I don't mean to make you jealous, but I married into a grape-growing family. This has many, many benefits: at our wedding, each guest was given their own bottle of Gewurztraminer with a personalized label, we get to spend our vacations hanging around a vineyard, and in the fall, we share in some of the harvest excitement. Although my in-laws are now retired and have sold most of their property, they still live on two acres of land with several rows of Concord grapes. And this is one of the greatest benefits of all - for a prairie girl like me: UNLIMITED CONCORD GRAPE CONSUMPTION.
But even I can only eat so many grapes, especially since in the fall my mother-in-law sends me home from Thanksgiving weekend with a minimum of fifty pounds of Concords. That, my friends, is a lot of fruit. I eat a lot and give away a lot to friends, but I also juice it and freeze it for future use.
Where am I going with this? Fruit leather. I don't know how it is in your house, but in mine, fruit leather is a very popular snack, and for good reason - it's easy to grab on the go and it can be shoved in a bag or a backpack without fear of being squished. It is also very easy to make - all you need are some apples and either a thick juice or a thin fruit puree.
Never fear - you do not need to marry into a grape-growing family in order to make your own fruit leather! You can make any flavour combination you like, with whatever fruit you have on hand.
What's that, you say? It's winter, and you don't HAVE a plethora of fruit on hand? This is what frozen fruit was made for. This is frozen fruit's day in the sun. Simply thaw frozen fruit and puree - using the soft fruit and the liquidy juice that results from thawing.
Food dehydrators are great for this, but if you don't have one, use your oven on the lowest setting, and crack it open to let some heat out. I promise you, it's well worth the effort to have your own, delicious fruit leather on hand. Your children will think it's magical!
Peel apples and cut into chunks. If you have an apple peeler and corer, now is the time to use it. I am devoted to this one from Lee Valley.
In a food processor, pulse apples until they are in small pieces. Add the fruit juice or puree and process until smooth.
DEHYDRATOR VERSION: spread the mixture onto parchment paper-lined dehydrator trays. The edges must be thicker than the centre or the leather will be brittle. The centre should be about 1/8 inch thick, and the edges about 1/4 inch thick. Set the dehydrator to 135 degrees. The length of drying time will vary depending on the moisture level in the puree; a grape mixture will take 8-10 hours, but a pear-apple mixture will take closer to 6.
OVEN VERSION: spread the mixture onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. The edges must be thicker than the centre or the leather will be brittle. The centre should be about 1/8 inch thick, and the edges about 1/4 inch thick. Put the oven at its lowest setting possible, and crack the oven door a bit while drying to let some heat out. The length of drying time will vary depending on the moisture level in the puree; a grape mixture will take 6-8 hours in the oven, but a pear-apple mixture will take closer to 4.
Check the leather often! Over-drying leads to brittle fruit leather. It is done when the puree has become leathery and pliable and there are no sticky spots in the centre.
Store wrapped in plastic wrap, like a fruit roll-up. I also slice up pieces and store them in an airtight jar, so my kids can access it with ease.
Don't be afraid to experiment! This is a fun thing to get your kids involved with, and the sky's the limit when it comes to flavour combination. Almost any fruit can be used - have fun with it!
First peel, core, and slice the apples.
Process the apples, along with the puree or juice, until very smooth.
Spread the puree out on parchment paper - be sure to make it thicker on the edges than the centre.
My children showing off the finished product. As you can see, these are pretty big! I slice them up and keep them in airtight jars.
I love my food dehydrator - if you have one and need more reasons to use it, why not try my Kale Chips: Two Ways, or my Dill Pickle Zucchini Chips. Maybe you just have a lot of extra strawberries - try my Chocolate Covered Strawberries!