Make Your Own Mango Fruit Leather
If you're not sure what fruit leather is - it is cigar sized rolls (sometimes called roll-ups) of dried, slightly chewy fruit.
Recently we have had access to a couple of Mango trees.
If you've ever had a mango tree you'll be aware that that this tropical plant is a prolific flowerer and a healthy tree can end up being a problem because of the enormous amount of mangoes that ripen each day.
Those people that reside in the southern half of the country and pay extortionate prices for things like mango, pawpaw, pineapple and coconut may be envious of a climate that produces tropical fruits in numbers that can be a nuisance.
Fresh pineapples can be sourced for a dollar each while coconuts can be found along the streets after a windy night.
However, it's not all peaches and cream. Towards the end of mango season hundreds of fruit bats move in to devour any fruit that remains on the trees while friends grow tired of you attempting to unload 30 - 40 mangoes on them every time you see them. Picking up a box full of wind fallen mangoes and throwing them out every day becomes a painful chore.
People who live in the northern half of Australia hanker after more common fruits like fresh apples and oranges which have to be freighted in and usually arrive in less than perfect age or condition.
After the pantry is full of mango chutney, jam and relish and the freezer is bursting with frozen mango slices and ice-cream it's usually time to bite the bullet and start throwing them out.
We did a little experimentation and came up with a way to preserve mangoes in their dried form.
These little fruit leather rolls make great snacks and lunchbox fillers. Ideal for camping and as a backpack stuffer when hiking they're also good when a recipe calls for a bit of dried fruit in a recipe. They contain nothing but pure mango pulp - no added sugar, fat or salt.
How to Make Fruit Leather
We made 2 timber frames 600mm by 600mm (2ft x 2ft) and covered then with fly-wire. The fly-wire keeps the flies, insects and the inevitable horde of small lizards that live inside tropical houses - at bay.
Then we take about 10 mangoes that have just ripened and peel and cut them into slices. The mangoes we have been getting are comparatively small, about the size of a large grapefruit and very sweet.
The peeled and sliced mango pieces are placed in a blender and turned into pulp, almost the consistency of very thick soup or apple sauce.
We line one of the fly-wire frames with a piece of baking or grease proof paper and pour the mixture on. The key is to make sure the frame is dead level so the mango pulp doesn't slide off the paper.
Taking a cake spatula or something similar the mango pulp is levelled out so the thickness of the pulp is consistent. This helps the mango dry at the same rate throughout.
The finished wet thickness is about 5mm or half a centimetre.
The top fly-wire frame is laid over the mango pulp without coming into contact with it.
Finally the frame is placed in a well ventilated place in front of an oscillating electric fan.
We tried the mixture direct in a warm fan forced oven with the fan turned on but found the taste not as good as letting the fruit dry naturally.
After 2 - 3 days the leather mixture is peeled from the grease proof paper and allowed to dry for one more day. The pulp needs to be quite dry and slightly stiff to achieve this. If the mango clings to the paper, or begins to separate, it is to early to remove it from the paper. The edges of the pulp dry first with the centre being the last to completely dry out.
The dryness of the leather will be a matter of personal taste. We find that under-dried fruit is a bit hard to stomach (and will probably spoil) while over dried fruit is hard and brittle. The usual texture is close to Beef Jerky or Biltong.
Drying times will vary according to the temperature and humidity. 2 - 3 days was achieved in the tropics with daytime temperatures around 40°C combined with high humidity. We have to assume that cooler regions will require longer drying times.
After the fruit leather is dry it is placed on a cutting board and rolled up tightly. It can be cut into serving size pieces, wrapped in cling wrap and stored in an airtight container.
How long does it keep for. No idea. We consume it pretty quickly. The University of Alaska suggests 4 - 12 months. The cooler the storage area - the longer the shelf life.
The Alaskan university also states that fruit leather is extremely good for you, being high in antioxidants and containing only natural ingredients derived from the fruit.
If you're looking for another use for mangoes try Hot Mango Salsa.
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