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Fruit ‘Jerky’

We all love those wonderful meat jerky goodies, but how about some fruit jerky . . . more commonly referred to as fruit ‘leather’.

Similar to meat jerky, fruit jerky [1]:

  • Can be dried in either an oven or dehydrator at 140-145 F degrees for 4-10 hours*
  • Is made from pureed fruit
  • Should follow tested recipes
  • Should be made using clean, sanitized equipment

These tasty, nutritious snacks are great energy boosters and a great way to get rid of over-ripe fruit, leftover purees and canned fruit.  There are many fresh fruits that can be used.  In addition, combinations of fruit make for a unique flavor. While most fruits will make a good fruit jerky, grapefruit and lemon are not recommended. They have a tendency to turn bitter when dried.

* The drying time will depend on the equipment you are using and the humidity.

 

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Another consideration when making fruit jerky is the concern of E-coli bacteria surviving the drying process. This situation can be corrected by heating the fruit to 160° F before drying.   Additional heating also results in:

  • Stopping the maturing action of the fruit enzymes
  • Preserving the natural color
  • Speeding the drying process

 

Basic Preparation for Fruit Jerky
  • Sort and wash the fruit
  • Remove any bad parts, i.e., blemishes, bruised parts, etc.
  • Pit and core as as needed
  • Remove any seeds if needed, i.e., grapes, melon, etc.
  • Peel any fruit that has a hard skin, i.e., apples, oranges, pears, peaches, etc.
  • Fruit is now ready to be cooked in a double boiler to a temperatue of 160° F.

Note:   A microwave can also be used for this process but be sure you are monitor the temperature of the fruit.

The next step  is typically to blend fruit with ascorbic acid crystals or lemon juice. This helps to protect the color and destroy bacteria during drying. For those wanting a fruit jerky with a boosted flavor, sweeter can be added to your fruit jerky in the form of honey or corn syrup. A small amount of spices may also be added for variety, but keep it minimal. About 1/4 teaspoon per 2 cups of puree.

Don’t have time to prepare fresh fruit? Then think about substituting canned fruit or strained baby fruit (without tapioca) for your recipe. Chunky fruit will need to be drained and pureed, and these substitutions will not need ascorbic acid or lemon juice as it’s already included.

Thought: Applesauce can be mixed with expensive fresh fruit puree to soften the flavor and extend the quantity.

Drying
  • Oven drying should use a clean cookie sheet with an edge that has been sprayed with vegetable spray or lined with plastic wrap. The fruit should be spread to a depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch.
  • Two cups will cover approximately a 12 x 17 inch cookie sheet.
  • When drying in a home oven the door should be left open 2-6 inches. This distance will depend on the individual oven.
  • An external thermometer should be use to maintain the correct oven temperature.
  • Testing for dryness should be frequent.
  • Dehydrator drying is best done by following the manufacturer’s directions.

 

Finished Fruit Jerky

If you’ve prepared your fruit jerky properly, it will be slightly tacky and translucent. It will also peel easily from the cookie sheet or tray. There should be no indentations left when pinched.

Should your fruit jerky crack or chip, its been dried too long – but not to worry, it’s still edible.

Fruit jerky can be stored by rolling and wrapping in plastic wrap or wax paper. Store whole roll or cut into 1″ strips. Until the fruit jerky is completely dry, the container closure should not be be tightened or completely sealed. Doing so may cause mold. Place fruit jerky in a cool, dry, dark place.

Shelf-life of Fruit Jerky

Depending on how you store your fruit jerky will determine how long it will keep.

  • Freezer – 1 year
  • Refrigerator – several months
  • Room temperature (70 degrees) – 1-2 months

The best way to may fruit jerky is to follow tried and true recipes.  You’ll find great books to help you get started on Amazon.

 

[1] http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09311.html

 

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