Mom's Fruit Leather Innovations
by Sterling D. Allan
September 1, 1993
Mom invented fruit-leather long before fruit roll-ups were available commercially and driers were available for those more apt to make their own. The back of a hot car worked just fine. The dried fruit spools now found in the store that you have to strip from cellophane can be almost as bothersome at times as trying to peal an old inspection sticker off of a windshield. They are nothing compared to what my mom does. Not only are her methods tastier, but they are usually easier and far more economical.
Take bananas, for instance. The convention is to slice, dry, then peal them from the Saran wrap one at a time. Not so with my mom. Did you know that bananas naturally divide into three long pieces if you merely stick your finger into one end and push it through the middle? Yep, my mom discovered that one too. In place of slicing a banana into say twelve pieces with a knife, with one move of her finger, the banana plops onto the drying rack in three long, but easily dried slices. Fast? you bet. Tasty? even more so.
Then there's her version of fruit-leather. She makes virtually any fruit go twice as far by mixing it with...you'll never guess...Zucchini Squash! That's right: 50/50, she says -- only after her connoisseur has first tasted the sample. The squash serves as a base, stretching the taste of the fruit without contributing its own flavor.
When she pours her blended mixture onto the drying racks, she pours it out as if making cookies so that the finished product comes out in snack-size morsels. Sometimes she lays a slice of whole fruit on top of the blended mixture for aesthetics and taste.
You want a recipe, you say? Sorry, she doesn't have one. Each time is a little different, but the flavor and appeal is always improving. Take last night's dinner, for example. You should have seen the drink she made. I emphasize see for it was a sight that would have delighted Calvin and his buddy Hobbes. She took the juice she had strained off the peach leather, added apple cider, and put gelatin in it so it set up -- sort of. I've never seen anything with that consistency before. I couldn't help but revert back to a boyish delight as I jiggled the jug back and forth and watched the blobbity stuff twist around. The taste was equally playful -- perfect for a Summer-time refresher. Dad quipped, "I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever chewed, drank, and slurped a drink."
I won't tell you about the time in my childhood when I had a friend over and we broke into what we thought was strawberry leather and it turned out to be tomato leather. He wasn't too impressed.
Exceptions like that aside, the only problem with my mom's dried fruit is that it doesn't work well for food storage. Somehow it doesn't usually even make it into the storage room before it disappears.