• 2 cups strawberries, chopped small (or other fruit of your choice)
  • 1/3 cup honey (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

How about an experiment? An experiment so simple, you might think your eyes are deceiving you. If you buy fruit roll-ups at the store, take a break from that and give making your own a shot. What supermarkets call fruit roll-ups, the DIY world calls fruit leather. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also free of any preservatives. AND…  you control the type and amount of sweetener. What’s not to love?

Fruit leather is essentially pureed fruit, dried in the oven or a dehydrator. Although a dehydrator makes for a faster process, you can easily do it in the oven. If you try this recipe and suddenly find yourself obsessed with making fruit leather, you might consider investing in a dehydrator. Not only will you save time, but you’ll also cut down on your energy consumption. There’s a huge difference between plugging in a small dehydrator and completing the drying process in 4-6 hours, and getting the equivalent product in 12-14 hours in your oven. (For what it’s worth, this is the dehydrator I use at home. I bought it at a local Meijer store for around $45.) If you do make the investment in a dehydrator, you’ll be happy to realize you can use it for all sorts of projects, including drying other fruits and veggies from your garden or the farmers market.

BUT… today we’re talking about making fruit leather in the oven! The active time in this recipe is very brief… just 20 minutes or so. But it will be in the oven at a very low temperature for a long time… anywhere from 6 to 14 hours, depending on the quirks of your oven, the water content of your fruit, and even factors like the humidity in your home. I have done this recipe in the past and had yummy fruit leather in less than 8 hours, and then later made the exact same recipe, but it took closer to 10 or 12 hours to finish. I suggest putting it in the oven at night before bed, or early in the morning after you wake up. Once I made the mistake of putting the fruit in the oven at 5:00pm, which resulted in several middle-of-the-night trips downstairs to check on the drying process. (I made that mistake only once, thank you very little.)

Some quick notes…

1. Although this recipe uses strawberries, any fruit will work. So, if strawberries aren’t your thing, pick something that you love.

2. Frozen fruit can be used if fresh is not readily available. Let the fruit thaw, and drain as much water as you can from it before putting into the food processor or blender.

3. This recipe can easily be doubled. Just prepare two baking trays, and place your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven so you’ll have room for both trays. Rotate the trays between racks several hours into the dehydrating process.

4. Scroll past the instructions below to see photos for every stage of the process. (Sorry for the lack of magazine-worthy photos, but I was snapping pics on the fly throughout the process. At least they’ll give you an idea of what to look for in the drying process.)

OK troops. Let’s make some fruit leather.

Instructions

*See ingredient list at top of post. 

1.  Set your oven at a very low temperature, as low as 140 degrees. (My oven only goes as low as 170 degrees, so I make the fruit leather at that temperature. But don’t go any higher, or your fruit leather will turn into a crispy, crumbly fruit mess.)

2.  Combine the strawberries, honey, vanilla extract, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth. The consistency will be similar to a (not-too-thick) fruit smoothie.

3.  Line a 9 x 13 rimmed baking pan with parchment paper. Pour the fruit puree on the parchment, and spread to a thickness between 1/8 and 1/4 of an inch. (A thinner layer will dehydrate faster.)

4.  Put tray on a rack in the middle of the oven, and bake until the fruit puree darkens and takes on a tacky feel, similar to store-bought fruit roll-ups. This could happen as quickly as 6 hours, but more likely will take closer to 10 hours. (Possibly longer.)

5.  When the fruit leather has reached the desired consistency, remove the tray from the oven to cool.

6.  Once cool, peel the fruit leather in one large piece away from the parchment paper.

7.  Use kitchen shears to cut into strips. Cut long pieces of wax paper, slightly narrower in width than your fruit leather strips.

8.  Place one fruit strip on top of one piece of wax paper and roll up into a scroll. Repeat with remaining fruit strips.

9. Store one month at room temperature; up to one year in the freezer.

 

The Process in Pictures

2 cups strawberries, reporting for duty.

 

Puree of strawberries, honey, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Ready to be spread on baking tray.

 

On tray, ready for oven. Puree is spread to thickness of 1/4 to 1/8 of an inch.

 

Trays in the oven. I doubled the recipe to get more fruit leather in the same amount of time. If you do this, be sure to rotate the trays between racks at least once during the dehydration process.

 

The fruit leather is done when it has a tacky feel to it, and it can be peeled off of the parchment paper like this. (Similar to the texture of a fruit roll-up you would buy at a grocery store.)

 

Once cool, use kitchen shears to cut the fruit leather into strips. They can be long or short, wide or narrow.

 

Cut strips of wax paper, slightly narrower in width than your prepared fruit leather. Place a piece of fruit leather on top of a strip of wax paper, and roll up into a scroll.

 

Fruit leather, at your service.