What: strawberry-boysenberry fruit leather/fruit roll ups
How much: 8 ~15″ x 15″ sheets (so far)
Recipe:strawberries, boysenberries, other berries, or other fruit honey (optional)
Purée small batches of fruit in a food processor with a bit of honey if desired. Spread the purée on parchment paper that’s cut to the shape and size of your food dehydrator trays, mounding it up thicker (~1/4″) around the edges that will dry faster than the interior areas. Dry at 135° for 6-8 hours until the surface of the berries is slightly tacky but no longer soggy. If desired, roll up the sheets and cut individual fruit roll ups with sharp kitchen scissors. Store in an airtight container for several weeks or freeze for the long term.
My chest freezer (an electric one that lives at my parents’ house) is full, really full. I finally dug down to the bottom of it the other day and rotated my oldest frozen berries to the top. Apparently I was a little overzealous picking strawberries and blackberries (marion and boysen) in 2011, and now that layer of slightly freezer-burned berries needs to get gone soon to make way for everything else I still need to add to my freezer this harvest season. I think I’ve got enough jam to last us for a good long while, so I was scheming other ways to use up a bunch of frozen berries when I started fantasizing about fruit leather.
The other thing that prompted my first foray into fruit leather was a recent gift from my brother and sister in law to my mom, a very nice new food dehydrator from the Lehman’s catalogue. My mom and I always do a few big food preservation tasks together (frozen corn, pesto, etc.), but we are also pretty communal about our tools, (mostly she lets me use her food processor, big ovens, apple slicer, steamer-juicer, etc.) and when February rolls around, we often even out our food stores by sharing or swapping our excesses. So…that means I have unlimited free access to her beautiful new food dehydrator, and I’m not going to let that go unexploited. In an ideal world with plenty of time for everything I’d like to get done, I’d have that thing running full blast all day, every day from now through October, but the reality is that I just can’t keep up. But I’m gonna try, galdarnit, because there really is no limit to how much dried fruit my family can consume.
I should say here that this is my very first attempt at making fruit leather, so to talk about doing it like I’m some kind of expert is extremely arrogant of me, but I’m going to keep talking anyway. I’d love for some seasoned fruit-leather makers to chime in with their own tips in the comments.
I used unthawed, frozen berries for the purée, and in some ways, I think that might have worked as well as or even better than fresh berries. When I whizzed them in the food processor, they turned into this frothy, sorbet-like substance (that I may or may not have consumed in large quantities while I was working) that was quite a bit thicker/more viscous than the runny consistency of puréed fresh berries, making it easier to distribute it more thickly around the edges and thinner in the middle. The instructions that came with the dehydrator suggested adding a banana to runnier fruit purées to help stiffen them up a bit for more controlled spreading.
Boysenberries (and to a lesser degree, strawberries) have a lot of seeds. I am WAY too lazy and miserly to even consider straining out the seeds, but if you really hate them, you could sieve it before spreading the purée on the parchment. I just whizzed the stuff in the food processor a little longer than necessary to try to grind it up as smoothly as possible, and the end product was good enough that the seeds, though present, didn’t bother me a bit.
As I understand it, fruit leather is not in any way limited to berries, and I’m eager to try various other fruits (especially these super sweet, but thick skinned plums I can get from friends) using this method in the near future.
I really didn’t use much sweetener in this batch, and I like it that way. I did use some because boysenberries (and to a lesser degree, strawberries) are not really that sweet on their own. I’d imagine if I leather-ed naturally sweeter fruits like plums or apples, I wouldn’t use any additional sugar.
After some trial and error, I found it easiest to purée very small amounts of frozen berries at at a time with a spoonful of honey in each batch. Bigger batches really bogged down the food processor and left chunks in the purée that messed up my attempts at smooth spreading on parchment. I added each small batch of purée to a big bowl and mixed them all up before spreading and drying.
This is part of a collection of posts documenting my food preservation activities this summer/fall (more info here). Please feel free to comment with a link to food preservation activities on your own blogs or links to recipes you’re following or you’d like to try from other blogs.