Dried Fruit and Fruit Leather
Whether you are looking for a way to preserve an abundant harvest, or simply providing delicious and nutritious snacks for your family, a food dehydrator is the perfect solution. We use our dehydrator throughout the year for making many types of dried fruit, dried vegetables and even fruit leather or jerky.
The process is extremely easy and the ability to provide wholesome snacks at a fraction of store-bought prices is incredible. Not only will making your own dehydrated food products be fun and easy, you have the ability to control the ingredients that go into your final products. Forget about those fruit roll ups filled with artificial flavors, ingredients, colors and preservatives. Making a fruit leather is so easy even the kids can do it and they will certainly enjoy the rewards of their efforts.
I use a Nesco American Harvest GardenMaster Food Dehydrator, but there are certainly plenty of other options available. In fact, some people use their oven to create an inexpensive dehydrator. When you use your oven, it is important to carefully monitor the humidity as well as the temperature. You can turn the oven on to its lowest setting, then turn it off before adding your trays. The door should be left slightly ajar to allow for air circulation, you can do this by placing the handle of a wooden spoon in the opening.
If you are interested in dehydrating fruits, vegetables and even meat, you will eventually want to invest in a quality food dehydrator. It takes all the guess work out of the process and you get perfect results every time. The Nesco comes with stacking trays that allow for good air circulation. I also use a plastic screening to make moving the food much easier, it also helps to prevent small pieces from falling through the rack. When making fruit leathers, I use a shallow insert that I can simply fill with fruit puree and set to dry.
The Nesco allows me to stack as many trays as I need; however, I usually run two dehydrators if I am working on a number of items. The important thing is to allow the food to dry in a relatively short amount of time – 10 to 14 hours is about average. If you keep adding foods that have a high moisture content, it can inhibit other items from drying properly. Some foods like jerky or thicker pieces of fruit may take a little longer to dry completely.
Rinse strawberries in cool water, trim and slice into pieces about 1/4 inch thick. Arrange evenly on trays in a single layer. These trays of strawberries are ready for the dehydrator in a matter of minutes.
About 8 to 10 hours later, the strawberries are completely dry and fairly crisp. They do not have to be brittle, but should have minimal pliability. The more moisture that is removed, the longer your strawberries will remain fresh. For longer storage, dried fruits and vegetables can be placed in air tight containers or Ziploc bags and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
No preservatives. No artificial colors. No artificial flavors. 100% pure strawberries.
We keep dried strawberries on hand for a healthy snack. These can be added to cereal, baked goods, granola or eaten just as they are. They are delicious with a bowl of homemade yogurt and a drizzle of honey! I also love to process dried fruits in my food processor or blender, turning them into a powder. I use this powder to add an intense flavor boost to smoothies, homemade lemonade, iced tea and other treats.
This same technique can be used with dried vegetables. For example, a homemade cornbread with the addition of some ground dried corn has an incredible deep roasted corn flavor that is worth every bit of extra effort. Soups can be thickened with this ground corn meal, ground dried peas, or just about any other type of vegetable. Getting creative with these ingredients is half the fun.
Most fruit requires very little preparation. These blueberries were rinsed in cool water and simply placed on the tray. Blueberries generally take about 12 hours to completely dry. Just like strawberries, they make a great addition to just about any type of cereal, yogurt, dessert or granola. Of course, our favorite way to use them is simply as a great afternoon snack.
A solid insert keeps the applesauce from leaking through the tray. You can either make your own applesauce, or open a jar and pour it directly onto the insert. If you use a store bought applesauce, be sure to choose one that is a great quality and 100% natural. Some people like to use a little cooking spray to make removing the fruit leather a little easier, but I prefer to skip this step so that there is no greasy feeling to the finished leather. If you take your time, the fruit leather will come up nicely and the cooking spray is really not necessary.
This tray of peach-apricot fruit leather is almost done. I simply blended peaches and apricots to a fine puree then spread it about 1/2 inch thick on the insert for my dehydrator. Fruit leathers generally take about 10 hours depending on the thickness of the puree. The flavor of the fruit intensifies as it dries and no added sugar or sweetener is necessary.
Once the fruit leather is fairly dry, but still pliable, I remove it from the dehydrator. I cut mine into 8 wedges, this just seems to be the perfect size for my family. Each wedge is then rolled individually and ready for snacking.
I like to roll the fruit leather around a piece of plastic wrap, it not only keeps them fresh and pliable, but it makes them easy to grab on the run. My kids put them in their backpacks when we head out for the day. These are such a simple and inexpensive treat that I never worry about them indulging in a little sweet treat.
Dried Fruit and Fruit Leathers,