Fruit Leather: Preserving & Snacks
Learn how to make your own fruit leather with Jeff Hake of Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains. Making fruit leather is a great way to preserve fruit at its peak ripeness while also making delicious, nutritious snacks. The lessons in this class can be adapted to a wide variety of small fruits, but the class will highlight local black currants sweetened with local maple syrup. Black currants are a bush fruit of emerging importance in the Midwest, and offer a juicy tartness you'll love. Once you know how to make fruit leather, you'll want a lot more in your life.
Jeff Hake is an owner of Funks Grove Heritage Fruits & Grains in McLean, Illinois along with his wife and her brother. He loves farming, foraging, and cooking, and getting people as interested in those things as he is.
Tools & Supplies:
- Medium saucepan
- Rubber spatula
- Sieve or food mill
- Two baking sheets
- Two sheets of parchment paper (cut to fit the baking sheets)
- Kitchen scissors
- Combine the black currants and maple syrup in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat if sticking occurs, until the fruit is somewhat broken down and the mixture has thickened. The volume will have been reduced by about half in the pan, and the mixture will weigh 18-22 ounces.
- Allow to cool slightly, then use the rubber spatula to scrape all of the mixture into the sieve placed over a bowl. Use the rubber spatula to continuously push the mixture across the sieve screen, forcing the juice and finer pulp through the screen.
- This step takes a while.
- When it seems no more is going to go through, use the spatula to also scrape the clinging puree off the bottom of the sieve and into the bowl. Set the remaining pulp of stem, seeds, and skin aside.
- Use this pulp to infuse alcohol or vinegar.
- Spread the parchment paper over the baking sheet. Scoop approximately 1 cup of puree onto one of the parchment sheets and use the spatula to carefully spread the puree into a thin, even layer that reaches close to the edges of the paper in a rough rectangle. Repeat with the remaining puree, scraping the bowl and using your fingers, a spoon, or another spatula to get every last bit onto the sheet.
- If the paper is curled from being on the roll, place the curl down so the paper can't roll back up.
- This step also takes a while and can be tedious.
- You can use your spatula almost like a paintbrush as needed, painting your edges and moving puree around the sheet to help make a thin layer all the way across.
- The paper will wrinkle slightly. That's okay.
- Put both sheets in the oven and set it to 170 degrees F. Let dehydrate for 3.5-4 hours, until the top is still tacky to the touch but does not move significantly.
- No need to preheat. It will warm up to 170F very quickly.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
- Using kitchen scissors, cut the paper and leather into ~1.5" strips, or whatever width or shapes you like. Peel & enjoy!
- The edges may be crispy and will shatter when you cut them. That's okay. The shattered pieces are still edible.
*Once the sheets are dehydrated, they are shelf-stable. Keep them in a bag (preferably sealed to keep out moisture) in a place out of direct sunlight, or in the fridge.
**You can store them rolled or as whole sheets.
***They make a good quick snack, can be cut up to use as cake or pastry decorations, pieces can be added to charcuterie boards, strips can be used to rim cocktail glasses, or they can be rehydrated and used as a spread.