Fruit ‘leather’ is the name given to dried and sweetened fruit puree and the name gives a clue to its dried texture. It is not edible clothing for kinky vegetarians. The word ‘leather’ is a bit misleading as once in the mouth the rhubarb leather softens and melts giving a second, very much more pleasing texture. Rhubarb makes great fruit leather and it’s another way to use up a surplus harvest, a technique which allows the rhubarb to be kept for a while. Other flavourings can easily be added to your own taste and a list of suggestions is provided below.
This is how to do it:
1 – Wash and chop your rhubarb into small chunks
2 – Add just enough water to get the boiling process going. Use a minimum amount of liquid to speed up drying later. The rhubarb will give up juices once the pieces begin to soften. Be patient and stir the uncovered pieces through the small amount of hot water, and the drying time later will be much reduced.
Add just enough water in the bottom to get the cooking started
3 – Boil until soft and falling apart and do one of the following:
a) puree by machine or
b) boil longer allowing the rhubarb to naturally puree in the pan
Machine puree will have a smooth constancy however simply boiling a little longer will give an interesting visual effect and a more interesting texture to the leather.
Boil until the rhubarb naturally turns to puree
4 – Add sugar, and spices (see list below) to your own taste remembering that the puree will shrink and all the flavours will intensify.
5 – Pour the puree into a layer on a non stick surface or grease proof paper for thin sheets of leather. You can lay down rough strips, or do a complete sheet which you can then cut into neat strips later. Rough strips provide greater visual interest.
Ladle into strips, blobs, or a large sheet. The grease proof paper aids the drying process. The rhubarb will darken as it dries.
6 – Dry until chewy. It dries overnight in the gentle heat above my solid fuels stove. The dried leather will be about one fifth the thickness of the poured puree and will have a paper like feel when lifted, but with a translucent quality.
The dried leather takes on a wonderful colour. Simply peel it away.
Notice how the dried sheets have stayed smooth, or wrinkled, depending on which way they lay on the baking paper, because paper has a grain.
Allowing the rhubarb to naturally puree in the pan gives a wonderful texture, and is very appealing visually.
I have tried thicker sheets of puree, poured to a depth of 5mm in a tray lined with grease proof baking paper. The resulting leather sheet is about 1mm thick, tough, and not as pleasing as the thin sheets, and really is like leather. I’m still trying to think of a use for it.
Thicker sheets give a denser texture.
It’s possible to make leather from other things, fruits mainly:
In the Middle East I have seen thick sheets of apricot juices dried, without sweetening, in trays in the sun, and then sold at the side of the road close to the homes of the people who make it, or sold in markets. It is used to make sweets.
In this shop sheets of apricot leather are on sale with sweet making ingredients such as honey (on the top shelf), nuts, and boiled pomegranate juice (in the bottles on the right).
Sheets of apricot leather on sale at a sweet shop
Rolls of apricot leather on sale with other sweet making ingredients such as dried figs (threaded on string), walnuts, and honey (at the back).