When I was young, I swore that I would never feed my children fruit leathers. Perhaps you know the ones I’m taking about—those geeky cousins to the fruit rollup, thick and sweetened with apple juice that most importantly do not roll up. While I was gnawing those hard and rubbery strips of dehydrated fruit product, the rest of the lunch table was eating fruit rollups. Ruby red, rolled like an unopened toy—those flawless sheets of sticky sweetness glistened in the sun of the cafeteria as they emerged from every other lunchbox but mine.
What once seemed to be my mother’s simple denial of all things delicious and normal is now clear to me as smart thinking on her part. I look at the long list of unpronounceable ingredients on the side of that box that my children are begging for, and like my mother, although I would love to ease the pain they feel with the lack of that desired treat, I just can’t bring myself to throw the box in the cart. I get it, Mom. I really do. I’m sorry it took me so long to understand.
My girls don’t go for the “fruit leathers,” either. The key to making the real deal are the two things that were missing from those leathers of my childhood: sweetness and rollability. I’ve found that the thinner the better, and a good bit of honey sweetens them just enough.
One of the great aspects of making food at home is that you are not bound to someone else’s boring flavor combinations. Blackberry-rhubarb and strawberry-peach are two of my favorites, but feel free to create new flavors with every batch.
Makes 2 to 3 dehydrator trays or 2 baking sheets
3 pounds fresh or frozen fruit (berries can be whole, apples quartered but not cored or peeled, mangoes peeled and pitted, any stone fruit pitted, rhubarb cut into 2-inch chunks)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
½ cup honey, or more to taste
1 cup applesauce, homemade or store-bought
1. Combine the fruit and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is entirely softened. Pass the puree through a food mill or fine-meshed sieve. Add the honey and applesauce and stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust the honey to your desired sweetness.
2. If using a dehydrator, follow the directions provided with your machine. Make sure that you pour the puree as thin as possible, and that you dehydrate the sheets until they are mostly dry to the touch with just a bit of stickiness. This will take between 12 and 20 hours, depending on your mixture. If using an oven, line two baking sheets with parchment. Pour the puree onto the baking sheets and bake at the lowest possible temperature for your oven (165⁰ F is ideal) for 12 to 20 hours, or until dry to the touch with just a bit of stickiness.
3. Lay the finished sheets over parchment, and with scissors, cut both layers together in rectangles. Roll the fruit and parchment together in small rolls.
Note: The drying of your fruit rollup will vary with your equipment and the fruit you use, so go by feel instead of the time that you expect. I once forgot all about my fruit rollups and by the time I got to them, they were fruit chips. If this happens to you, just change the name of the snack! Fruit chips went over pretty well at my house.
At room temperature, in a covered container, 1 month
In the fridge, in a covered container, 2 months
In the freezer, in a freezer bag, 6 months (thaw at room temperature)