Goodness, my pantry is smelling heavenly right now! (the home of my dehydrator) I can smell the sweetness of the strawberries and the hint of basil dancing through the air. I had fun making this recipe. Perhaps it was the act of infusing that made me feel all la-te-da, you know, real chef-like. We all need our moments of glory and if I find mine in the act of infusing a herb into a fruit, well then so be it.
I love gathering information, tidbits, trivia about things, so I thought I would share a bit on basil.
Basil is part of the mint family, together with Rosemary, Lavender and Oregano.
Basil has been used to relieve gas pain and nausea.
Basil is an annual plant, which means that it does not survive the next season unless the growing condition is very favorable.
The center shoot of a Basil’s seedling should be pinched to encourage side growth and early flowering.
Basil’s flowering buds are often pinched away to encourage better and more flavorful foliage.
Unlike many herbs, the Basil plant actually prefers a steady water supply.
Because of its strong flavor, Basil is normally pest-resistant. It can even help repel harmful insects for other adjacent plants.
The best time to harvest Basil is when the plant is about to flower, because this is when the leaves are most concentrated with essential oil.
Basil can be preserved either by drying or freezing.
Basil leaves preserved in olive oil and can be kept up to 6 months. The flavored oil is excellent for pasta and salad dressing. Give it a try!
6 cups fresh strawberries
2 Tbsp chia seeds, ground in grinder
1 large bunch fresh basil leaves (1 cup)
Select RIPE or slightly overripe strawberries that have reached a peak in color, texture, and flavor.
Prepare the strawberries; wash, dry, and remove stems.
Puree the strawberries, in the blender or food processor until smooth. Taste and sweeten if needed. Keep in mind that flavors will intensify as they dehydrate. When adding a sweetener do so 1 tbsp at a time, and reblend, tasting until it is at the desired taste. It is best to use a liquid type sweetener. Don’t use a granulated sugar because it tends to change the texture.
Pour the puree into a bowl.
Take the basil leaves and rough chop them (bruising them). This will help release their oils. Place the basil in the strawberry puree and stir it around. Cover and place in fridge overnight or for about 8 hours. This will infuse the basil into the strawberries.
Strain the puree through a mesh cylinder to remove the basil leaves. Place puree in the blender, add ground chia and blend until combined.
Allow the puree to sit for 10 minutes so the chia has time to thicken the puree.
Spread the fruit puree on teflex sheets that come with your dehydrator. Pour the puree to create an even depth of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. If you don’t have teflex sheets for the trays, you can line your trays with plastic wrap or parchment paper. Do not use wax paper or aluminum foil.
Lightly coat the food dehydrator plastic sheets or wrap with a cooking spray, I use coconut oil that comes in a spray.
When spreading the puree on the liner, allow about an inch of space between the mixture and the outside edge. The fruit leather mixture will spread out as it dries, so it needs a little room to allow for this expansion.
Be sure to spread the puree evenly on your drying tray. When spreading the puree mixture, try tilting and shaking the tray to help it distribute more evenly. Also, it is a good idea to rotate your trays throughout the drying period. This will help assure that the leathers dry evenly.
Dehydrate the fruit leather at 145 degrees (F) for 1 hour, reduce temp to 115 degrees (F) and continue drying for about 16 (+/-) hours. Flip the leather over about half way through, remove the teflex sheet and continue drying on the mesh sheet. Finished consistency should be pliable and easy to roll.
Check for dark spots on top of the fruit leather. If dark spots can be seen it is a sign that it is not completely dry.
Press down on the fruit leather with a finger. If no indentation is visible or if it is no longer tacky to the touch, the fruit leather is dry and can be removed from the dehydrator.
Peel the leather from the dehydrator trays or parchment paper. If it peels away easily and holds its shape after peeling, it is dry. If it is still sticking or loses its shape after peeling, it needs further drying.
Under-dried fruit leather will not keep; it will mold. Over-dried fruit leather will become hard and crack, although it will still be edible and will keep for a long time
Storage: to store the finished fruit leather…
Allow the leather to cool before wrapping up to avoid moisture from forming, thus giving it a breeding ground for molds.
Roll them up and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Click (here) to see photos on how I wrap them.
Place in an air-tight container, and store in a dry, dark place. (Light will cause the fruit leather to discolor.)
The fruit leather will keep at room temperature for one month, or in a freezer for up to one year.
Why do I start the dehydrator at 145 degrees (F). Click (here) to learn the reason behind this.
When working with fresh ingredients it is important to taste test as you build a recipe. Learn why (here).
Don’t own a dehydrator? Learn how to use your oven (here). I do however truly believe that it is a worthwhile investment. Click (here) to learn what I use.