Thursday, May 17, 2012

Loquat Fruit Leather Revisited

Homemade loquat fruit leather, April 26, 2012.
Several weeks ago I wrote a post about Loquat Fruit Leather and expressed my after-the-fact reservations about making fruit leather out of loquats.  My greatest concern was that the loquat leather would never dry properly since it seemed so sticky when I took it out of the dehydrator.  Luckily, several weeks after completing the dehydration process and putting the loquat leather into a "conditioning" bag, I've realized that my loquat leather is just fine.  In fact, there was never anything wrong with it.

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm in the middle of taking a class to become a Master Food Preserver and that I've been doing a lot of experimentation as my "homework".  When I made loquat leather, I'd just heard a lecture about making fruit leather, but we only made it from super-sweet fruits like apples and strawberries.  Looking back on the experience, I think that my biggest problem with making loquat leather was that my tastebuds were expecting something similar to the leathers I'd tried in class.  Naturally, the fruit leathers from class were made using tested recipes and were selected because they used fruits that make ideal fruit leathers-- high in sugar and pectin and relatively low in fiber (as fruits go.)

I'm here to report that loquats are not one of these fruits.

I made three different batches of loquat fruit leather-- one made from nothing but loquats, one with added sugar, and one with a mixture of honey and sugar.  In the end, they all tasted pretty much the same, which was not super-sweet and a little mealy.

Lucikly, I had a great resource to turn to for advice.  One of the benefits of taking a Master Food Preserver class is having knowledgeable authorities available to answer my food preservation questions.  A few days after making my loquat leather,  I asked my teacher Chef Ernest Miller a lot of questions about fruit leather-- in fact, I fear I made a bit of a pest out of myself because I was so excited to get to the bottom of my fruit leather dilemma.

Within several minutes, Chef Miller solved my problem.  Here are his answers.

1.  Add applesauce to the loquat puree.  Loquats are too fibrous and don't have enough pectin to produce a proper fruit leather.

2.   Don't bother with "conditioning", which is the process of putting your dehydrated food into an airtight container for a period of time until the water reactivity of each individual piece of dried food reaches what's known as "equilibrium".

3.  Be sure to spread the puree thinner in the center of the tray because it will dry from the edges.  (I knew this, but apparently I didn't create a dramatic enough difference in thickness to overcome the drying problem.)

I'm hoping to be able to borrow the dehydrator again before the loquat season ends to test out this advice.  With any luck, I'll be able to publish a delicious apple-loquat leather recipe in the near future.