One of my favorite things to do during the warm months is wander arround the local farmer's markets. I love to see what is in season and taste the freshest produce. Berries are a summertime staple. Stone fruits such as peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots are some of my very favorites and are in season right now. I can often buy whole boxes of them for much better prices than individually. Making your own dried fruit and fruit leather is delicious, healthy, and a great way to enjoy the season's bounty.
Using a dehydrator is one of those kitchen activities that is part cooking, part science experiment. With a blast of warm air, you can turn slices of fresh fruit and vegetables into crispy, crunchy, vitamin-packed snacks. The dehydrator fan circulates warm air for maximum evaporation of moisture from food. Keeping it at a low temperature will keep the fruits and veggies raw, arguably keeping their vitamin, mineral, and enzyme count intact. You certainly don’t need to have a dehydrator to make these snacks for you and your family; I also include directions for making these in your oven.
I include a couple of my favorite recipes, but there’s plenty of room for experimenting. Just keep these 4 steps in mind when using your dehydrator.
1. Arrange seasoned or plain slices of fruits or vegetables on dehydrator trays without overlapping. Pour fruit leather batter onto nonstick dehydrator sheets or dehydrator trays wrapped in plastic. In my dehydrator, the edges tend to dry more rapidly, so I spread fruit leather puree out so that the edges are ¼ inch thick and the center is only 1/8 inch thick.
2. Set the temperature. If you want your food to stay raw, set the temperature to 105 degrees, if you aren’t concerned with the raw aspect, set the temperature to 135 degrees to speed up drying times.
3. Check regularly and rotate trays if necessary. Turning fruits and veggies over can help ensure even drying. Dehydrating times can vary between 2 to 19 hours. To test for doneness, cut a slice. Food is dehydrated when no moisture beads appear in the cut.
4. Cool and store in an airtight container in the dark, dry place for up to a month. To get a similar result in your oven, preheat the oven to 200 degrees, use convection if you have it. Place parchment paper or a nonstick mat on a cooking sheet and arrange slices on a single layer. Place in the oven and check for doneness just as you would in a dehydrator. Times will be much shorter in the oven.
Berry Fruit Leather
4 cups raspberries
1 cup strawberries
1 orange, peeled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup raw honey
Blended very well. I blend this with my VitaMix until the seeds are ground, it makes for very smooth fruit leather.
Summer Peach Fruit Leather - My all-time favorite!
5 ripe peaches
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons agave (depending on how sweet the peaches are)
Blend well in a blender.