I’ve done tutorials on drying fruit, making jerky and drying herbs in a dehydrator before. Some fruits don’t lend themselves to drying too well – rhubarb (goes stringy), gooseberries (thick skin) and raspberries (turn to mush). They can be dried though – as a fruit leather. These are those strange stretchy fruit things that kids love (winders etc.). This tutorial will show how to make them. You can do this with an electric dehydrator, cool oven and baking sheets or a solar dehydrator (also read: How to Live Off Grid Successfully).
Before you start, line the trays of your dehydrator unless you have specialist “leather” trays. The fruit will drip through the mesh of open trays. I use microwaveable cling film but aluminium foil would work I should think. Make sure you make holes where all the air vents should be.
Step 1 – gather your fruit.
For each “tray” of my dehydrator I need about a litre (quart) of fruit – clearly for something like rhubarb this needs to be chopped. So step one is a wander round the veg patch and see what’s in surplus.
Step 2 – Prepare the fruit
It’s a good idea to was all the gathered fruit as the low temperatures we will use may not kill any nasties. Ultimately we will be putting all the fruit through a blender but we need to get it soft if it isn’t already. A wash will suffice for the raspberries but the rhubarb needs to be chopped into ½” slices.
And the goosegogs “topped and tailed”
Step 3 – soften if necessary
The harder fruits need to be softened before pureeing. The raspberries need nothing but the gooseberries and rhubarb need to be put into a pan with a TINY amount of water (less than a quarter cup) and heated gently just until they are soft.
One softened if necessary put your fruit into a blender. If you don’t have a blender you can crush the fruit with a fork in a mixing bowl. I add two tablespoons of honey to each litre of fruit – I find this helps in bind into a good leather. Others use apple with soft fruit since the pectin helps the leather set – either is good.
Step 4 – puree
If you have a blender, slap the lid on and give the fruit a good “whiz up”. If not, use a fork back against the side of the bowl. You are going for porridge like consistency here.
After this, if you want to remove seeds and pips, push the puree through a sieve with the back of a spoon. I like the seeds in so I don’t bother but its up to you.
Step 5 – load dehydrator
Don’t forget to ensure you have prepared your dehydrator trays with a covering if they are the mesh type.
Using a palette knife or spoon, spread you puree evenly over the trays. Aim to go no more than ¼” thick or you’ll be drying the stuff till the next ice age.
Don’t get the puree too near the air holes as it will spread a bit and you don’t want it dripping through the holes.
Step 6 – Dehydrate
Turn on your dehydrator (you can do this on baking sheets in a very cool oven if you prefer). I find this will take 7-10 hours to dry out so leave plenty of time.
Keep going till you have a stiff but bendy sheet of leather. It will be about a third of the original height.
Peel the leather carefully off the backing sheet.
Step 7 prepare rolls
Cut your fruit leather into strips (I use scissors) and roll each strip up for convenient storage.
Step 8 cool and store
I leave the rolls to cool on a plate in the fridge for 24 hours – I find storing them warm leads to condensation.
After 24 hours I put mine in a plastic tub and keep in the fridge (not really necessary). I shove a mixed handful in a ziplock for day walks or take the whole tub as trail snacks and deserts for longer trips. You can of course add water and turn them back into a sort of pie filling or hot desert. Try it with apple sauce – great dried or re-hydrated later (buildanark.net).
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