Drying is an excellent way to preserve fruit. Dried slices or “fruit leather” are two options to make delicious, sweet, all-natural snacks. There are several advantages to drying including; ease in preparation, and the fact that pre-treatment of the fruit is not necessary.
Drying is the oldest method of preserving fruit. Originally, fruits were left out in the sun to dry. Later, people began drying fruit over fire. Now, most drying is done in stoves or ovens. Commercial dehydrators are also available for home use.
Advantages of dry fruit:
Many fruits can be preserved by dehydration. Several types that are easily dried include: apples, peaches, apricots, and mangos (which are perhaps the most popular). However, with a little experimentation, many of our South Florida tropical fruits work equally well.
Dehydrators: Several good commercial dehydrators are available for home use. The best machines have an electric heating element with temperature controls, and fans that assure uniform temperature distribution in the drying chamber. Teflon mesh trays are preferable because the dried fruit slices do not sick to them.
A household oven (electric or gas) can be used if the temperature can be set low enough to prevent darkening of the fruit. A convection oven works almost like an electric dehydrator.
Place the trays in the dehydrator: Arrange the slices flat on the dehydrating trays. Be careful not to clump the fruit slices together.
Temperature: Set the temperature control from 125° to 135°F, and let it run until the slices reach the desired consistency. Slices that are too soft or moist do not store well. Drying time depends upon the thickness of the slices, the amount of fruit in the dehydrator and the humidity. In South Florida, drying times depends on the ambient temperature and atmospheric humidity. The relative amount of moisture in the fruit, and the thickness of fruit are also important to consider.
Mango leather is an excellent alternative to make a delicious candy. Kids love it!
Select fully ripe fruit that is in season. This is a good way to use culls or slightly bruised fruit. The pulp should be soft enough to puree easily. In a blender or food mill, process the
peeled and pitted pulp to a smooth puree. No additives are needed. Place the plastic wrap or wax paper on the dehydrator trays. Spread the puree about an inch thick. Place the trays in the dehydrator with the temperature set to 125F to 130F. Turn on the dehydrator and let it run until the leather has reached a firm, elastic, sticky consistency, usually about 8 to 10 hours. The leather is finished when the dried pulp can be easily peeled from the plastic. Dried mango leather is usually a darker color than dried slices. Remove leather from the trays and roll it up in the plastic sheets. Uncovered leather rolls will stick together.
Dried fruit slices and fruit leather should be sealed in bags soon after drying or they will take up moisture and soften considerably. For best storage, dried fruit can be kept in the refrigerator for at least three years. Do not store them at room temperature for more than a few days, they will ferment or mold.