Jai and I went strawberry picking yesterday, our first of the fruit season. It was his first-time strawberry picking, though he went peach picking with me last year. He seemed to enjoy himself, although he stayed in his carrier the whole time which isn’t a bad way to spend the time: comfortable transportation AND food service? Yes, please.
This bodes well for blueberry picking because the farm we go to has tall bushes that are out of reach for little ones. He may be able to grab a few while he’s on my back and if he doesn’t, he won’t be bored while I pick.
I snuck a couple of (rinsed) berries to him while he was back there and he seemed to be a fan, though he was more into eating them once we got home.
Strawberries have an extremely short shelf-life, so I had to come up with some ways to preserve them beyond a couple of days. We got huge bucket-full so I needed to think of something quick.
Jai is on a fruit leather kick so I decided to make some from the fresh strawberries. I hunted around for some recipes and settled on this one, but I made my own modifications to veganize and help naturally sweeten the leather some more.
I’ve written up my modifications below, but do check out Momables for other great healthy eating ideas for little ones.
Simple 3-Ingredient Fruit Leather
Serving Size: 20 – 2″x4″ Strips
5 Cups washed, hulled, & halved strawberries (or berry of choice)
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Using a baking tray with sides to prevent spills when transferring to the oven, line it with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.
- On low heat in a medium saucepan, cook strawberries and lemon juice while stirring frequently until the berries break apart and bubble. Continue to stir and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Strawberries will take on a dull look. Stir in maple syrup and remove from heat.
- Put berry mixture in a blender (or use an immersion blender if you have one) until it’s a soupy puree with no big lumps.
- Pour onto the prepared tray and spread it around so it is rectangular, even, and takes up most of the tray. You don’t want it to be too thick (because it will take longer) or too thin (because it may overcook). I did mine at approximately 2mm thickness.
- Place the tray in the oven and set a timer for 4 hours. It will probably take longer than 4 hours to dehydrate, but you want to start checking the trays at that point to prevent overcooking. Mine took about 6 hours to fully cure.
- Once the leather is firm to the touch and easily peels off the mat/paper, it’s ready to be removed from the oven. Allow it to cool which will take about 5 minutes.
- Once cool, cut it into 2″x4″ strips. Fold parchment or wax paper around each piece to prevent it from sticking to each other. Store in an airtight container in the fridge to extend its shelf life. Should keep for up to 2 weeks.
- If you aren’t fond of seeds or want a smoother leather, use a cheesecloth and line a fine-mesh strainer. Set it up over a bowl to collect the strained puree. Pour the mixture onto the cloth and gently push the mixture through the cloth and strainer. Once you’ve poured all the puree in, gather up the sides of the cloth, twist it into a ball and squeeze the juices through the cloth. You should end up with the majority of the pulp/seeds in the cloth and a smooth puree in the bowl. Continue to step 4 above. Please note that this will drastically reduce the amount of leather you create so you may want to double the recipe before straining.
- Fall twist: add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon/pumpkin spice mix to the berries before cooking the berries on the stove.
- Spice it up: add 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder for a spicier treat.
- Don’t want it too sweet? Skip the maple syrup. The process of pre-cooking and using lemon helps to break down the natural sugars to make the treat sweet enough.
- This can work with other fruits, not just berries but you will need to adjust the initial cook time to make sure to soften the fruit enough so it blends easily. If you can break the fruit apart with a spatula easily after cooking, it should be ready to blend. After blending, test the puree to see if it’s sweet enough – stir in more maple syrup until it reaches the desired sweetness level.
Serving size: 1 2″x4″ strip of leather
1 Serving: 25 Calories; Fat: .2 g; Protein: .5 g; Fiber: 1.5 g; Sugar: 3.8 g
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In-Post Photo Credit: Michelle Melton Photography