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I absolutely love cherry season. To me there are very few things better than a fresh cherry. But there comes a point every summer when my stomach waves the white flag of surrender and it’s time to slow down. This is when I turn to one of my favorite fruit preservation methods: fruit leather.
This is a great recipe to get the kids involved in the kitchen. There is a lot of prep work that the kids can help with, plus it involves a fun tool…
I would strongly encourage the use of a cherry pitter to save time (this is the one that I use). There are kitchen hack memes that talk about other cherry pitting methods, but it really is cleaner and easier to use an actual cherry pitter (in my opinion).
After washing the cherries, I put the colander on the table and have one kid pull out the stems and the other one pit the cherries. Letting the kids loose with a cherry pitter can leave the kitchen looking like a crime scene, so I would also strongly encourage the use of a deep bowl (the Rachael Ray garbage bowl is what I use) for them to push the pits into. This is a huge time saver because it will keep you from scrubbing cherry splatter off the walls and backsplash after you’re done.
Once they’ve made some headway, I swap out the bowl of pitted cherries with a fresh one so the kids can keep working. I slice the cherries in half, partially to make measuring a touch more accurate but mostly to double check for any missed pits. We continue this process until we have four cups of sliced and pitted cherries.
Then we put the cherries in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of apple juice. Bring to a boil and then simmer on low for 15 to 20 minutes (until cherry skin has started to soften).
Then it’s time for another fun tool – the immersion blender. If you want to have your kiddo help with this step, be very cautious of the hot cherries. I always test first to make sure it doesn’t splatter. It works best for us if I tilt the pan a little bit to get the cherries onto one side.
After blending until smooth, we transfer the cherry mixture onto a baking sheet lined with a Silpat. This recipe makes enough for two pans of thin leather or one pan of thick leather (we prefer thin). Then we bake at the lowest oven temperature (ours is 170 degrees) for 4 to 6 hours. The cooking time really depends on the fruit leather thickness and oven temperature. I don’t pay too much attention to the clock – – I just watch the fruit leather and as soon as it loses its tackiness, I take it out and let it cool.
Once cool, we peel off the fruit leather and put it on parchment paper. Then we trim around three sides and roll in the direction of the fourth, longer side.
After it’s all rolled up, we put tape around the tube of fruit leather, leaving room to cut in between. This marks the individual servings and holds them together after cutting.
This last step is hard for little hands (although they really want to give it a try) – – we just take kitchen shears and cut them into individual rolls. Voila! Fruit leather is finished.