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Fruit leather is good stuff.

It's, well, it's a little bit like leather, but it's made out of fruit (along with citrus pectin, red dye #4, and god knows what else). It's chewy but not rubbery, often with a slight and pleasant "grittiness" due to ground up seeds and so on. It usually comes in a circular form factor, about six or eight inches across and a millimeter or two thick. It resembles a thin flour tortilla, morphologically speaking. This "tortilla" adheres to a square sheet of crinkly, transparent plastic. The plastic usually tears easily, which is a problem. The sheet of plastic with the fruit glop is rolled up and put in a long, narrow plastic bag with brightly colored artwork on it.

After they are manufactured, happy, smiling men in white hats load them onto trucks which drive directly to the fruit and vegetable section of your local grocery store! They are courteous drivers, and they obey all traffic regulations along the way! When they arrive, they put the fruit leather units in racks, where mortally bored toddlers will see them and say "MOM MOM MOM I WANNA FRUIT LEATHER MOM MOM". With any luck, mom figures it's healthier than Bubble Yum and buys the kid one.

Damn, they're tasty.

What you do is you peel the fruit glop off the plastic in strips an inch or two wide, roll the strips up tightly, and eat them at traffic lights on the way home from the supermarket. With practice, you can learn to do this while giving people the finger at the same time.

They come in many flavors: There are delicious ones like apricot, cherry, and raspberry! They will make you happy! There are gross ones like grape, which will make you sad. Don't buy the sad ones. Buy the happy ones!

To prepare the leather, wash fruit well and pit or core. If using specimens of less-than-perfect quality, cut out bad spots or bruises on skin. Drop fruit into the blender a few halves at a time with the dial set at puree. Continue until you have about 3 cups.

If using very ripe apricots, no sweetening is needed. If the fruit is very tart, add honey to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon and increasing only as necessary; 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon blended with 3 cups of puree adds taste variety. Peaches and pears need no sweetening; however, you can add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon for every 3 cups if variety is desired.

Wild strawberry leather makes a delicious snack for nibbling and can be melted for a glaze to use on tarts or a ham. Use 2 pounds of strawberries, hulled, and 1/2 cup honey. Add some powdered sugar. In a saucepan, simmer the berries and honey over low heat, stirring and mashing the fruit as it cooks until it is as thick as you can get it. Spread on a flat dish and place in the sun to dry. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, cut into squares and store in glass jars. Or, roll it like a jelly roll, then slice and store in glass jars.

To produce a paper-thin leather, lightly oil a cookie sheet, or cover it with a layer of foil or waxed food wrap. Spread puree 1/4 inch thick, smoothing with a spoon, if necessary, to cover evenly. Place in a 120 to 150 degree oven, leaving the door slightly ajar for steam to escape. Two cookie sheets can be put in the oven at the same time to utilize oven heat more efficiently.

If you prefer not to use the oven, spread the fruit blend on cookie sheets and dry outdoors in the sun. The amount of time it will take to dry will depend on the thickness of the puree and the outdoor temperature. If the sun is hot (and the temperature 80 degrees or more), drying will take approximately 8 to 10 hours. If the weather is cool and puree quite thick, it may take a week or two. Do not leave the puree outdoors overnight.

When the leather has hardened, ease the edge up. Peel off easily. Roll into a scroll, or into jelly-roll shape and place in a cloth or paper bag to continue drying for several days. The finished product, which should still be pliable like leather, can be stored in tightly closed glass jars, but make sure the rolls are completely dry. If they are not, the leather will mold. If the leather has dried to the brittle stage, you can soften it by placing a piece of apple in the jar for 2 or 3 days. This will give it some moisture.

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