When you were a kid, what were your favorite snacks? I would like to say that mine were something healthy like apples with peanut butter, grapes, or organic raw sprouted seed crisps……ya right. I would have killed for a plate full of bagel bites, cool ranch Doritos, ham and cheese stack Lunchables, Capri sun, and of course my favorite, fruit roll ups. There was something about fruit rolls ups that made me CRAVE them, I could never just have one. Just the smell was enough to want me to binge on 2 or 3 or 4 rolls, because they we delicious. And no wonder, they are 100% sugar, hell not even cane sugar the first two ingredients are high fructose corn syrup, and dehydrated corn syrup solids, sounds nutritious. I wanted to challenge myself to make fruit rolls (rolled up fruit leather) that were just as good or better than the packaged ones I grew up with. I wanted to make this ultra processed junkie snack into something wholesome, delicious, and just as addictive 🙂
Well, strawberry season has recently just begun up here in Washington and whenever u-pick season starts I always go a little overboard. You only get a few short weeks a year to gather the most delicious fresh local produce. So what if you single handedly picked enough berries to feed a family of twelve, have you never heard of preserving? That’s what summer is all about, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and of course making your own fruit leather!
One of the reasons that fruit leather is so delicious is because the natural sweetness of the fruit is concentrated. With the water removed and the little bit of heat the sugars get a chance to develop and feel just like that sweet treat you had as a child. Only this time you know exactly what it is made out of. Fruit leather is such a great treat to make when you have an abundance of produce. Because fruits are very hydrating, you need a lot of fruit pulp to work with to make leather after removing the water. So if you have a friend with a cherry tree, a neighbor with plums, or go a little crazy at the local u-pick berry farm, consider fruit leather to be one of your outlets.
Fruit leather as a whole is pretty simple you need a good amount of washed, peeled, and pitted fruit that can be mashed and cooked down with a sweetener (I choose golden raisins) and a little bit of acid (I chose balsamic vinegar). You can also blend the contents to make it smoother. Once the contents are cooked down to a slightly thick consistency you can evenly pour the contents out onto a lined jellyroll pan (or dehydrator sheet lined with parchment). Set your oven to a low temperature (170 degrees seems to work), and let it cook for 3-5 hours. In a dehydrator set it to 135 degrees for 8 hours, the finished product should be shiny but not sticky to touch.
Most fruit leather recipes call for the addition of cane sugar and acid to make the fruit sweeter and bright. Honestly if the fruit is ripe, it should be sweet enough. This particular recipe utilizes golden raisins to balance the acidic nature of these beautiful strawberries. And instead of lemon juice, I wanted to add and acid with a little more depth. You can use any balsamic vinegar that you like but I particularly love using thick fruit balsamic vinegar’s( like cherry, peach, mango, or berry). I normally reserve these for drizzling onto my desserts but they are such a lovely addition to these fresh strawberries.
I personally like making fruit leather in my dehydrator because it gives me space to make multiple sheets, but these can just as easily be made in your oven. I hope you get a chance to make this recipe and enjoy a nutritious snack that will make you feel like a kid again!
Strawberry Balsamic Fruit Rolls
Healthy homemade treat that reminds you of your favorite childhood snack. Great for lunchboxes, hiking, or dessert!
- 8 c. strawberries stems removed
- 1 c. golden raisins
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (fruit flavored if possible)
Wash, de-stem, and remove any green spots or hard seed clusters from your strawberries and place into a bowl. Using a potato masher or fork mash the berries so that the volume reduces and the juice is present (needed for the raisins to absorb)
Place the mashed berries with the raisins into a sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the raisins absorb the liquid and plump up a bit. (About 10 minutes)
Place the mixture into a blender or food processor and blender until just smooth, enough to break down the raisins. Add blended mixture back into the pot. And simmer on low for 10-20 minutes, you want some of the water to evaporate and the mixture to become more like a jammy syrup consistency. Once the mixture has thickened remove from heat and stir in the vinegar.
Pour mixture into two parchment lined jelly roll pans (baking sheets with a lip) evenly about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Bake in oven at 170 degrees for 3-5 hours. When finished the leather should be shiny and not sticky to touch.
Let the fruit leather cool, then cut it into long strips (including the parchment paper) then roll those strips into rolls. Personally the best way to keep them rolled is with tiny rubber bands. You can also cut the leather into whatever shape you like and store it in an airtight container as a flat treat.
If you are using a dehydrator:
- Set your dehydrator to 135 degrees.
- Pour the cooked mixture onto your para-flex sheets (or parchment lined rack)
- Let cook for 6-10 hours (depending on thickness)