I’ve never been a sweets kind of person. Chocolate, yes. That’s a gateway drug to oblivion for me. I end up coming to, smeared in cocoa, with an over-riding sense of regret and colonic soreness. But sweets not so much.
Well, unless you count fizzy cola bottles. I love them. Can’t eat enough of those buggers.
And sherbert. Who doesn’t love sherbert? Weirdos, that’s who. I’m rather partial to an Opal Fruit too (look it up kids!). And those sour, ribbon like sweets. Oooh and liquorice laces, the red ones, not the black ones.
Err, okay, so I love sweets too. I just don’t eat them. You see, I’m an all or nothing kind of person; moderation has never really been a thing in my life. So for me, I simply avoid them. This makes trick or treating at my house a bit of a disappointment. “Satsuma, anyone?”
What if there was a natural alternative to sweets that managed to hit some of those characteristics we love; sweet, chewy, tangy, sour?
Well, as luck would have it, by applying a little ancestral wisdom to what nature supplies us with abundance, we do.
Fruit Leather is a simple technique of drying fruits into a handy, portable snack that is easy to eat and still maintains much of the goodness of fresh fruit.
Fruit sometimes gets a bad rep when it comes to fat loss. True, fruit is packed full of natural sugars, and while no-one ever got fat from eating apples, we still need to be aware of the quantities we eat if fat loss is a priority. But fruit is not really the culprit here, it’s typically the processed crap and refined sugars from other foods that is.
And while yes, excessive fruit consumption may cause some people issues, fruit is a vital source of vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants.
Fruit leather, and any dried fruit for that matter, should be considered as a treat, not as a replacement for actual fresh fruit though. Fruit in a dried form is much easier to consume. Take blueberries for example. When they are dried they reduce in weight by about a half, making a 100g of dried blueberries double the calories and sugars of their fresh form.
Basically, when we eat fruit in it’s natural, fresh form, that additional water content means we get saited (full) much quicker. The hyper-palatable, super energy-dense dried form is easy to over eat. Hence, treat it as a treat.
The benefits of fruit leather is that it retains much of the health giving properties of fresh fruit, the vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre. And it is ridiculously simple to make, often involving just a single ingredient.
Pretty much any fruit can be used, and mixing fruits will give an endless variety of flavours. We are in our wild berry season here at the moment, with raspberries just about disappearing, the blackberries coming into their full glory, and the elderberries hinting at a bounty still to come.
Essentially, fruit leather is made by pureeing the fruit, then spreading out the liquid to dry. There are a number of different techniques, some puree the fresh fruit cold, others heat the fruit first. The following is the latter technique.
I’m using freshly picked blackberries in the example below. If I’m being perfectly honest it’s not my favourite. I prefer to mix them with other fruits, crab apple and blackberry being a great combo. My all time favourite is a mixed summer berry fruit leather.
If you don’t have access to fresh berries and other fruits you can also use frozen ones.
Berry Fruit Leather
- 1 kg berries of your choice
- 250 ml water
- sweetener, to taste.
- lemon juice, to taste
- spices, optional
- Gather the fruit removing any stalks and leaves. Rinse thoroughly, and pop them into a saucepan. Add a drop of the water.
- Start on a low heat and squish the fruit with a mash potato, or a fork.
- Simmer the fruit for about 10-15 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
- Taste the puree and add some sweetener if necessary. Add little amounts and stir in. Re-taste and add more if needed. If it tastes bitter you can add a little lemon juice.
- Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes until the puree has thickened a little.
- Blend up the puree further with a stick blender or food processor.
- If you like your fruit leather smooth and seedless you can strain the puree through a sieve into a bowl. You will reduce the amount of fruit leather that you can make by half doing this.
- Line a shallow baking tray with a silicon baking sheet. If you don't have a silicon one, you can use normal baking parchment, but I have often struggled with this.Pour the liquid into the baking tray to form a layer approximately 3mm deep and carefully transfer it to the oven.
- Switch the oven on to it's lowest setting, 50-60°C with the fan on (if you have one) and leave it in for 8-12 hours. This is a good job to do overnight.
- You'll know when it's done because when you touch the surface it won't be tacky and will feel firm.
- Take it out of the oven and leave to cool.
- Gently peel from the baking sheet and cut into 25mm wide strips. Roll the strips and store in a jar.
Pay particular attention when you are transferring the tray to the oven. If you spill it your kitchen will look like a murder scene.
The fruit leather will typically stay good for about 2 weeks. You can always freeze it to last longer.
Enjoy your fruity, tangy treat and let us know which variations you like.