Category Archives: Drying

Inside Family Time for Winter: Fruit Roll-Ups

In many parts of our country, it is that time of year when some of us P1010166
are spending more hours (or even days) than usual inside the house
with children. If you have a food dehydrator, you can pull that out and make some simple fruit roll-ups with young ones. Making your own fruit roll-up snacks can also provide a snack option lower in sugar than some commercially made ones.

The major skill needed is to be able to evenly spread a fruit puree in a very thin layP1010165er (about 1/8-inch thick) onto a lined dehydrator tray. So a second skill might be pureeing of fruit if you don’t have an apple or other fruit sauce already canned. You can use your own homemade fine applesauce puree or buy commercial sauce.  More directions for choosing and preparing fruit, as well as flavoring suggestions can be found at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website   or in some state Extension factsheets such as this one from Colorado State University.

Unsweetened applesauce makes an easy already-pureed fruit ready to spread on your dryer sheets. You can add some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to taste; or purchase some applesauces already flavored with spice or other fruits.

Drained canned fruits as well as frozen fruits make other easily available ready-to-puree fruit. You can easily purchase canned fruits packed in water or light syrups to reduce the sugar content, and frozen fruits can be purchased in unsweetened forms if you haven’t frozen them that way yourself. Strained baby fruits also make an even, fine puree to use. If the winter weather is not keeping you from accessing fresh fruits at your local store, be sure to choose ripe to very ripe fruit for pureeing. The Colorado directions for fresh fruits call for cooking a puree; other sources such as in our directions call for just pureeing the fresh fruit.

When preparing your trays, avoid pouring the fruit puree too close to the edges. Leave about ½-inch margin or more so you are able to get an edge to peel the leather away from the tray when it is dried.

Larger leathers take longer to dry; you can cover the dryer tray as shown, or pour smaller, individual sized circles to dry smaller roll-ups. The best drying temperature is 140 degrees F. Test often for dryness; times can vary a lot from 4-10 hours depending on your method and fruit.  No indentations should remain if you lightly touch the leather, even though it might still feel a bit tacky. If the leather peels readily from your tray, and there are no indentations remaining, it should be properly dried. Leaving too much moisture can lead to molding or other spoilage in storage.

See the references above for more complete instructions as well as storage directions. However, if the extra winter-time indoors is really getting to your family, your fruit roll-ups may be gobbled up quickly and not be stored all that long!

For more on recommended food drying procedures, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Beaucoup Blueberries

blueberries in bowlBetween June and July chances are pretty good that you can get your hands on fresh blueberries, whether from a grocery store, a farm market, or your own backyard. People increasingly like blueberries for their nutrition and health benefits, but people have liked them for a long time just because they taste so good! Whether you prefer the larger, commonly cultivated highbush blueberries or the smaller, wild lowbush blueberries, you have many options for preserving the blueberry bounty.

Canning Whole Berries

If you like to add whole berries overtop oatmeal or if you haven’t decided exactly how you’ll use them later, then you might want to simply can Berries – Whole using a boiling water canner. You have the option to add a sugar syrup or juice to further sweeten or flavor the berries, or you can just add water, as specified in the directions.

Canning Berry Syrup

Berry Syrup can be made with or without the inclusion of whole berries, as recommended in 3crushedfruitthe directions. First you will crush then strain a juice made of the berries (setting aside 1 or 2 cups of berries to add whole, if desired), then you will heat it with sugar into a thickened syrup.

Canning Blueberry Pie Filling

For a pie filling that’s ready-to-go into the oven any time of year, prepare and can Blueberry Pie Filling. For this recipe, you will need to plan ahead to make sure you have Clear Jel® available.

rolling boil

Blueberry Jams

Blueberries are lower in natural pectin than is needed to form a good gel-structure, so you’ll add commercial pectin or combine blueberries with another, more pectin-rich fruit to make blueberry jams. There’s nothing wrong with a plain Blueberry Jam, but you could also try these varieties of blueberry jam jarsBlueberry Jams combined with other fruits and flavors: Blueberry-Spice Jam, Spiced Blueberry-Peach Jam, and Blueberry Currant Jam.

Freezing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA simple way to make those sweet berries last longer and remain versatile for purposes to be determined at a later time is to freeze them. Freeze blueberries using the tray pack method for best results. Blueberries freeze well even without sugar added, and then you don’t have to calculate that amount of added sugar into your final recipe if you decided to cook or bake with them. Remember these General Freezing Tips for Packaging and Labeling Frozen Foods.

Drying

Last but not least, you could dry blueberries into a lightweight trail-side snack or granola ingredient. Just be sure to puncture the side walls of the berries so that they do not trap in moisture and get case-hardened (use a toothpick to poke all the way through each berry before drying).blueberries on a dryer tray

To learn more about blueberries, visit our University of Georgia blueberry page, and for even more about blueberries, check out the national eXtension blueberry site.

Roll Up the Flavor!

P1010165Making fresh Fruit Leather is an easy way to extend the flavor of the season (and a great use for leftover fruit pulp from making jelly).  If you’re looking for something to do with your kids or grandchildren, making fruit leather roll-ups is a fun activity with tasty rewards.

What is fruit leather? Fruit leather is pureed fruit that has been poured in a thin layer and dried on a flat surface. If it is then peeled from the surface and rolled into a tube-shape, then we call it a roll-up.fruit leather rolled up

What equipment do I need to make it? In addition to whatever you need to prepare the fruit (e.g. knife and cutting board), you’ll need a blender, food processor, or food mill and

  • a dehydrator with specially designed solid plastic tray inserts, or fruit leather on tray
  • an oven that registers 140°F, cookie sheets, and plastic wrap.

Why bother making it yourself? In addition to getting to pick your favorite fruits and have fun in the process, making your own fruit leather can save you money as compared to store-bought versions. Even better, homemade fruit leather can be made without the added sugars found in commercially made varieties (although you have the option to add sugar, corn syrup, or honey to sweeten if desired).

leather roll upsWhich fruits should I use? Apples, apricots, berries (with seeds), cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, pineapples, prune plums, and strawberries are all excellent choices for making fruit leather. Citrus fruits, cranberries, guavas, papayas, and blueberries will hold up best in combination with other fruits from the above list or applesauce. Combining applesauce with any of these fruit purees works very well to extend the product, decrease tartness and make the leather smoother and more pliable.

Are there any fruits I should not use? Avocados, currants, melons, olives, persimmons, and pomegranates are not suitable for making fruit leather because of fat content, seeds, low acidity or high moisture content.

For complete directions to make your own fruit leather and tips for adding flavor and interest with spices, flavorings, garnishes, and fillings, follow these instructions on the National Center website.

Making the Most of Mint

If you have seen mint growing in the ground then you know – give it an inch, and it will take a yard…and perhaps the sidewalk too. What to do with all that mint? After sipping a cup of fresh mint tea, you can harvest all those leaves to make delicious mint jelly and dry them for a year’s worth of refreshing mint tea. (You may also want to dig up those plants and re-plant them into containers – mint does well in pots.)

Classic Mint Jelly requires the addition of a strongly acidic ingredient in order to produce a gel-structure, as you’ll see in our recipes for Mint Jelly (with cider vinegar) and Mint Jelly (with lemon juice). These two recipes are very similar, but the quantities of mint and water vary slightly to adjust to the required proportion of a strong acid ingredient (i.e. more vinegar than lemon juice, so less water added to the version with vinegar). Green food coloring is listed in the ingredient list for the version made with cider vinegar, but it is optional, and note that it is also optional in the recipe made with lemon juice. Mint Jelly is traditionally served with roast lamb, and it can also be mixed into other sauces and gravies.

Mint is a tender-leaf herb, which means that it has high moisture content and therefore will mold if not dried quickly. To dry mint, try hanging it inside a paper bag that has holes torn in the sides for air to circulate through. Use a rubber band to secure the base of the stems to the top do the bag. The bottom of the bag will catch the dried leaves as they fall. If you live in a region with high humidity and/or don’t have a location where air currents can pass through the bag, then you may get better results from drying leaves individually. To do so, remove leaves from the stems, space them apart on a paper towel, cover with another paper towel and layer up to 5 layers. Place the layers of paper towels and leaves in a cool oven – the oven light of an electric range or pilot light of a gas range will be enough. (Higher heat could easily burn the leaves, and the paper.) The finished, crispy dry leaves can be left whole or crumpled into an airtight storage container. Dried mint is can be substituted into recipes that call for fresh mint, using 1/3-1/4 of the amount listed.

For more information about growing and using mint, read this publication from UGA Extension: Herbs in Southern Gardens.