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If you like the fruit rolls in the stores, you will like a homemade, all-natural fruit leather more. After all, fruit leathers are homemade fruit rolls, but making your own, you can skip the additive chemical preservatives and corn syrup or other sugars. Just like all-natural applesauce, without added sugar, homemade fruit leathers are suitable as a fruit substitute for diabetics
Wash the fruit or berries in cool water. Remove peel (apples, peaches, nectarines, etc. not berries, obviously) and remove any obvious pits, stones seeds and stems (again, you DON'T need to remove berry seeds - but if they are large, like blackberry seeds, you can, if desired, use a foley food mill or sieve to remove them).
Cut fruit into chunks (1 inch / 2 cm or so, just to get them into the blender ot food processor).
Puree fruit in your blender or food processor until it is smooth.
Add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon (375 mg) citric acid, Fruit Fresh or ascorbic acid for each 2 cups or fruit to prevent darkening.
Spices, Flavors and Garnishes
You can add spices, flavorings or garnishes to the puree
Spices to Try - Allspice, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, mace, mint, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice. Use sparingly, start with 1/8 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureé.
Flavorings to Try - Almond extract, lemon juice, lemon peel, lime juice, lime peel, orange extract, orange juice, orange peel or vanilla extract. Use sparingly, try 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon for each 2 cups of pureé.
Other natural additions to Try - Shredded coconut, chopped dates, other dried chopped fruits, granola, miniature marshmallows, chopped nuts, chopped raisins, poppy seeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds.
Sweeteners: This is completely optional: If you want it sweeter than just the fruit add honey or sugar to taste. I hate to say it... but the preserving authorities at U.Ga. say you can use corn syrup and that either corn syrup or honey works best for longer storage because they prevent sugar crystal formation. Obviously, I prefer honey.
Sugar works well for immediate use or short term storage.
In any case, you add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (about 150 ml) of sugar, corn syrup or honey for each 2 cups (600 ml) of fruit.
Diabetics: Saccharin-based Stevia or Splenda (Sucralose) sweeteners may also be used but U.Ga says Nutrasweet (Aspartame) may lose sweetness during drying.
For drying in the oven a 13" X 15" (33 cm by 38 cm) cookie pan with edges works well. Line pan with plastic wrap being careful to smooth out wrinkles. Do not use waxed paper or aluminum foil; it will stick and tear apart.
If you have a food dehydrator, you can use the trays provided or line them with plastic wrap.
Fruit leathers can be poured into a single large sheet (13" X 15"; or 33 cm by 38 cm) or into several smaller sizes. Spread the pureé evenly, about 1/8-inch (0.3 cm) thick, onto the lined drying tray. Avoid pouring the pureé too close to the edge of the cookie sheet. Keep in mind, the larger the pour. the longer it takes to dry. .
The optimal temperature to dry fruit leathers is 140ºF (60 C). You can use a food dehydrator, an oven (carefully monitored and on lowest heat or only briefly turned on) or the sun - if it is hot and sunny. Some people put the trays on the dashboard of a car on a hot sunny day. Leather dries from the outside edge toward the center.
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.
Test for dryness by touching center of leather; no indentation should be evident.
While warm, peel the fruit leather from the plastic and roll, allow to cool and rewrap the roll in plastic. When dried correctly, it is shiny and has the texture of leather. Cookie cutters can be used to cut out shapes that children will enjoy. Roll, and wrap in plastic.
If your kids don't eat it all in a day or two, it will keep up to 1 month at room temperature. To stored it (up to 1 year), place tightly wrapped rolls in the freezer.
You can also add fillings before you roll the leather up: Melted chocolate, softened cream cheese, cheese spreads, jam, preserves, marmalade, marshmallow cream or peanut butter. Spread one or more of these on the leather after it is dried and then roll. Store in refrigerator.
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