Fruit Roll-Ups: Buy It vs. Make It
Whether you call them fruit leather, fruit roll-ups or “candy tongues” (am I the only one with weird kids?), you know what I’m talking about: those wax-paper-wrapped strips of dessicated fruit juice that the kids today find so addicting, they’ll go through a box before you can turn back around with the cheese-sticks.
These dehydrated wonders fall into two categories: the brightly-hued variety that is nothing but a two-dimensional plane of sugar and food coloring, and the thick and hearty organic kind that’s fifty cents for a strip the size of a Groucho Marx moustache. I never buy the former because I’m terrified of what hellions my children will become. I never buy the latter because I am pretty sure they are, literally, worth their weight in gold.
But the kids really dig fruit roll-ups.
So I set out to make a batch and found them remarkably easy. It takes a lot of time, but 99 percent of that time is unattended. You just have to really, really make sure you don’t let them get stuck to the paper, which is where I went wrong on the first try.
– I used blueberries instead of strawberries because kids do not dig strawberry seeds, and I do not dig straining things. This was good.
– I used wax paper instead of a silicone mat the first time. This was bad. The fruit stuck irreparably to the paper and I ended up chewing it like gum.
After that false start, I went from “bucket of fruit” to “crock pot full of jam” to “flat, rolled up bucket of fruit” in, oh, about 10 hours. The result made both me and my kids happy, and I call that a win.
So let’s break this down:
Whether you buy name-brand or not, the very cheapest variety is 40 cents an ounce, with most hovering around 80 cents an ounce. (“Fruit snacks,” which seems to mean the same stuff in fun shapes instead of in sheets, are more like 40–50 cents an ounce as a rule, so maybe it’s very expensive to squish fruit into sheets.)
The cost of doing it yourself depends, as always, on the cost of your fruit. Maybe you’re foraging, and it’s free. Maybe you went to Costco and got 2 lbs. of blueberries for $7. My two pounds of fruit, cooked down over 4 hours in a crock pot, yielded about 36 oz. of jam; I took one third of that and, even after it dried, it still weighed about 12 oz. So I’m going to say my fruit roll-ups cost about 19 cents an ounce. Quite a savings, and I had total control over the color and sugar content. Which was considerable, because I added some to the jam, along with fruit pectin, but whatever.
The crock pot does half the work; a very low-heat oven does the rest. All that’s left for you to do is spread the jam on a mat (do not forget the cooking spray!) and then cut, peel, and roll up the fruit neatly. It’s just a matter of having the right stuff: crock pot, oven, cookie sheet, silicone mat and cooking spray.
HOLY DESSICATED FRUIT, BATMAN. The taste is fresher, the flavor is brighter, and you get to add your own extras, like ginger and cinnamon. The kids agreed, for once, though I did have to puree the jam before spreading it onto the mat to ensure there would be no “this is lumpy” excuses.
You better make it. Make it. I said make it!
What’s the verdict? Check out all Amy’s Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!