2.14.12 Warm Leatherette

Leather 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
One of the great things about starting this blog has been connecting to kindred spirits near and far, some of them with blogs of their own. Distances collapse in the virtual landscape, rendering us all just a keyboard away. But true connections inevitably materialize in 3-D—as recipients of my caramels discovered—and on occasion this means little packages of pure joy winging their way to me from Julia (quince & sour cherry preserves; grape, fig & walnut conserve); from Rob & David (birch syrup and homemade herbes de Provence); and from Janet (wild lime catsup and Buddha's hand preserves). This last creature is an old pal from 20 years ago. We had long gone our separate ways only to chance upon one another and discover how our paths had neatly converged. Janet is an artist (married to an artist), mother and writer living on a farm. Her newish blog, A Raisin & A Porpoise, is full of her hilariously wry wit, but also poignant insights and recipes for nourishing dishes that I actually want to cook right away, like this divine dip and these gingerbread muffins. And the spicy fruit leather, above, which she kindly presents to you here, in her own words.
Pears 790 xxx
if not apples, then pears
I am a pretty lucky person. I have a great friend in Laura, who will probably not tolerate too much gushy fan mail in this context, and anyway if you are reading this, you already know a great deal about her infinite fabulousness. I also live next to my parents’ apple orchard, lucky in itself in many ways, and in the fall my luck takes the tangible form of bushels and bushels of apples of various types pouring into my kitchen. Gallons of applesauce are produced, by me and my coven of canning cronies. Staring down the barrel of the produce-desert known as a New England winter, it seems no amount of applesauce will constitute enough applesauce to carry us through. But even for a family of five, in a boom apple year like 2011 was for us, applesauce tolerance may be reached before the supply runs out.

When Laura crowed about her new toy, the food dehydrator, I suggested she try the spicy leathers I made in the fall when there was an apple everywhere I looked, and she invited me here to tell you how I made them. It seemed a little wacky to make fruit leather in the middle of winter, but then I noted the dwindling pile of fruit leather in the pantry, and the relative steadiness of the number of jars of applesauce. Fruit leather is basically dried applesauce, and fruit leather tolerance is never reached, in my experience, before the supply is exhausted. So here I am.

My first exposure to fruit leather was the sunset-orange tubes of sticky, tart and sweet apricot leather my mother would bring home from Sahadi’s market on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Just the thought of ripping the strips off their crinkly plastic sets me drooling like a dog. Either Proust was right or they have changed the recipe; a recent attempt to recapture that burst of Middle-Eastern sunshine in the mouth was entirely disappointing: too sweet and totally blah. But a family trip to Israel last year, and specifically to the produce market, suggests someone somewhere still knows how to make it even if it doesn’t clear customs in New York. That flavor plus another memory—of the salty-hot mango-chile pops I used to see in the Mexican markets in California—led to these two items below. I would say that they are the adult answer to the little sticky rectangles in every child’s lunchbox, except I have to hide it from my children so they don’t eat it all in one day.
Puree1 790 xxx
slurry up
Although I tried to do exactly as I recall doing when I made the first batches in the fall, there is so much variation from hot pepper to hot pepper, and from batch of applesauce to batch of applesauce, and from one man’s ceiling to another man’s floor, that you should definitely sample to determine if your own tastes are being satisfied. Taste the slurry for a balance of sweet, tart and heat, remembering that all three will be dialed up as the mixture concentrates in the dehydrator. The proportion of honey to applesauce here produces a good final texture, pliable but not too sticky, but the heat and tartness can be adjusted to your liking. Using a blender to mix everything also helps to give the tenderest result—the slurry should look like baby food. Finally, my dehydrator is a vintage 1970s model and I have never even tried to find liners for the trays. Instead, I use parchment paper, which works like a dream. Just remember to take some care to keep a good inch margin of paper around the slurry when you pour or ladle it out.
Chipotle 790 xxx
hot stuff: chipotle salsa
Raw 790 xxx
how dry i am (not yet, this is pre-dehydrator)
GFL note: The photos and captions are mine, so I should tell you that my fruit leather was made with a puree of pears into which I stirred some burnt chipotle salsa I had hanging around as well as a little lime juice and a couple of tablespoons of the now-ubiquitous-in-my-kitchen Mike's Hot Honey. Janet's recipe is actually for an easy and very forgiving technique that allows you to get creative and use whatever you have on hand.
Peeling 790 xxx
as satisfying as peeling off a facial mask
Don't have a dehydrator? Set your oven as low as possible (175º?) and prop the door open with the handle of a long wooden spoon. Check the leather after a couple of hours and every 20 minutes thereafter until it achieves the desired consistency. Too done and you will have fruit chips!
Rolls 790 xxx
store it cut and rolled in parchment

Smoky Hot Leather

from A Raisin & A Porpoise
makes 2 sheets of fruit leather
  • — 1 teaspoon chipotle in adobo, or more to taste
  • — 1 dried guajillo chile
  • — 1/4 cup honey, preferably good raw honey
  • — 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • — 4 cups unsweetned applesauce
  • pinch of good salt

Tear or cut the chile into pieces; if you are shy of heat and just want pure chile flavor, shake the seeds out before you tear it up. Soak in boiling water to cover for at least 30 minutes.

Combine the soaked chile with the other ingredients in a blender or a bowl that will accommodate a hand blender, and whizz it all up. Divide between two parchment-lined trays in a food dehydrator set at approximately 120º and dry at least 8 hours, or until it peels easily from the paper, and roll or cut into sections.

Download recipe  Download Recipe

Belly-Warming Leather

from A Raisin & A Porpoise
makes 2 sheets of fruit leather
  • — 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • — 1-2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • — 1/4 cup honey, preferably good raw honey
  • — 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • — 4 cups unsweetned applesauce
  • — 1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • pinch of good salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or hand-blender-proof bowl, and mix well. Divide between two parchment-lined trays in a food dehydrator set at approximately 120º and dry at least 8 hours, or until it peels easily from the paper, and roll or cut into sections.

The spice mixture here, minus the applesauce, is also exceptionally delicious as a marinade for dried apples. Once the apples have been peeled, cored and sliced, toss them in the mixture and lay on parchment-lined trays until dry. Lime juice is a fine alternative to the lemon in this deployment.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


Can I say how much I love the word slurry? I don't know why. But yes, what a wonderful world it is out there, that we get to connect so easily with kindred souls. It's my favorite thing about blogging. Now I have some new blogs to check in on! And to Janet- I love those mango-chile pops! This was a good year for apples, wasn't it? I got to pick at a friend's orchard that doesn't often produce but this year you couldn't pick them all if you tried! I should have really made some leather but still have some jars of applesauce left. Never thought to crack them and make some fruit leather!
Julia on February 14, 2012 at 3:49 am —
I couldn't stop thinking "slurry with a fringe on top"...
laura on February 14, 2012 at 4:18 am —
Thank you, Laura!! Love your photos and the pear-chipotle combo. Julia: applesauce (or pear puree, as above) makes a great base for any fruity leather so I say go wild with those jars.
Janet on February 14, 2012 at 6:24 am —
Thank YOU, funny girl.
laura on February 14, 2012 at 6:30 am —
last week shooting in williamsburg i scarfed up an armful of bergamot and pear leathers at marlow & sons. divine...and now this...i smell a trend! xx
cynthia on February 14, 2012 at 9:07 am —
Hopefully this means I'm in on the ground floor, although this post actually puts me ahead of the game. ;-)
laura on February 14, 2012 at 11:49 am —