I’ve seen a lot of recipes lately for homemade fruit roll-ups and wanted to compare them to the store bought version. As I began to look at fruit leather recipes, I was quickly confused by the many different methods represented. Some of the recipes cooked the fruit before it was puréed, while others blended the fruit before cooking it and still others didn’t cook the fruit at all before drying! There were many other differences as well including the amount of sugar added and whether or not to strain the fruit purée. In the end, I turned to my most trusted recipe source: my Mom! I remember her making fruit leather for us several times growing up (probably after we begged her to buy us Fruit by The Foot) and it was surprisingly close to the store bought version. The recipe below is a combination of my Mom’s advice and a recipe from epicurious.com. This recipe undeniably contains a lot of sugar, but at least it is completely natural and uses only 2 ingredients. By contrast, the “all natural” Simply Fruit Fruit Rolls that I bought had 12 ingredients, including 2 preservatives. There were definitely noticeable differences between the two kinds of fruit rolls, but first my recipe:
Strawberry Fruit Roll Ups
Makes about 10 fruit rolls
4 cups hulled strawberries, either fresh or thawed from frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1. Place the strawberries and sugar in a blender and blend until a smooth puree is formed. Pour the puree into a medium sized saucepan, pressing through a fine mesh sieve, if desired, to remove the seeds (I didn’t bother to strain the puree and my daughter didn’t even notice the seeds). Cook puree over low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and sugar dissolves, about 30-45 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 170 degrees, or lowest heat possible. Line a half-sheet pan, or two smaller cookie sheets, with parchment paper or silicon liner and spray lightly with cooking spray. Once puree has thickened, pour it onto the sheet pan(s) and spread in a thin, even layer (a large offset spatula is the best tool for this, but a rubber spatula will also work). I somehow ended up spreading mine unevenly and had to cut half the fruit roll-ups off the pan and return the rest to the oven to finish drying, so try to get it as even as possible!
3. Dry the puree in the preheated oven for 3 to 6 hours, or until it no longer sticks to your fingers when touched. The wide time range is allowing for the differences in oven temperatures, humidity of different climates, and thickness of the puree. Once the puree has dried, remove the pan from the oven and set on a drying rack until completely cooled. Cut the cooled fruit into 10 rectangles and roll each rectangle up in a piece of waxed paper cut just a bit bigger than the piece of fruit roll. Store in a zip top bag for up to one month.
First off, my whole family agreed that the homemade fruit rolls tasted way better than the store bought. The homemade version had a very fresh, juicy strawberry flavor that was much tastier than store bought. This didn’t really surprise me as the first two ingredients in the store bought fruit rolls were apple juice concentrate and apple puree! Not what I expected to see at the top of the ingredient list for strawberry fruit rolls. Since I had decided not to strain the strawberry puree, my fruit roll-ups were not quite as smooth in texture to the store bought ones. But my 3 year old didn’t seem to notice at all and I actually preferred the slightly rougher texture.
The price of homemade strawberry roll-ups is very dependent on the time of year and location where the strawberries are bought. I used frozen berries for this comparison, partly because I knew the price would be similar throughout the year. However, these would definitely be much cheaper if one was buying fresh strawberries in season or, even better, had strawberries growing in the back garden! Given that I used frozen berries, the price was actually pretty similar to the store bought Simply Fruit Fruit Rolls, coming at about $2.50 for 10 fruit rolls.
Of course, the biggest drawback to making homemade fruit roll-ups is the time factor. Although they really do not require a whole lot of effort, you do have to dry them in the oven for several hours, checking occasionally to make sure they are not getting overdone. Which means, you have to actually be at home for several hours at a time, and that doesn’t happen too often in our house! Obviously, it is much easier to just grab a pre-packaged fruit roll from the cupboard and plunk it in a child’s lunch or hand it over for snack time.
Bottom Line: Homemade fruit roll-ups are time consuming and, depending on the time of year, not necessarily cheaper than their store bought counterparts. However, they do have fewer ingredients, taste marvelously fresh, and are not difficult to make. Since fruit roll-ups aren’t really something we eat often, but rather an occasional treat, I will probably stick to making these homemade version a few times a year. They would be really fun as a hiking or camping snack this summer!