Ever since Greyson was a baby my husband and I have really enjoyed making his own food. From baby food to snack pouches, making his snacks from scratch has helped us not only introduce new flavors but it gives us control over what he eats. Sure, picking up a box of pre-made snack bars or fruit leather – even the organic kind – is a convenient and healthier option. But, what I began to notice about these kinds of snacks, particularly in snacks that contain fruit, was the amount of concentrated fruit juice or puree that was included. By using juice from concentrate, the sugar content are going to be higher and sugar is the number one thing we, as a family, keep a keen eye on.
Our son is already a busy boy at three years old, which means it’s so important that we are mindful of his diet and the servings of sugar that are found in his food and drinks. Natural sugars are the best, but with that being said, we are always finding new ways to keep Greyson on track. Plus, it’s a great way to get him involved in the cooking process! From picking out the fruits himself at the store to helping me puree, Grey is along every step of the way!
Selecting your ingredients
I love shopping at Sprouts because of their fresh selection of fruits and veggies! You can always opt for your favorite farmer’s markets, too – but in San Diego there’s not much in the way of those downtown. The best part of making fruit leather from scratch is that you can use up the fruit you have on hand or quickly catch those pieces that are turning, which helps cut down on food waste. I also love browsing their limited time fruits! This weekend Grey and I found dragon fruit!
Don’t feel confined to any particular combination of fruits and veggies for your fruit leather, either! I love seeing what’s fresh, in season, and even picking a couple of new things to sneak in there. This go-around I am making Grey’s homemade fruit leather that includes:
- dragon fruit
- butternut squash
I bought the pre-cubed butternut squash, but certainly pick up a whole one and do it yourself if you’re so inclined. Otherwise, simply wash and begin slicing and cubing the fruit you’ve chosen. Be sure to keep in mind that the cook times of different fruit are going to be different. We’re looking to puree it all, so some pieces of fruit will need to be cut smaller just so it boils and becomes tender all around the same time.
- Peel and dice apples into small cubes. Apples take longer to cook, so the smaller the pieces the better.
- Peeling the skin off of fruit like apples and pears is key! I forgot that step last time and had the hardest time making a complete puree without chunks.
- Quarter other fruits like apricots, plums, and mangoes – and be sure to remove the seeds!
Use a large soup pot to boil your fruit and veggies. I put water in that covers up to 1-2 inches of the bottom of the pot. This way the fruit has plenty of wiggle room to cook down and any water is going to be cooked off anyways in the oven.
Keep your fruit at a low boil, so about a med to med-high temperature on your stove-top. In my combination the apples will need time to cook the longest, so I cover my pot and let it rumble for about 15 minutes or so. I periodically stir just to keep anything from sticking.
Optional: add spices like cinnamon or even add a little sugar to your pot at this point (I love Trader Joe’s pumpkin pie spice blend!). Because I chose fruit that has a good amount of sweetness already, I skipped this step. But, it’s all about personal preference. You can even add some lemon juice, too, to just to brighten it up!
Making the puree
I purchased this Mueller hand blender from Amazon and my life has completely changed. You can easily use a food processor, but I did that for years. Actually, I used our Nutri-bullet (same thing, right?!) which gets the job done, but it’s a hassle to puree the amount of fruit I’m trying to use and since it’s a hot liquid I don’t have to worry about sealing and unsealing the top of our Nutri-bullet.
Forewarning: using a Nutri-bullet for hot liquids can sometimes cause splatters and burns from releasing the pressure too soon.
By the end of your pureeing you should have something that looks a little like this. The amount of water I used at the beginning is the perfect amount if you’re looking to include a variety of ingredients. You should have a puree that is a little thick but still moves around. Because we are going to bake it in the oven, the low temps allow for the dehydrating and the water will therefore be cooked off leaving us with beautiful leather!
Baking your puree
Using a large cookie sheet, you are going to line it with parchment paper. Doing so allows for your fruit puree to bake without sticking to your pan. Once you’ve lined it, simply pour your puree and move it so that it sits at about half an inch. Spread it a little – especially to the corners – to ensure it’s even.
You’re going to pop it in the oven at about 170 degrees. I’ve read recipes that say 150 degrees, but 170 is the lowest temperature my oven can be set to. I wouldn’t recommend anything higher because the goal is low and slow, but consider your own oven settings. The baking process will take at least 12 hours, but I’ve prepared my leather before at night and set it to bake overnight with perfect results.
Once you place your cookie sheet in the oven, walk away and go about your day. Periodically check on it, but don’t touch it for at least 12 hours or until it has darkened and reduces with the water having been cooked completely off.
Enjoying your newest favorite snack!
When the leather is ready to come out of the oven let it cool just slightly. You want to peel it up as a whole from your pan and slice before it cools completely otherwise it’ll set and be more difficult to cut. I slice mine vertically to make the perfect serving size, but feel free to slice it any way you want (or use fun cookie cutters!). After I slice them in columns I use scissors to cut the parchment paper. I then begin to roll them, along with the parchment paper, into neat fruit rolls!
There are enough rolls to last me the whole month and Greyson is always so excited to have one during the day. Not only is he getting fresh servings of fruits, but I’m able to sneak in some veggies, too! Store in an air-tight container and place in the fridge. You can freeze them, too, but I swear your kiddos will eat them sooner than that!
Homemade Fruit Leather
- Large soup pot or dutch oven
- Immersion blender or food processor
- Large cookie sheet
- Parchment paper
- Peeler, knife, rubber spatula, spoon
- 3 cups water, boiling should sit 1-2 inches from bottom of your pot.
- fresh fruit and veggies, peeled and diced select any fruit and veggies that are in season and ripe.
- 1 lemon (optional)
- 2 tbsp pumpkin spice seasoning (optional)
- Preheat your oven to bake at 150-170 degrees. The lower the setting the better, but always check your oven settings as they can vary.
- Prep all fruit and veggies by peeling the skins and cutting into diced pieces
- Fill a large soup pot or dutch oven with enough water to cover about 1-2 in. of the bottom. Set to med to med-high temperature and bring to a steady boil.
- Add diced fruits and veggies to boiling water. Boil for about 15 minutes until all pieces are fork tender. Do not drain your water.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend ingredients in pot to form a puree. It should be thick but still move like a liquid. If too thick, add tablespoons of water if necessary to reach the right consistency.
- Optional: add seasonal spices like cinnamon, sugar (to likeness), or pumpkin spice blends for flavor. Add juice of one lemon to add brightness and to act as a preservative.
- Prepare your cookie sheet with parchment paper. The paper should extend over the sides of your sheet by at least 1 inch. Pour fruit puree onto your prepared sheet and spread evenly using a rubber spatula – especially into the corners.
- Place the cookie sheet into the oven and bake for at least 12 hours or overnight. For best results, bake until the puree has reduced and is about a few centimeters thick.
- Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. While still warm, peel the fruit leather up off of the parchment paper and slice with a knife, making even columns. Using scissors, cut the parchment paper and roll the leather, along with the paper, making equal servings. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 1 month.