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How do you dehydrate fruit leather in a dehydrator?

Dehydrating fruit leather is a great way to preserve fresh fruit into a tasty, chewy snack that can last for months. With some simple preparation and the right dehydrator, you can easily make homemade fruit leathers that are naturally sweet and delicious.

Selecting the Fruit

Almost any fruit can be used to make fruit leathers, including:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Mangoes
  • Melons
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plums

Choose ripe, flavorful fruits that are in season for the best results. Wash the fruit thoroughly before use. For a fruit leather with more texture, you can leave the skins on berries, grapes, cherries or plums.

Preparing the Fruit Puree

The first step is to cook down the fruit into a thick, spreadable puree or sauce. Here are some tips for preparing the fruit:

  • Chop large fruits like apples into 1-inch chunks first.
  • Use about 2 to 4 cups of chopped fruit per puree batch.
  • Add 2-3 tablespoons of water per batch and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the fruit is very soft and broken down.
  • For berries, cherries, grapes and other juicy fruits, no extra water is needed.
  • Once soft, mash the fruit with a potato masher or immersion blender until mostly smooth.
  • For apple or pear leathers, add 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice to help prevent browning.
  • Let the puree cool before dehydrating.

Choosing a Dehydrator

An electric dehydrator with adjustable temperature settings and removable trays is ideal for making homemade fruit leathers. Look for the following features:

  • Temperature range from 90°F to 155°F
  • Fan or air flow to promote even drying
  • 4-6 stacking trays made of plastic or stainless steel mesh
  • Timer and thermostat
  • Rear-mounted or top-mounted heating element
  • Under 1,000 watts of power

Many popular brands like Excalibur, Nesco, and Presto make good dehydrators suitable for fruit leathers. Or try using a convection oven on the lowest temperature setting with the door propped open.

Preparing the Dehydrator Trays

To prevent sticking, line dehydrator trays with reusable plastic wrap or parchment paper before spreading on the fruit puree. Here are some tips:

  • Cut sheets 1-2 inches larger than the tray on all sides.
  • Lightly coat the paper with non-stick spray or olive oil if needed.
  • Overlap layers if using plastic wrap.
  • Trim off any excess material after spreading on the puree.
  • Clean and reuse liners for multiple batches.

You can also use reusable fruit leather tray liners made from silicone for easy removal.

Spreading the Fruit Puree

Spread an even 1/4 to 1/8 inch layer of fruit puree onto each lined tray in the dehydrator. Here are some tips:

  • Use a rubber spatula to spread smoothly and evenly.
  • Spread close to the edges to make full use of the tray.
  • Try swirling purees together for a tie-dyed effect.
  • Top with nuts, seeds or coconut for texture.
  • Keep the layer thin and uniform for even drying.

Dehydrating the Fruit Leather

Follow these guidelines when dehydrating fruit leather:

  • Set temperature between 135°F to 145°F.
  • Let dehydrate for 4-8 hours, checking periodically.
  • Rotate trays and flip fruit leathers halfway through.
  • Fruit is done when leathery and not sticky.
  • If puree bubbles, turn down heat.
  • Store in airtight containers or zip-top bags.

Refer to the chart below for approximate dehydrating times based on the fruit used:

Fruit Dehydrating Time
Apples 6-8 hours
Bananas 8-10 hours
Berries 4-6 hours
Cherries 5-7 hours
Grapes 8-10 hours
Mangoes 7-9 hours
Peaches 6-8 hours
Pears 6-8 hours
Pineapple 6-8 hours
Plums 7-9 hours

Flavor Variations

Try mixing fruits or adding flavorings to create different fruit leather tastes:

  • Apples + Cinnamon
  • Berries + Vanilla
  • Mangoes + Lime
  • Peaches + Honey
  • Pineapple + Coconut
  • Bananas + Peanut Butter
  • Cherries + Almond Extract

Get creative with spices, extracts, nuts, seeds, shredded coconut, or other mix-in ingredients.

Storing Dehydrated Fruit Leathers

For best quality and shelf life, store dehydrated fruit leathers:

  • In airtight containers or resealable plastic bags
  • In a cool, dark place
  • At room temperature if consuming within 1 month
  • In the refrigerator if storing 1-6 months
  • In the freezer if storing for over 6 months

Properly stored, dehydrated fruit leathers can last for up to 1 year before losing quality.

Tips for Success

Follow these tips when making fruit leather in a dehydrator:

  • Wash and prep fruit thoroughly before cooking
  • Cook purees until very soft before dehydrating
  • Spread puree thinly and evenly on trays
  • Rotate and flip leathers midway through drying
  • Make sure leathers are completely dried before storing
  • Condition leathers before eating if overly dry

With some practice, you can become an expert at making shelf-stable, wholesome fruit leathers at home.

Conclusion

Dehydrating fruit leather enables you to take fresh, ripe fruits and convert them into a sweet, chewy snack or dessert that can last for months. While it takes some time and attention, the process is actually quite simple: wash and prep the fruit, blend into a smooth puree, spread thinly onto lined dehydrator trays, and dry at around 135°F until leathery. With an efficient electric dehydrator and careful monitoring, you can easily make large batches of homemade fruit leathers from apples, bananas, berries, mangoes, pineapple and more.

Fruit leathers are a delicious way to make use of seasonal fruit harvests. They are portable, nutritious snacks packed with fiber and nutrients. Just remember to store properly once dried for longest shelf life. Be adventurous and try out unique flavor combinations too. With the right techniques, you can become a fruit leather dehydrating expert!