The Homemade Trials: Fruit Leather
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Then if you want to make individuals servings, just slice them into smaller pieces and roll them up in some plastic wrap.
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.
Ok… Now that you know how to make the stuff, let’s get down to business.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?