You may save a lot of e-mail messages, magazine articles and newspaper articles with recipes for meals and preserved foods. Every once in a while one might make you say, “I gotta try this.”
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Hopefully this recap of an experiment with Polka Dot Fruit Leather (fruit rollup) will initiate that response. It was inspired by an online blog entry.
The ingredients couldn’t be easier: 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce and a small amount of one or more fresh sauces dried in a dehydrator.
You can make and use your own applesauce or use store-bought unsweetened applesauce. If you use store-bought applesauce, make sure it’s unsweetened. The amount of sugar added to commercial applesauce interferes with proper drying, making it sticky and not leathery. (But the fruit leather will still taste good.)
Make a quick fruit sauce by rinsing and draining the produce, and put it in a non-aluminium pan. Mash the fruit and heat it on low for about 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens. Turn off the heat and let it cool. (A handful of blackberries makes a nice colorful contrast to the applesauce.)
Lightly grease a dehydrator tray liner. (Use a very light touch when spraying or you’ll have one side of greasy fruit leather.) Pour the applesauce onto the tray and spread it to about ¼ inch thickness. The 1 ½ cups of applesauce fills a standard round or rectangular dehydrator tray.
Put the cooled sauce in a squeeze bottle, frosting decorator bag or just a regular baggie with one corner cut off. Then put dots of fruit sauce in a general circle pattern around the applesauce. Or be creative and write names, love notes or draw pictures.
Put the loaded tray in the dehydrator and turn the setting to 135 degrees F. The amount of time needed to dry varies depending on the thickness. Start checking the fruit leather after 4 hours. It takes between 6-9 hours to dry.
How will you know when it is done? Finished applesauce-based leather is evenly translucent without any moist spots, but still pliable and leathery, not crisp. Cut it into strips and roll them in on wax paper and store them in an airtight container.
Consistent thickness is more important than covering every section of your tray. If you spread the mixture too thinly, it will crack.
To create a consistent thickness, use an offset spatula. To check if you have a consistent thickness, stick a toothpick into the mixture and measure the moisture level on the toothpick. Check other areas on the sheet with separate toothpicks and compare the moisture line.
Don’t spread the applesauce (or any pureed mixture) too thinly. Yes, it will dry faster, but it will be hard to lift from the tray and will probably tear into shreds. (The shreds are still good to eat, but they’re a lot more work to get at.)
To speed up the drying process, you can flip the fruit leather after about 4 hours when the top is firm and the edges lift easily. Flip the tray onto another tray, carefully peel the leather off, and place it onto the second tray.
To learn more about the many exciting things to prepare using a dehydrator, come to the MFP Dehydrating and Freezing class at the Marshall Grange in Garden Valley, on Tuesday, Aug. 21 from 10 a.m. to noon.
For questions about safe home food preservation or to schedule a speaker for organizations or clubs on the topics of food safety or food preservation call the Master Food Preservers at 530-621-5506.
For more information go to the Master Food Preserver Website at cecentralsierra.ucanr.org/Master_Food_Preservers/. Sign up to receive the new Master Food Preservers E-Newsletter at ucanr.org/mfpenews/.
Should you need assistance or require special accommodations for any of the educational programs call 530-621-5502.