes, two child-size handfuls because my kids insist on adding them (grapes have a lot of liquid so I wouldn’t add too many as it will add time to the drying process.)
- Watermelon, a small amount for the same reason noted above (see grapes)
- Lemon Juice, one tablespoon
Line the trays of your dehydrator with parchment paper before you begin prepping the food. You can pre-cut the paper and fold about a 1/2 inch on each side up to help prevent the mash from dripping off of the tray (and it keeps the paper from rolling up on you). Don’t allow the paper to hang over the edge as it will interfere with the trays above and below.
Wash, peel and cut up the fruits and veggies and put them in the food processor in small batches, pour into a mixing bowl as each batch is completed. Allow the ingredients to process until they make a mash so you don’t end up with chunks in the finished product.
If you are getting the kiddos involved, a great task for them is to wash the ingredients. My 4-year-old likes to wash the fruit and my 7-year-old daughter helps put the fruit into the food processor and she likes turning it on. (Our food processor has a tube where she can drop the fruit inside
which keeps fingers away from the sharp blade. Of course, adult supervision is still highly recommended!)
Once everything is processed, mix the ingredients really well to be sure they get blended together.
Take one of your pre-line trays and lay it flat on the counter. Use a ladle and pour two ladles of mash onto the parchment paper. Use your spatula to evenly flatten in a thin layer as best as you can, approximately a 1/4 inch thickness. You may need to add a third ladle, but start with two and see how the thickness looks. Slide the prepped tray into the dehydrator.
After you’ve filled up all of the trays, put the cover on and turn the dehydrator to 130 degrees. The fruit leather should be evenly colored with no visible moist spots and should still be flexible. The timing depends on how many trays you’ve filled up, but I would check it after five hours and then every hour after. I usually end up waiting a solid eight hours to remove ours from the dehydrator.
Once they’re done, peel the fruit leather from the paper and cut into slices with your kitchen scissors.
Store the finished product in an airtight container like a freezer bag or even a canning jar would do the trick. They will keep for up to two weeks in a dark cool spot, or up to one year in the freezer in an airtight bag. Unless your family is like mine – they’ll be gone in four days, then there’s no need to worry about airtight storage!