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Homemade Trials

The Homemade Trials: Fruit Leather

by Nick

So there I was in the grocery store on the hunt for something I haven’t eaten in probably fifteen years: Fruit Roll-ups. I looked in the candy aisle first… no luck. Then I checked the snacks section and a few other random rows where they might keep sugar-packed treats. You know where I eventually found them?

The breakfast aisle.

Yep. That’s right. Fruit Roll-ups are considered breakfast. Go figure!

Dried fruit is one of my favorite things to snack on although I rarely would eat it for breakfast. I thought it would be fun to run a homemade version of fruit leather through The Homemade Trials next to a few popular store versions.

As always, I’ll show you how to make my version and then I’ll compare it to three other products in the areas of TIME, COST, NUTRITION, and TASTE.

My Version

I wanted to keep my version simple. I ended up adding some sugar to it, but you might not need to do that depending on the sweetness of your fruit.

Yield
10 Big Rolls
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Homemade Fruit Leather

Ingredients

  • 10 cups plums or any fresh stone fruit
  • 1 cup water
  • Sugar (to taste)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh lemon juice (to taste)

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Wash and chop fruit and add to a large pot with water. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes.

2) Mash fruit lightly and then remove from heat and let cool. Once slightly cooled, add to blender or food processor and pulse until very smooth.

3) Add back to pot, add a pinch of salt. Add sugar and lemon juice to taste. You shouldn't need more than 1/2 cup of sugar.

4) Lay out silicon baking mats or parchment paper on baking sheets and spread mixture over the top until it's in an even layer.

5) Bake fruit for 8-10 hours at 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit.

6) Remove fruit and let cool. Slice and roll up in plastic wrap. Store in the fridge for up to a week or freeze.

You could use any stone fruit for this recipe. Try peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, etc. Just grab the most ripe and delicious fruit you can find.

I went with plums on this particular day. Once you’ve picked a fruit just dice them up and add them to a pot with some water.

starting fruit

Plum delicious.

Bring that to a simmer and let the fruit break down for about ten minutes.

Then let the mixture cool for a few minutes and blend it up! You can also use a food processor if you want. If you want a really smooth finished product, it’s pretty important to blend it well.

Once you’ve blended it, add it back to the pot and season it with a pinch of salt. This is where you can start tasting it and adjusting for sweetness and tartness. If you find some perfect fruit, it’s possible that you might not need to add anything to it!

In my case, I added about 1/2 cup of sugar and the juice from one lemon. It tasted great after that though so I knew it would at least taste good at the end.

done

Twenty minutes and one blender later.

I wasn’t entirely sure the best way to leatherize this stuff so I tried out two methods.

I used a fancy silpat mat for one version and just plain old parchment paper for the other. Both worked just fine!

ready to bake

THought it would be too thick…

Bake these guys on the lowest setting your oven will go which should be 150-170 degrees Fahrenheit. They will need to bake 8-10 hours so what I recommend is just sticking them in before you go to bed and when you wake up they should be pretty perfect.

You’ll know they are done because if you touch them they should fill leathery but not sticky or wet at all.

Then let them cool and you can just peel them off the sheets. It’s pretty cool actually.

peeling

Cool.

Then if you want to make individuals servings, just slice them into smaller pieces and roll them up in some plastic wrap.

cutting

One big piece.

Here’s my own homemade little roll-up!

You should probably store these in the fridge and they should keep fine for at least a week. You could freeze them also though and they would keep for months.

done

Rolled up indeed.

Ok… Now that you know how to make the stuff, let’s get down to business.

TIME

This should be no shocker, but it takes over ten hours to make this at home even though most of the time is inactive time. I literally slept while they cooked.

Even with that though, TIME has to go to store-bought brands. Homemade is work intensive. No two ways about it.

COST

I figured if there was one category I would probably dominate, it would be cost. I was very right!

The key to this is making sure you get fruit that is in-season. It’ll be cheaper that way and also taste better.

The key part is to look at the total servings line in the above chart. My homemade version made a lot of dried fruit. It worked out to be cheaper than any store-bought version I could find. In some cases the savings is pretty significant.

COST goes to HOMEMADE!

NUTRITION

I wasn’t exactly sure where my version would stack up. The Apple Roll and Apricot leather that I bought were from a company called Stretch Island Fruit Co. and they don’t add any sugar to their fruit so I was concerned that I had to add some to mine.

Strangely, the product that has sugar listed as the second ingredient (roll ups) has the least amount of sugar. It is also pretty much void of any actual fruit nutrition though. In fact, all of the fruit leathers except my homemade version are made with concentrate as the primary ingredient. If you want whole fruit in your fruit leather, you’re going to have to make it.

If you want to get really finicky here, I guess you could pick a winner, but at the end of the day all of these were basically the same on the nutritional chart. If you were concerned about the nutrition of the homemade version, you could leave out the extra sugar or reduce it a bit.

I’m going to call NUTRITION a TIE. When you look at the info I just can’t say that my version is somehow better than any of the others.

Now… that said… I’m biased toward products that use whole fruit instead of concentrate. I would like to think that my version has lots of vitamins and natural benefits that the others might lack, but that’s impossible to prove.

TASTE

taste

Testing…

Ok. I was confident that I could beat the fluorescent roll-ups in the taste department, but I wasn’t sure about the other two.

Betsy and I both tasted them all and agreed immediately.

The worst was the fruit roll ups. It didn’t taste like anything really. It just tasted fake. Like candy, not fruit. Because it is.

Next was the fruit leather from Stretch Island. Bets and I both agreed that it’s problem was that it was too thick and really chewy.

My version and the apple roll from Stretch Island were a tie. Both were very flavorful and good!

CONCLUSION

This one is pretty easy for me to call, but there are some conditionals.

If you aren’t too concerned about saving money, then just buy these guys. They are pretty work intensive. But don’t buy fake ones. Look for ones with no or little added sugar. My personal favorite was the Stretch Island apple roll.

If you are trying to save money or want to try flavors that aren’t offered (plum for example), then make these suckers! I was really happy with how my homemade ones came out, but it’s probably not worth it to make them all the time.

What do you think? Is anybody going to try to make these?

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13 comments on “The Homemade Trials: Fruit Leather

  1. This post is perfect timing! My husband just got a dehydrator and wants to make fruit leather, so we will definitely be making your recipe!

  2. I so want to do this (and your jerky recipe) but my oven’s lowest setting is 200 – and I’m pretty sure that’s really like 275! Do you think it would work to turn on the broiler (it’s underneath the oven box) but put the food in the oven? Or would that still be too hot?

    1. Hmm… hard to say Heather. if you are interesting in trying it I would pick up a cheap oven thermometer so you can monitor your temp and know what you are working with.

  3. One thing to consider also is all the chemical preservatives and food coloring. Red food dye alone is bad enough and is found in almost every brand http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth_(dye) it is banned in many country’s because it causes cancer. In fact in china you can get 15 years in prison for putting it in food. And that’s not the long list of other chemicals in these things i would go with home made for that reason alone plus they are easy in the dehydrator!

    1. Ya… I do when I’m cooking something like this (super low heat, almost impossible to burn). But yes… my lawyers are telling me that it’s might not be the safest thing in the world.

  4. I agree about the additives. I think you should include that in the nutritional comparison. Yours may not be better in terms of sugar and salt but to me that’s less important than avoiding food colorings and “natural” and “aritificial” flaverings.

  5. Just an thought, but how much electricity or gas would be used during this 10 hour process? I can’t image the end result would actually save any money once that is factored in. Have you thought about that cost before?

    Thanks!

    1. Hmm… i’m not sure how you would really monitor that. It’s pretty low because the temp is so low on the stove, but it definitely does use some gas/electricity. I would be surprised if it added more than $1 to your bill, but hard to know. Good point though. That could even out the costs a bit.

  6. I think I must be the only adult in America who has never tried fruit roll ups. I always assumed they weren’t real fruit so I never bothered. Your version actually looks tasty, but I think before I went to the trouble, I’d try to find the store-bought version to see if I even liked the things!

    On the other hand, I made my first batch of homemade granola last night and, just as I said about hummus, I will never buy store-bought again!

  7. I wonder of one of those food dehydrators they used to hawk on TV would be more efficient? :)

    Serious question, how do you estimate things like sodium and carbs with your homemade versions?

    1. Yea… I think a dehydrator would definitely be more efficient since that’s what it is designed to do.

      For those estimates, I weigh my ingredients and look up basic nutritional info online for whatever fruit I’m using. Then do some serious spreadsheet math and it spits out a number. In this case, it’s an estimate, but I think it’s probably a good one considering how close it is to the actual nutritional info provided by the purchased stuff. I’d be worried if it was really far off one way or the other.

      1. Hope you remember to thank your previous Math teachers so you can do that “serious spreadsheet math”. I have enjoyed all the recipes I have tried from your site. Keep posting. Your site is my first choice when I look for a new recipe!

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