Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fallen Fruit Leather - No Sugar Added

 Sounding slightly unappetizing, this is actually a tremendously delicious way of using fruit abundance as it comes - instead of waiting until all the apples (plums, pears) ripen. The fallen fruit is usually either ahead of the game (i.e. nearly ripe) or at times is damaged by birds, hail, worms. Unattractive perhaps, but still is mostly good and tasty. In a very productive year, dealing with fallen fruit is something quite challenging - it overwhelms the compost and the farm animals pretty fast.

Daily picking of fallen fruit really truly works as a magic answer to orchard infestations with all sorts of pests - ranging from coddling moth (insects) to mice and wasps (wasps are not really pests as they play a beneficial role in the orchard health, but they will sting and pester you all the same if you let them feast on rotting fruit). Late summer fruit tree chores must include regular and rigorous fallen fruit picking. This is what allows us to run our 15+ trees home orchard completely spray free, and pest free with beautiful fruit that is undamaged by worms.

Once the fallen fruit (apples in particular) begins to look nearly ripe, it is time to see if it is worth your time to start processing all that bounty into something that can be stored. With our eye on juicing apples later in season, we know that surplus of ripe apples will quickly become juice (it takes about one 5 gal bucket of apples to make a quart of juice). But what to do with the almost ripe fruit?

Drying is a good answer - it concentrates naturally present sugars and creates a very nice flavor without excessive heat, rigorous processing (as in canning), or additives (sugar). Surely this can be done using solar dehydrator, but an electrical dehydrator is much easier and by far more effective when it comes to making leathers."American Harvest" has lasted over 10 years in our house with heavy seasonal use, and we recommend it highly. It is important to know that dehydrators use a lot of electricity.

Here is how to do Fallen Fruit Leathers:

  • Gather fruit you have - alone or in mixture - apples and peaches work excellent by themselves, or as sweet additive for plums, apricots and pears.
  • Core and steam your fruit (except peaches and apricots - use these pitted raw). Don't add any water if possible - in the Southwest the fruit tends to run drier and some water might be needed so fruit does not burn.
  • Put it all through the blender, until very smooth. Our ratio is one large pot of chopped fruit = 1.5 blender-fulls = about 2.5 trays of puree.

Line your dehydrator trays with wax paper. NOTE: there is paper out there that contains paraffin - and chlorine - and all sorts of other stuff - which is toxic. Read your labels carefully. "If You Care" brand (we found it in our local food co-op) is something to consider. Cutting wax paper to fit your trays is the only headache of this project - with some patience you get it all nice and good - you do need to have a little extra paper so the puree does not spill onto the tray.

Turn on your dehydrator and begin.... Start with high setting, for 4-5 hours, then check the trays, lower the heat to middle setting for 2-3 hours. Crank it up again for 1-2 hrs, and see if you are done. The leather will be dry, not brittle but leathery and non-sticky. If you are patient you can remove the paper without tearing it. It will not remove if the leather is not completely dry. You can reuse the paper for the next round of fallen fruit.

Dry leather is cut into 4 pieces and rolled in new wax paper for storage. At this point I recommend storing the rolls in an airtight jar, and refrigerate it as a precaution against moths that seem to find their way into the leather at times. I suggest keeping few rolls non-refrigerated in a jar just to experiment on what works in your particular case and home setting. 

And, yes, this can be done in the oven too! Use lowest oven temperature setting, and watch your leather like a hawk so it does not burn. Your ideal temperature is around 130F which not something easily maintained in every oven. Pour the puree as thinly as possible to avoid prolonged oven use.


Dash Interiors said...

This is my kinda thang no sugar added!! Lovely blog first time here!
Nice to meet you!

Arina said...

to be sure, fruit has plenty of natural sugar - which is still sugar! So that is something to be eaten in moderation, a special concentrated morsel for winter delight.

Anonymous said...

you can use parchment paper, available at cooking stores (look in the baking section), instead of wax paper. The benefits of this are twofold 1) it doesn't contain nasty chemicals and 2) it is reusable and doesn't burn.

Helen said...

I love than you have a mixed background (both American and European). Looking forward to follow your blog!