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Friday, August 12, 2011

Dehydrating Fruit - Making Fun Fruit Roll-ups!

My children, and my husband, love fruit roll-ups.  My son will eat a whole box in one sitting if I let him, so making my own was an easy decision.  I love buying fresh fruit at the markets and roadside farms, and my mother in-law brings over tons of fresh berries through-out the summer months.  Sometimes there just is too much fruit in the house, and the best way to preserve it is to dehydrate it.  Making fruit roll-ups is also a great way to use up slightly over-ripe, bruised, or "ugly" fruit, because it is pureed.  Just clean it well, and remove the bruised or ugly parts before putting in the food processor.  The best part of making your own fruit roll-ups is that you do not have to add sugar to the fruit.  Dehydrating fruit roll-ups is also one of the easiest ways to preserve fruit, and most kids love the stuff, so it is a win-win situation.

The first thing you want to do is get a dehydrator.  I had one for many years, and it had a fan and temp dial, which makes dehydrating much easier and quicker.  The problem is that these dehydrators can be expensive, and if you find that you only use it once or twice a year, you may balk at a price of $70 - $200 for one.  After 10 good years together, my dehydrator died, and I was given a new one as a gift, but it is a convection-only model, meaning no fan or temp control.  I have used it for a year now, and it works fine, but I do miss my fan.  The only downside is that you do need to rotate the trays, and without the fan, it takes hours longer to finish a project.  The up-side is that these little guys only run about $20 at Meijers or Target.  In the following pics, you see the convection-only model, but after this week, I will be using my new fan dehydrator!  My wonderful husband realized that he could get much more apple chips and roll-ups if I had a larger, faster model, and ordered me one. Yea!

The next thing you need to get is some fruit!  I love berries, so I have black cherry roll-ups and strawberry-raspberry roll-ups in the house now.  Blending different flavors is fun, and in cases of very watery fruit, combining denser fruits help make a firmer roll-up.  If you do have a sweet tooth, and want to add some sweetness, use a clover honey, as granulated sugar with give a gritty feel to the fruit.  If you do fruit that discolors, like apples turning brown, add a small bit of lemon juice to the fruit, or mix it with another high-acid fruit like apple-pineapple, or strawberry-banana.

Once you have your fruit, puree it in a food processor or blender, and that is basically all the prep you need.  This is when you want to add your honey or lemon juice, and make sure everything is blended well.

Next you want to prepare the dehydrator.  Some models come with special insert trays to make fruit roll-ups, but saran-wrap works just a good.
The tray is covered with 2 full layers of wrap, and the center has been cut out to allow the air flow up.  If you get a dehydrator, the booklet should give instructions on how to do this with your specific model.  The puree is sweet black cherries.  You next want to pour or ladle the puree onto the tray, and go no thicker than a 1/4 inch thick, but do not go too thin, or your roll-up will be brittle.
Black Cherry!

I recommend no more that 3 trays, with an extra in between each.  This makes it easier to rotate the trays.  If you have a fan dehydrator, you should not need to rotate, but I sometimes do just out of habit.  Now you put the lid on, making sure the vents on the top are open, and rotate every few hours for the next day or so.  When it is time to sleep, just put all the trays to the top, and do not give it a second thought.  In the morning, move the bottom tray to the top and switch up the rest.  After about 10 - 12 hours, start checking the roll-ups to see if they are done.  You are looking for a leathery feeling, something that you can roll without being brittle.  If you finger mushes it, it is not done yet.  Trust me, you will be able to tell quickly if it is done.
Done! - on a plate

Once it is done, you can peel it right off the saran rap, and the cut it in manageable pieces, unless one big 12" round is a manageable piece (as my son thinks).
You can use the previous saran wrap, or get clean sheets, and roll up the fruit!  I like to tuck the ends in just before the last layer, and that keeps the freshness in for a long time.  
You can keep your roll-ups in a plastic container in the cupboard for several weeks, but if your kids are anything like mine, you will never have to worry about them expiring!

Do you have a favorite combination?  Please share any favorite recipes or combinations of fruit.  

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