Are you looking for another nutritious snack to stick in your hunting coat pockets this year? Are you sick to death of jerky and want something a little sweeter to balance out other salty snacks? Are you appalled at the price of such snacks in the grocery store or are looking for fewer additives and preservatives? Why not make your own fruit leather?
I made several batches of home dehydrated fruit leather this year and was ridiculously pleased with the results. One batch was even made out of foraged fruit I gathered on the family property, so it was essentially “free”. If you have picky kids you can even slip some judiciously selected veggies into your “fruit” leather and they will never know the difference. (I’ll give you an example below)
I have a couple dehydrating cookbooks, so that is where I got my recipes to start with, but there are some good internet links with how-tos as well. Trust me, it isn’t hard.
Here are a few links to get you started:
Though not all recipes call for it, I have found that the big trick with fruit leather is that you need to have enough pectin in your purée to allow it all to stick together and not get crumbly as it dries. Some fruits have enough of their own pectin, but not all do. Thus, I tend to use my homemade applesauce as an additive/binder and it works really well. Plus, those apples come from a tree in my yard and are also “free”. I really like free.
Another trick I’ve been told about is to use maple syrup or honey if you need to sweeten your leather. Apparently cane sugar might cause cracking as it dries, whereas the other two do not. If you keep your own bees or tap your own maples that’s another arguably “free” ingredient – though the labor involved makes it a daunting task for the rest of us and it’s easier to just buy it.
The first of the two examples I talked about was done with foraged autumn olive berries. I’ve talked about those before. The main drawback is that they have a fairly large pit, so I cook them down and run them through a hand crank food mill to get the pits out before I move on to the jam or fruit leather stage.
The second of the two examples was an experiment that turned into a pleasant surprise. It was made with – are you ready – pineapple juice and zucchini! I got the idea from a canning recipe which uses diced zucchini and pineapple juice to make “mock pineapple” for use in desserts.
I don’t make a lot of pineapple desserts, but like many gardeners I did have an abundance of zucchini last summer, so I decided to try the same principle to make fruit leather.
First, I peeled and seeded the Zukes and then grated them into a Dutch oven on the stove. I added enough 100% pineapple juice to cover it, then simmered it for about an hour until the zucchini was falling apart and becoming one with the juice. Then I used an immersion blender to purée the whole thing, added a little applesauce for pectin and poured it onto the dehydrator trays.
It turned out fantastic! There is only pineapple flavor and zero detectable zucchini. This is essentially vegetable candy – and your children (or your spouse) will never know. There is no reason you couldn’t sneak some cooked, puréed carrots into your berry mixture too for a little extra nutrient punch, though I haven’t tried that yet. I’ve got some U-pick blueberries in the basement freezer that need to be used, so I may try that next.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you “can” do this in the oven if your temps will go low enough. (Mine won’t) But after all my exhortations about food storage why do you not already have a dehydrator? It will pay for itself inside of six months, I promise.
So there’s some ideas for you to play with while it’s still boring, dark semi-winter. You can use all kinds of fruit to make the leather. I prefer to use u-pick, foraged, or otherwise free or low cost fruit, but you can even use grocery store frozen fruit if you want, which is a real help in the wintertime. The leather freezes really well, so you don’t have to wait until the last week before hunting season to give this a try. Then you can pull this sweeter snack from the freezer to go with your jerky for turkey season. You’re welcome.