Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bring on the Heat! Making Fruit Roll Outdoors

I am not a hot weather girl. I'm a wimp. I'm also a bit frugal, which translates to a woman who hates to turn on the air conditioner because I can literally hear the the bill add up. So why have I suddenly had a change of heart? What's with the hot weather hoorah? Why do I smile when thermometer hits 100 degrees?

Fruit roll....AKA fruit leather, but I grew up calling it fruit roll, so there you go.

I love the stuff...and we make it by the table full. When I was a kid, my parents used to make it. My brother and sister and I could strip the table bare in a day. It's a wonder we ever had any to store.

My kids and I usually make it with fresh fruit - bruised and overripe works fine. You can get the "ugly" stuff pretty cheap at fruit stands and the farmer's market. I've bought 40 pounds of peaches for $4 before. We'll pit it, heat it in a big pot with a bit of water to soften it up, then blend it to a puree. Don't bother to peel anything, even with the peaches. The skin adds a beautiful color, increased nutrition, and fiber. It also makes things much simpler, which is what it's all about when you've got a half dozen kids.For the record, peach, plum (delicious), apricot (favorite), nectarine, and pear all work well.

This time we had a bunch of canned fruit that had passed its prime. Awhile ago. The fruit was still good, but it gets unappealingly mushy after awhile. Enough said. We drained the cans, popped 'em in the blender, and we were good to go.

The kids set up the high tech special drying tables. By this I mean a scrap piece of plywood balanced on some 5 gallon buckets. The wood was covered with heavy black plastic garbage bags that had been cut open and clamped in place. You could probably use clothes pins to secure the plastic if your wood is thin enough. I use little spring wood clamps because I have a garage full of tools and my husband doesn't get upset anymore when I borrow them. There are advantages to being a widow at times. =]

The fruit puree was poured on top of the plastic and spread to about 1/8" thickness, then left in the sun to dry. Behold the finished product. We had to's part of the quality control process.

Before you ask, yes, the occasional bug does find its way onto the table. Be tough. Brush him off. Most stay away from it because the black plastic gets so darn hot in the sun. If your plastic touches the ground, you may have to deal with ants, though. Not fun. Keep that plastic pinned up.

When it was dry to the touch, I used a table knife to score the fruit leather and then peeled it up in sheets.

Then we placed it on saran wrap, rolled it up, and stored it in a ziplock baggie in the freezer.

One Crazy Lady's Fruit Roll

2 cans apricots
1 can peaches
1 can pears

Drain fruit and put it in the blender. Puree. Cover a flat surface with thick plastic. I prefer heavy duty contractor strength black garbage bags. Make sure the edges are secure or a breeze will blow them up and they'll stick to your fruit roll. Little spring wood clamps work great.

Pour out the fruit puree and spread about 1/8" thick. You can do this with your hand. Try to get it as even in thickness as possible, since the thin areas will dry faster. I tried making a leveling tool but my plywood wasn't quite flat. Hands it was.

Chase the kids away. They'll sneak into it. Peel up when dry and transfer to saran wrap, then roll and store in a ziplock baggie in the freezer. If you let it dry too long, it gets brittle when it cools.

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