The remnants of tropical storm Arthur, formerly known as Hurricane Arthur, put a damper on the beginning of the July 4th holiday weekend strawberry picking. Strangely nobody wants to pick their own strawberries during a thunderstorm. Where is their sense of adventure? Oh, they’re more concerned with safety. Once the storm blew through the skies cleared up and the harvest resumed. Inspired by my tinkering with some strawberry fruit leather last week Strawberry Boy and Strawberry Girl both came home with brimming boxes of strawberries and I went back to the kitchen.
I love the idea of fruit leather since it is the distilled essence of fruit. Strawberries, a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, boiled down to a thick paste and then spread onto baking sheets and popped in a very low oven while more of the moisture evaporates. As if you could concentrate a strawberry’s soul. What you buy in the store is like a third cousin twice removed compared with what you can make at home. The two big differences between home-made and commercially made are no artificial preservatives and tons less sugar. Without all those preservatives I wondered how long the fruit leather would last, but then I watched the kids snorffle up strip after strip and realized it wasn’t going to last long enough to bother worrying about it. So I got on with making more and if you still have strawberries in your area I suggest you try these as well.
A couple of things I noticed as I made batch after batch
- You want to make sure the strawberry goo you cook down isn’t too thick or thin
- If you make a 12″ x 18″ jelly roll pan it takes a really long time for the center to dry
- Cutting the fruit leather is very sticky so try using a pizza wheel or really good pair of kitchen scissors
Strawberry Fruit Leather
4 cups pureed strawberries (about a quart and a half)
4-6 Tablespoons sugar
1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
You can puree the strawberries in a blender, food processor or juice machine. The idea is to have absolutely no lumps. If you want to make seedless fruit leather strain the strawberry juice through a very fine sieve at this point. We didn’t bother. Pour the strawberry juice into a wide saucepan or jelly pot and add the sugar and lemon juice to taste. Simmer 40-55 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced to approximately 2 cups or half of whatever you started with*. While the juice is cooking down prepare a jelly roll pan with a silpat mat or piece of parchment paper. If you cook the strawberry juice so that it is too thick you won’t be able to spread it evenly on the jelly roll pan. If you make it too thin it will run to the edges of the silpat mat or parchment paper and seep underneath. When you get the right ratio you will be able to tilt the pan and have the strawberry goo flow to cover the mat, stopping short of the edges by about 1/2″.
Pop the jelly roll pan into a preheated oven set to its lowest setting (mine went down to 170°F) somewhere between 150-200°F. Bake for 3-6 hours depending on your oven temperature until the entire surface of the fruit leather is dry enough to touch without any sticking to your fingers. Every so often turn the pan front to back since most ovens have hot spots.
Let cool, transfer fruit leather to a piece of parchment (if you baked it on a silpat mat) then cut into strips. Roll up parchment and fruit strips into little logs and secure with a piece of tape or a rubber band. Store in a bag in the fridge.
* If you stop here you will have an amazing topping for yoghurt or ice cream. You could also drizzle this thickened strawberry goo over pancakes instead of maple syrup.