*Making Apple Leather*
Last year, I acquired my beautiful Excalibur food dryer. It sports 9 large trays and can dry, overnight, about 45 tomatoes, sliced to about ľ inch thickness.
In anticipation of acquiring the dryer, I planted 22 tomato plants, a dozen squash plants, myriad potato and green bean plants, herbs and other vegetables that I knew Iíd eat regularly rather than preserve.
My plants didnít disappoint. Over last summer and early fall, I put up some 900 tomatoes, 200 squash, onions, various green beans, potatoes and herbs. Rare was the night when the Excalibur wasnít working. After drying the various veggies, I sealed them in bags for long term storage. I dried veggies. I canned veggies. I cooked big batches of soups with the veggies and froze the soups in baggies, 8 ounces at a time. I gave veggies away, 40 or 50 pounds at a time. Yet still I managed to amass an impressive collection of long-term storage-quality produce.
Suddenly, however, the vegetable growing season was over, and I turned my food drying attention to apples. I started with a bushel of apples, slicing them and drying them in the Excalibur. Those turned out to be excellent.
But I wasnít satisfied with just drying apple slices. I wanted to make apple leather or jerky Ė like fruit roll-ups. I did a little reading and discovered that it appeared to be a relatively simple proposition.
So while on one of my infamous Costco runs, I acquired 4 number 10 cans of apple sauce. These cans cost under $3.00 each. I added some extra plastic wrap to my stores, and returned home with my booty.
I cut pieces of plastic wrap and lay them on the trays of the Excalibur. Then I used a broad spoon to scoop the apple sauce onto the trays and spread them out. I was careful to ensure that there was extra apple sauce all around the edge because the instructions Iíd read said to pile it a bit deeper on the outer edge. This turned out to be good adviceóitís easier to peel the leather off the plastic if you have an edge of reasonable thickness.
After filling the 9 trays, which used up 2 of the number 10 cans, I placed them in the dryer, set the Excalibur for 135 degrees, and let the machine go to work. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon.
I checked the apple leather-to-be around midnight. As expected, the apple sauce on the middle trays were a bit dryer than those above and below them, and the rear portions were a bit dryer. So I rotated the trays, moving the middle ones to the top and bottom and the upper and lower ones to the center. I also turned all the trays around so that the rear-facing edges were now facing the front (since the fan/blower portion of the mechanism is in the back of the machine). I closed the dryer and turned it back on, leaving it to do its thing overnight.
The next morning, around 9:00 a.m., I checked the machine. I had apple leather. It was wonderful!
I peeled the leather off the plastic sheets and put them on new, fresh plastic wrap sheets. I then rolled it up in the plastic so that, eventually, all the inside layers were separated by the plastic. Then I sliced the roll at about 1 to 1 Ĺ inch intervals. I then tucked these inside a plastic freezer Ziploc bag and put them in the refrigerator where I can grab a piece whenever I want one. The next batch, however, got vacuum-sealed in the Food Saver and I didnít slice it. I can do that when I start eating it.
This is some yummy stuff. For about $5.50 plus the electricity used overnight, I put up over 100 rolled pieces of apple leather of about an inch in width and about 10 inches in length. It was quick. It was easy. It was cheap. And they are GOOD!
I next turned to making my own apple sauce. I only used sweetener rather than sugar, and they turned out just as good. This is a great treat to try, especially if youíre near apple orchards and can make your own apple sauce as a starter. This is particularly nice for diabetics who can control the amount of sugar contained in food.
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