Thursday, November 29, 2007

Making Fruit Leathers

Fruit leathers are a wonderful way to use small quantities of fruit or extra-ripe fruit. Fruit leathers, also known as fruit paper and fruit taffies, are chewy fruit roll-ups made from either cooked or uncooked fruit purée.

Fruit leathers allow for individual creativity through combinations of different fruits. Generally you can use any kind of fruit, including apples, bananas, berries, grapes, mangos, papayas, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums, and even tomatoes. Citrus fruits alone are generally not recommended. Fruit leathers are an excellent use for slightly overripe or bruised fruit that would otherwise be discarded.

Uncooked Fruit Leathers

1. Select ripe or overripe fruit or fruit combinations.

2. Wash fruit and cut away blemishes. Remove stones or pits. Remove larger seeds from berries, grapes, and tomatoes if you wish. Peel all tough-skinned fruits; peel others if you wish.

3. Cut fruit into chunks and place them in a food chopper, blender, or food processor.

4. Add 1 tablespoon lemon or other citrus juice per quart of yellow or light-colored fruit, if desired, for keeping fruit color.

5. Chop, grind, or blend the fruit into a thick purée. If the fruit has little juice, add several spoonfuls of water or fruit juice to obtain a uniform purée. (If uncooked fruit purée is too juicy, it can be cooked to remove excess liquid.)

6. (Optional) Add sugar, honey, or corn syrup to taste. (Generally no additional sweetener is needed, particularly with ripe fruit, because fruit tastes sweeter after being dried.)

7. (Optional) Add spices (for example, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,allspice) to taste. Start with 1/2 teaspoon dried spice per quart ofpuréed fruit; spice flavors intensify during drying.

8. Use a drying tray designed for fruit leather or line a portion of a drying tray with lightly oiled heavy plastic wrap. Do not completely cover the tray with plastic wrap or the air will be unable to circulate to other trays. Pour a small amount of purée onto the lining wrap. Make sure the tray has an edge to prevent spillage. Tilt the tray until the purée spreads no more than 1/4 inch thick almost to the edge of the plastic wrap. (Two cups of purée will cover a 12- by 17inch drying tray.)

9. (Optional) Sprinkle the purée with chopped nuts, seeds, or grated coconut.

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