As we've been getting pounds and pounds of fruits and veggies in our every-other-week farm box, I admit that I've lost track of some produce from time to time. These are the things I set on the counter to ripen up a bit or put in the fridge and then promptly forgot about. For veggies, this is the kiss of death-- straight to the compost bin for sure! For fruit, not so much. It really depends. Anything short of absolute mold is probably salvageable as an ingredient in something-- bread, muffin, smoothie???
I received my new electric food dehydrator as a gift for mother's day, since then, I've also been experimenting with drying. You'd never believe that picture below represents a big bucket of fruit that most people probably would have sent straight to the bin!
We've especially been over gifted with stone fruit. Plums, plums and more plums. I do like plums but I can only eat so many of them. Also, we've gotten mostly reds and I prefer the black/darker variety--sweeter, less tart. I have worked out a great plum coffee cake/muffin/sweet bread recipe that uses lots of plums but it also has a fair amount of sugar so I can't be making that every week. We do eat the plums out of hand at lunch or for snack but we've also got bananas, pears, apples, oranges, strawberries and usually a melon of some kind as well. So we can't really afford to focus in on just one kind of fruit.
A few weeks ago, I found myself with better than a dozen plums. Some red, some black. Some under-ripe, some over-ripe. There were a few wrinkly peaches as well that had begun mummifying themselves in the back of the fridge. I peeled and chopped the whole lot (being sure to cut out any bad spots) and dumped them into a sauce pan. I added just a few tablespoons of water (less than 1/4 cup) and absolutely nothing else-- no sugar, no pectin, no gelatin! I cooked the mixture on low until the harder, unripened fruit had softened and most (but not all) of the liquid had evaporated. I had a chunky, bubbly, syrupy kind of mix. I took that and dumped the whole thing into my food processor and whirled until it was a smooth, thick liquid.
I poured the liquid onto the special fruit leather trays of my food dehydrator (that I had previously LIGHTLY rubbed with coconut oil). I tipped, swirled and spread the mixture until it was evenly distributed over the tray. Not too thick (but you could if you were going for more fruit leather consistency) and not too thin as it would likely rip too easily. This amount of fruit (approx 12 plums peeled & seeded and 3 peaches) made 2 full trays PLUS a bit of extra puree (that I used as baby food). I set my dehydrator on 135 F and walked away for about 6 hours. Most of it was dry and ready at that time. There were a few spots that had been a tad thicker that took longer to finish. You'll know the fruit is done when you can easily peel it up and the surface looks matte and there are no sticky spots. It should feel leathery.
|Dried fruit puree on dehydrator tray|
|Dried fruit on wax paper. Halve, then divide into thirds.|
|Leave wax paper on for rolling to minimize sticky problems!|
I've since repeated this with a slightly different mix of fruits. This time only maybe 8 or so plums and the rest was extremely mushy, very over-ripe pears. From reading my dehydrator's instruction manual, you can use basically any kind of fruit that has a good amount of pectin in it and it will set up nicely for you with no additives. Not sure about your fruit? Mix it 50/50 with unsweetened, organic apple sauce for extra insurance.
Yes, you absolutely can do this without a food dehydrator. BUT you will need to have an oven that will get below 200 F (or keep the door propped open) and plan to be home ALL day. Because a dehydrator has a fan, the food is getting heat AND air. As most ovens do not have a fan, the overall drying time can be much, much longer-- you may even have to do it over 2 different days!
The family loves that they get a sweet treat that really looks, feels and tastes like the store bought stuff. I love that I get to use up dodgy fruit that would (likely) be heading off to the compost bin and I know its been made with 100% fruit and no nasty artificial colors or added sugar!!
Feel free to comment below and let me know if this worked for you!
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