Strawberry Fruit Leather
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If you have been safely enjoying the outdoors and acquired a bounty of fresh strawberries, maybe you are now wondering what else you can do with them besides eating them fresh or in baked goods.
Let’s talk about fruit leather!
Fruit leather is a preservation technique typically accomplished by using a food dehydrator, though it can also be done in some ovens and in the sun. It can be made from fresh fruit or even canned and frozen fruit. Today, we’re going to specifically discuss fresh fruit – strawberries, to be exact.
This recipe is from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension’s “So Easy to Preserve” 5th Edition (a 6th Edition is now available). Following the recipe, you’ll see some tips and nuances we discovered in the process of drying this fruit leather. Three styles were made: one sweetened with honey and a small amount of lemon juice, to help prevent discoloration; one sweetened with corn syrup; and one unsweetened. We also taste-tested each one with one adult and two toddlers to see if they could taste the difference between them!
Fruit Leather from Fresh Fruit Recipe:
- Select ripe or slightly overripe fruit.
- Wash fresh fruit or berries in cool water. Remove peel, seeds, and stem.
- Cut fruit into chunks. Use 2 cups of fruit for each 13″x15″ fruit leather. Purée fruit until smooth.
- Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid (375mg) for each 2 cups of light-colored fruit to prevent darkening.
- Optional: To sweeten, add corn syrup, honey, or sugar. Corn syrup or honey is best for longer storage because it prevents crystals. Sugar is fine for immediate use or short storage. Use 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar, corn syrup, or honey for each 2 cups of fruit. Saccharin-based sweeteners could also be used to reduce tartness without adding calories. Aspartame sweeteners may lose sweetness during drying.
Preparing the Trays:
For drying in the oven a 13″x15″ cookie pan with edges works well. Line pan with plastic wrap, being careful to smooth out wrinkles. Do not use wax paper or aluminum foil.
To dry in a dehydrator, specially designed plastic sheets can be purchased or plastic trays can be lined with plastic wrap.
Pouring the Leather:
Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet (13″x15″) or into several smaller sizes. Spread purée evenly, about 1/8-inch think, onto drying tray. Avoid pouring purée too close to the edge of the cookie sheet. The larger fruit leathers take longer to dry. Approximate drying times are 6 to 8 hours in a dehydrator, up to 18 hours in an oven, and 1 to 2 days in the sun.
Drying the Leather:
Dry fruit leathers at 140°F. Leather dries from the outside edge toward the center. Test for dryness by touching the center of leather; no indention should be evident. While warm, peel from plastic and roll, allow to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic. Cookie cutters can be used to cut out shapes that children will enjoy. Roll, and wrap in plastic.
Chances are the fruit leather will not last long enough for storage. If it does, it will keep up to 1 month at room temperature. For storage up to 1 year, place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer.
So, how did it turn out for the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Hyde County?
We used freshly picked strawberries. To hull the berries, you can core the top of the berry with a sharp knife and cut out the stem. This helps preserve more of the strawberry (as compared to straight cutting the top off) while removing the stem-cap. Another option is to use a sturdy straw (a wide straw or a stainless steel straw work well) and insert it at the base of the strawberry and push up and out. It will push the stem right out! If it’s a larger berry or the angle is a little off, you may need to cut out just slightly more. View the short video below to show how this is done!
Our dehydrator had trays about 10″x12″, which gave us slightly more “trays” than the recipe indicated. Adding sweeteners also seemed to increase the quantity of those leathers. See chart below for our three recipes.
|Strawberry Qty||Sweetener||Lemon Juice||Yield||Drying Time|
|Leather #1||2 cups chopped||1/4 cup honey||2 teaspoons||1 3/4 trays||
|Leather #2||2 cups chopped||None||None||1 tray||6 hours 45 mins|
4 cups chopped
(if 2 cups used, can reduce syrup to 1/4 cup)
|1/2 cup corn syrup||None||3 trays||
*Note: Leather #1 should have probably been separated to 2 full trays; first one had a section that was too thick and took exceptionally long to dry.
Results of Taste Test:
Leather #1: honey
Leather #2: unsweetened + lemon juice
Leather #3: corn syrup (his favorite)
Leather #1: honey – corn syrup – honey (final decision, maybe)
Leather #2: unsweetened
Leather #3: honey – corn syrup (final decision, maybe)
He was no help!
Tips and Things-To-Know:
- Plastic wrap was wrapped around the trays. Do not pull the wrap too tightly or it will cause the puréed fruit to slide too much in the center of the trays.
- The trays that were heated for 9-10 hours were much more difficult to peel leather from.
- The edges may be slightly crunchy because it dries from the outside in, and the edges are naturally thinner than the center. If you don’t want that reserved for snacking later, cut them off and enjoy immediately.
- Rolling into jelly-like roll, as recipe indicates, is a helpful way to store fruit leather. In our experience, it was about impossible to unroll – still delicious to just eat as a roll!
- Slice fruit leather into strips and place in an airtight container. Place strips of plastic wrap between layers to help prevent sticking.
- Added sweeteners seemed to help retain brightness as compared to the leather with no sweetener and added a bit of shine to it. Leather with lemon juice and honey was slightly more vibrant than the leather with just corn syrup.
- Letting it sit overnight allowed them to take on more of a fruit roll-up flavor and texture.
- Leather with no added sweeteners came out noticeably thinner and expectedly not sticky.
- Adult taste tester stated he was perfectly happy with all three leathers. He could taste the underlying flavor of honey in #1, no extra sweetness in #2, and that left corn syrup in #3. He enjoyed all three. He did not accurately guess which had lemon juice and did not affect the flavor.
- Both toddlers enjoyed #1 and #3 and were not fans of #2, unsweetened. One stated, “First one was yummy, but the second one wasn’t. It had nothing.” In hindsight, we should have tested unsweetened first. I believe she would have enjoyed it if she hadn’t tried a sweeter one first!
- The recipe calls for 1/4 – 1/2 cup of sweetener for every 2 cups of fruit. I prefer a less sweet taste, which is why we went with 1/4 cup ratio. Corn syrup was 1/2 cup because 4 cups of berries were used.
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