With the Christmas countdown gathering pace, there’s still time to throw together some homemade edible treats to distribute to friends and family. Massively popular with my kids, and their friends, is fruit leather. Rolls of pliable, tangy dried fruit, sour and moreish, are a kind of healthy alternative to Haribo sweets. And they’re incredibly easy to make.
With the shops awash with cranberries, it seems the obvious festive fruit choice. Coupled with bramley apples to provide the majority of the fruity pulp, they are simmered down to a soft mush, with the juice of one lemon for added tang. I normally make this with blackberries, and found cranberries a little more resistant to collapsing in the pan – nothing that a little encouragement from a potato masher couldn’t sort.
When you finally have a soft, darkly pink mush in your pan, remove from the heat, and whizz briefly with a hand-held blender. Push the seedy pulp through a sieve. I know, surely life’s too short to push things through sieves? Honestly, you’ll be rewarded with a smooth and beautiful puree after less than 10 minutes of sieve-wrangling. Washing the seeds out of the sieve later is actually more of a pain (but maybe you can persuade someone else to do the washing up?)
Finally add the runny honey, and stir to a glossy smooth sauce. Line some baking sheets with greaseproof paper, and spread out carefully with the back of a spoon. You want the puree thin and as even as you can make it, with no bits of naked greaseproof paper peeping through.
Put the trays in a very barely heated oven. Mine is a fan oven, I put it on to around 60 degrees C. Leave them in there for 12 to 18 hours – overnight is good. You can see when the leather is ready, it is clearly dry, with no sticky areas, but not brittle.
Peel it carefully off the greaseproof paper, and you’ll have a sheet of beautiful festive fruit leather you can give as a gift. I roll mine in the prettily pink-stained greaseproof paper sheets used in the oven. To eat, cut into strips and roll up. Perfect as a palate-cleansing antidote to the Quality Street overload coming our way….
RECIPE (adapted from Pam Corbin’s Blackberry & Apple Leather from River Cottage Handbook No 2 – Preserves)
Festive Fruit Leather (makes approx 3 sheets)
800g bramley apples (approx – I used a kilo bag minus 1 apple!)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons runny honey
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Simmer chopped and peeled bramley apples with the cranberries and lemon juice gently until you have a soft mush. Use a potato masher if the cranberries need encouraging to break down. Remove from the heat and whizz briefly with a hand-blender. Strain through a sieve. Add the runny honey. Spread onto lined baking sheets with the back of a spoon, and dry in a very low oven (50 – 60 degrees C) for between 12 – 18 hours or until visibly dry but still flexible. (Mine take around 13 hours). Peel carefully from the greaseproof paper.