Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Apple Fruit Leather

I wrote this post last year towards the end of apple season but never posted it. Here it is now, to fill space.

I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a substance less appetizing than leather. Honestly, have you ever tasted leather? Without going into much detail about how we know this, leather isn’t food and it tastes terrible. This is why it always amazes me when people refer to dehydrated fruit puree as “fruit leather”. Sure, they’re talking about the texture, not the flavor. I know that. But it seems weird to name such a tasty food product after something that is so decidedly not “tasty”. I’ll call it “Fruit Leather” because that’s what everybody else calls it (and the other options in the thesaurus are even worse). Just keep in mind that I do so under protest.

Dana was all like “Your preserving stuff is taking up too much space in the fridge”. And I was all like “whatever, woman, step off!”. I mean, I didn’t say it out loud. She’d have been totally pissed if I did. Can you imagine? I’d still be sleeping outside.

Needing to clear some space in the fridge and not having any other great ideas, I pulled out a container of apple sauce and dumped it into the dehydrator.

Apple Leather

  1. Apple Sauce
  2. Vegetable Oil

I know there are ways to do this in the oven, but I used the dehydrator. If you don’t have a dehydrator sitting around, don’t rush out to get one just for this project. But I did have one, and it was convenient enough.

Use a fruit leather tray, which probably comes with your dehydrator. Put a small amount of vegetable oil on a napkin or piece of cloth and rub down the tray. A thin layer of the oil helps to prevent sticking later. Spread your apple sauce or other prepared fruit puree on the tray and put it into the dehydrator. Follow any instructions to create fruit leather.

The instructions for mine said to dehydrate at 135° for 4-10 hours. I did this in the evening after work, so I didn’t have that much time. I did it at 135° for about 5 hours and it wasn’t done before we went to bed. So I turned the temperature down to 115° and went to bed.

When I checked first thing in the morning, the leather was done.

Results

It’s hard to argue with how easy this process is. It’s up there with creating apple chips or even dried tomatoes. Put it in the dehydrator, set it up according to the instructions, and completely ignore it for a few hours. The hardest part of the whole process is spreading the apple sauce out evenly so it dries evenly.

I didn’t add any sugar or seasonings. The sauce was plenty sweet enough all by itself (I used Fuji, Stayman-Winesap and mostly Braeburn apples). Next time I may add some cinnamon or pie spices to the mix for a little extra holiday flair. I may also try to mix in some other fruit puree if I can find something that I like at this time of year.

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Apple Chips

I keep trying to call them “apple chips” because it flows off the tongue and sounds pretty appetizing. The reality is that I don’t dehydrate them enough to get the crispy chip-like texture. I actually prefer them to be a little bit more leathery and chewy than “normal” apple chips. But then again, calling them “dehydrated apples” doesn’t sound good at all. It conjures images of grey-ish, tasteless flakes in a bag with some unnamed “de-caking agent”. Blech.

So I’m going to call them “apple chips”, even though they probably needed to spend a little bit more time in the dehydrator to really qualify as “chips”.  Whatever. A pedantic adherence to truth in advertising is so bourgeois. This is my blog. I’ll call this shit whatever I want.

Apple Chips

  • Apples
  • Lemon Juice

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of lemon juice with some cold water. Just eyeball it. Peel, core and slice the apples. Dip the slices into the lemon juice mixture to try and prevent browning. Spread the apple slices out evenly in the dehydrator, and dehydrate them according to the instructions. You can change the time to get them more or less dry, according to your taste. I never had, but I suspect you could add some cinnamon or sugar or other seasonings if you want. You can peel the apples or leave the peels on. I tend to prefer my apples peeled, but I’ve done a few batches the other way too.

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The recipe isn’t the interesting part of this project. The really interesting part is experimenting to find good apple varieties to dehydrate. Some varieties work well, others not as well. Here are the varieties I’ve tried so far, and how the resulting chips have turned out:

  • Gala: Sweet, a little tart, and a good deep apple flavor that comes on slow. The chips are a little yellowish-brownish, but very tasty. The chips in the top container are mostly Gala and Jonathan. If you make enough gala chips for the whole season, you won’t have missed much. A+
  • Jonathan: Similar in flavor to Gala, though a little less sweet and more tart. Very tasty, and great in combination with Gala chips. A
  • Mutsu: Bigger than the others, and the resulting chips are a more whitish color. The big white chips in the lower-left bag are Mutsu. Mutsu chips are modestly sweet with almost no tartness. Mutsu chips are probably tastier than just eating a raw Mutsu. These go great in combination with Gala and Jonathan A
  • Ida Red: Similar-looking to Jonatha chips, but almost completely flavorless and very bland. The chips in the lower-right bag are Ida Red, Fuji and Braeburn. D.
  • Fuji: Very similar to Gala. The flavor is good, but not quite as good. B+
  • Braeburn: Surprisingly blah. Braeburns are good for raw eating, with a sophisticated tartness and sweetness, but the resulting chips are in competition with Ida Red for the most boring. D+
  • Arkansas Black: Great sweet/tart eating apples with a great crunch. However, they brown VERY QUICKLY. The resulting chips were an unappetizing brown color even after a dip in the lemon juice. The very dark ones in the lower-left bag are Arkansas Black. The flavor wasn’t as great as some other varieties. These apples are much better to eat raw. C+

If you have some Gala, Jonathan or Mutsu apples laying around, I definitely recommend you toss a few dozen in the dehydrator and make yourself a tasty snack that will last quite a long time in the refrigerator.