Apple Leather

Apple Leather.JPG

You’ll find this recipe in:
Miss Leslie's Directions for Cookery
By: Eliza Leslie
Philadelphia, 1851

Historic Recipe:

PEACH LEATHER. - To six pounds of ripe peaches, (pared and quartered,) allow three pounds of the best brown sugar. Mix them together, and put them into a preserving kettle, with barely water enough to keep them from burning. Pound and mash them a while with a wooden beetle. Then boil and skim them for 3 hours or more, stirring them nearly all the time. When done, spread them thinly on large dishes, and set them in the sun for three or four days. Finish setting them in the oven after the bread is taken out, letting them remain till the oven is cold. Roll up the peach leather and put it away in a box.

Apple leather may be made in the same manner.


My Recipe:

2 cups apple chunks, cored and peeled – 225 g
¾ cup brown sugar – 110 g
½ cup water – 120 mL

Put the apple chunks, brown sugar and water in a pot and simmer over medium low heat until the apples are mushy. In the meantime, cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper or prepare your dehydrator. Puree in a blender, then spread the mixture evenly (3 or 4 mm/1/8 inch thick) over the parchment paper or dehydrator sheets with a spatula.

Pop the apple leather into your dehydrator or into your oven at a very low temperature. I dehydrated the apple leather in my oven at 220 F (93 C) for about 3 hours. It is finished when it is still slightly tacky when touched, but has structural integrity and doesn’t mush under your fingers.

You may want to make more apple leather than I did when I tested this recipe. I’ve never made a fruit leather before, so I decided to go small! 2 cups of apples mostly filled a small cookie sheet, although I definitely should have left it thicker in some areas. To help you gauge how much to make, contemporary recipes for fruit leather usually ask for 4 cups of apples to fill a large cookie sheet.

Jar.JPG

If you read the historic recipe and noticed that it instructs “Pound and mash them a while with a wooden beetle”, and you wondered why in the world anyone would mash apples with a wooden insect sculpture, let me show you what a beetle is. Have a look at the image below. A beetle would be used anytime I would grab a potato masher in my kitchen, and it’s just a sturdy wooden kitchen tool with a handle and a flat bottom. It’s perfect for mushing up soft ingredients.

potatoandvegmashers.jpg

A variety of wooden beetles used to mash ingredients. Image courtesy of Michigan State Universities Library

If you have a look at all the recipes in the “Fruit” category on this blog, you’re going to notice that most of my fruit recipes feature apples. I just did the math, and as of today, we’re talking 62.5% of my fruit recipes. Here’s the reason why: when we moved into our current home in Hamilton, we didn’t realize that the giant tree in our backyard was in fact a very prolific old apple tree!

We have no idea what variety of apple we have, but it is by far the tallest apple tree I’ve ever seen. It’s an early apple that begins in late July and tapers off through the month of August. The apples are very sweet, but they are also very very dry so they are mandatory cooking apples. They are mostly green, small in size and as August goes on, some of the apples do develop a slight rosy blush, usually only on one side. Do you have a guess about the type of apple we’ve got? If you do, leave a comment!

August is my unofficial apple month and I’ve made up an Instagram hashtag so that I can see everything I’ve done with my apples over the years: #juliabattlesappletree. This year, I’ve made two huge batches of Apple Butter, To make fine pippen Tarts and this batch of Apple Leather. I’ve made Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal and eaten apples fried in butter with maple syrup drizzled on top. I’ve also “invented” Apple Smoothie Cubes, which is cooked apple puree, frozen in ice cube trays, that I’ll pop in my green smoothies.

The other morning when I was chopping up apples, I snapped a very cute photo of my cat Clementine supervising the proceedings, which of course I posted on Instagram. I honestly had no idea what I was going to do with the apples I was chopping, so I asked what people thought I should make!

There were some fantastic suggestions left in the comments: apple crisp, pickled apples, apple shortbread, apple pie, apple chutney, apple cake, steamed apple pudding, applesauce with peaches or nectarines...and apple leather. The last suggestion really appealed to me because I’ve never made a fruit leather before and also because Steve and I are leaving on a road trip on Wednesday and Apple Leather would make a perfect snack for the car.

I want to give a shoutout to the person who suggested Apple Leather, because I’m a big fan of what she’s up to on Instagram. Jaqu Edge, a.k.a. “Kiwi Nosh” is a food history enthusiast in New Zealand that I’ve been following for a while on Insta. She’s a big fan of anything sweet and usually bakes recipes from New Zealand community cookbooks. I love her cheeky and dry sense of humour, and I found that her pictures of her garden in full bloom were quite therapeutic to me last winter, which I found to be especially depressing! Check her out @kiwinosh.

Read the Cookbook: