One of the easiest harvest-preservation methods, in my opinion, is making and drying fruit leather. This process is so simple that you and your children can enjoy doing it together without much fuss. Fruit leathers give use to bruised and imperfect fruit because the fruit is puréed. Nutritious and fun to dress up with cream cheese and spices, pear leather is sure to please as your hard working students return from school one of these crisp, fall days.
Making Fruit Leather
- 5 to 8 soft, ripe pears (should make 2-3 cups of pear puree)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 3 T. raw honey (optional)
- 1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (optional to prevent browning)
Wash, halve and core the pears. Bruised fruit is fine, but cut off and compost any rotten sections. I use pears that haven’t been sprayed so that I can leave on the skins to make this process quicker and to keep the nutrition of the skin, but you may choose to skin your pears.
Blend a generous amount of pear halves on high until smooth like pear soup. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat this process until all the pears have been puréed.
Add the cinnamon, honey and lemon juice to the purée, and mix well. The honey is completely optional, and if the pears are sweet enough, you most likely won’t need it. You can multiply up this recipe for as many dehydrating racks as you have. Play around with amounts because pear size and water content vary.
If you have a dehydrator, line your racks with drying sheets and spread the pear purée on it about 1/8-inch thick. If you don’t have a dehydrator, line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and follow the same procedure.
Set your dehydrator or oven to 140 degrees F. Dry the purée until it’s no longer mushy but not quite crispy. Fruit leather dries from the outside toward the middle so push your finger into the center and make sure no indentation remains. The time varies greatly due to the water content of the fruit, but plan for 5 to 8 hours.
While it’s still warm, peel the leather from the sheets to cool flat. You can use a cookie cutter to cut out fun shapes. Wrap the fruit leather in parchment paper and store at room temperature for about a month—if they last that long, which I doubt.
Make It Fun
You can add all kinds of fun items to your fruit leather to make it snazzy. Try coconut flakes, crushed nuts, granola, raisins or other dried fruit, small marshmallows, chocolate chips—whatever! Some ingredients, like nuts and coconut flakes, can be added to your purée and dried with your leather, but he meltable ingredients should be added with peanut butter or cream cheese after the leather is dry.
As an after school snack, homemade fruit leather is much better than a packaged product full of preservatives and corn syrup. Besides, your homemade snack will be made with a hearty measurement of homegrown love.