Pascale's kitchen: Make your own dried fruit and fruit leather

Using a vegetable dehydrator is the best way to prepare dried fruits that are healthy, preservative-free, tasty and that also won’t break the bank.

Dried fruits (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Dried fruits
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
The other day, I was searching through my pantry for one of my oversized pots and I came across my fruit and vegetable dehydrator. In hindsight this was perfect timing, since Tu Bishvat falls this weekend. Using a vegetable dehydrator is the best way to prepare dried fruits that are healthy, preservative-free, tasty and that also won’t break the bank. In addition, most dried fruits sold in Israel are imported, so preparing your own dried fruits is a great way to celebrate the New Year for Trees with fruits grown at home here in Israel.
I took a few fruits I had in the fridge, sliced them, squeezed some lemon juice on top and then lined them up, touching each other, on the racks in my fruit dehydrator, closed the top and pushed the start button.
I have an ancient dehydrator, but nowadays you can buy a number of brands in which you can prepare dried meat, fish, nuts, vegetables and, of course, fruits.
It’s important to remember to drizzle some lemon juice on the fruit slices, which will help the fruits retain their beautiful colors, especially types that tend to blacken when they come in contact with air.
Another great way to dry fruits is by making them into fruit leather. What you do is cook the fruit, puree it, and spread it on a tray to dry in a cool place. Fruit leather is low in fat and full of fiber and carbohydrates. Apricot fruit leather is the most common type, but you can also make it from quince, apples and persimmons – or mix any of the above.
Alternatively, dried fruit and fruit leather can be prepared in the oven, although this does require more attention and time than using a dehydrator.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Dried fruits
■ 3 kg. kiwifruit
■ 2 persimmons
■ 3 apples (Granny Smith, Pink Lady or Hermon)
■ 2 oranges
■ Juice from 2 medium-size lemons
Peel the kiwi fruit and slice them thinly. Rinse the persimmons well, slice thinly, and remove any seeds. Rinse and scrub oranges and slice thinly (you can leave peel on). Peel apples, slice thinly and remove any seeds. Place all the fruit slices in a bowl, pour lemon juice over them and mix.
Arrange the fruit slices on a drying tray. Close the machine, set the timer and press start. In the machine I have at home, it takes 10 to 12 hours, depending on the type of fruit.
Apple leather
You can substitute any fruit you want for the apples. If you’re drying fruit in the oven, I recommend using a silicone tray, since it is easier to remove fruit leather after it’s dried. Fills two drying trays, or one oven tray.
■ 500 gr. apples, peeled and seeded
■ 4-5 Tbsp. water
■ Pinch cinnamon, ginger or vanilla
Cut the apples into cubes and place them in a large pot. Add the water and spices and cook over a low flame for 30 minutes or until soft. Continue cooking until all the liquid has evaporated. Pour fruit into a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour fruit mixture onto drying tray and flatten evenly so it’s completely flat. Place tray in dehydrator, turn on machine and run for 12 to 14 hours (amount of time depends on type of fruit, as well as type of dehydrator you’re using).
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can use a silicone tray or thick baking paper in the oven. Heat the oven to 90˚ and bake for 3-5 hours (depending on type of fruit and type of oven).
Check the leather after 2 hours. You’ll know it’s ready when it lifts off of the baking paper easily and is dry and rubbery. Remove from oven, cover and let cool.
Peel leather off of baking paper and cover on both sides with plastic wrap and roll up.
Date balls
This is a great recipe to prepare ahead of time and freeze. Just take them out a few minutes before serving. This way, you’ll always have a fun, special treat at the ready.
Makes 40 balls
■ 500 gr. dates, pitted and crushed
■ 3 Tbsp. honey
■ ½ cup sugar
■ 2 Tbsp. water or juice
■ Juice from ½ a lemon
■ ½ tsp. ginger, ground
■ ¼ tsp. cloves, ground
■ 1 tsp. cinnamon, ground
■ 1 cup sesame seeds, roasted
■ ½ cup whole walnuts, roasted
■ Oil
■ ½ to ¾ cup sesame seeds, roasted
Put the dates in a pot and heat over a low flame. While stirring, add the honey, sugar, water, lemon juice, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Add the sesame and walnuts and mix. Stir while cooking for five more minutes.
Pour the sesame seeds on a plate. Form 2- to 3-cm. diameter balls from date mixture and roll them in sesame seeds. Store in freezer.
Mutton, onion, prunes and nuts
This is a rich, meat dish that’s super-easy to prepare, but your guests don’t need to know that! The dish is full of dried fruits and, as a result, very sweet. You can make it even more unusual by adding fresh fruits. You can also use beef or chicken in place of mutton. Serve it on a bed of rice or thin noodles for a perfect meal.
Makes 10 servings
■ ½ tsp. cinnamon
■ ¼ tsp. fresh ginger, grated
■ 1 Tbsp. sugar
■ ½ tsp. turmeric
■ ½ tsp. nutmeg, grated
■ ½ tsp. salt
■ ¼ cup oil
■ 2 kg. (at least 8) onions
■ 2 kg. mutton (ribs or shoulder), cut into cubes
■ 250 gr. raisins
■ 300 gr. prunes, pitted (organic)
■ ½ cup sugar
■ 1 tsp. cinnamon
■ 150 gr. walnuts
Optional additions:
■ 1 apple, peeled, seeded, and sliced
■ 1 pear, peeled, seeded, and sliced
■ 4-5 organic dried apricots
In a bowl, mix cinnamon, ginger, sugar, turmeric, nutmeg and salt.
Peel the onions, rinse well and slice them thinly.
Pour oil into a large flat pot and arrange a layer of onion slices on the bottom of the pot. Add on top a layer of meat cubes and then raisins and prunes. If you’re adding apricots or fresh fruits, add them now on top. Sprinkle spices on top and then start with additional layers of onion, meat and fruits until you’ve used up all your ingredients.
Cook covered over high flame for 10 minutes. Lower the flame and cook for another 2½ to 3 hours. About 20 minutes before you’re finished, sprinkle on the sugar, cinnamon and walnuts. Shake the pot a little, so the liquid covers all the contents.