Okay … I didn’t actually use a paper clip. I got a little too MacGyver on the title. But, I did make honest-to-goodness fruit snacks out of zucchini and kool-aid. And you can do it without a dehydrator, too.
And that kind of know-how would so impress MacGyver.
It’s super easy, cheap and way better for the kiddos than the high fructose corn syrup / modified corn starch numbers at the store.
There’s a few different versions of this recipe floating around the web, but this is my own recipes that, in my humble opinion, tastes even better, uses much less sugar and can actually work in the oven if you don’t have a dehydrator. I have made several batches over the last few days and hope my trial and error process helps someone out.
Homemade Fruit Snacks
Or the: Your Kids Will The Entire Batch In Two Minutes and You Finally Have Something To Do With All That Zucchini Besides Bread and Muffins Recipe
For this recipe you’ll need:
Wash, peel and halve your zucchini, even if you’re using small, tender squash.
You want to get all of the peel removed so that the zucchini meat dehydrates properly and looks in no way healthy. This is critical for the kids to buy into the idea. Halve your zucchini if you’re using baseball-sized ones like I did. It makes them much easier to work with.
Remove the seeds and pulp from the inside with a spoon, making sure the meat has a nice, even thickness.
When you’re done the zucchini should look like this:
peel-free and a fairly even thickness.
Cut the zucchini in long strips about 1/4” – 3/8” thick.
Don’t worry about being precise, just eyeball it. Wider strips will work fine, too—just allow for extra drying time.
Cut the strips into 1 inch pieces.
These will shrink up by half in the dehydrator giving you a bite-sized piece.
Heat water, sugar and drink mix over high heat.
Add the zucchini as soon as the sugar is dissolved and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes.
Drain thoroughly reserving cooking liquid and allow to cool in the strainer for ten minutes.
Dump zucchini out onto dehydrator trays or plastic wrap lined cookie sheets and let dehydrate.
Store in ziplock bags until they’re eaten up.
** Then lather, rinse, repeat. **
The next batch of zucchini can be cooked in the left-over cooking liquid with the same favor and texture.
Drying In A Dehydrator:
Dry snacks for about a day, being sure to rotate trays. Snacks are done with they’re still soft and pliable, but dry to the touch with a matte finish.
Drying In The Oven:
Line sheets with plastic wrap, but do not spray with cooking spray.(I used wax paper in this picture and it stuck horribly and discolored during the drying. Plastic wrap has worked beautifully on all of the batches since then).
(The red are from the fruit punch flavored Kool Aid and the purple is from the grape.)
You can either spread it around loosely with a spatula …
… or go the Martha Stewart route and line them all nice and neat.
The Martha way looks pretty, but it takes forever to do. And both ways cooks just as well so there’s not an advantage either way. Well, other than the obvious time-saving "messier" style one!
As you can see, the pieces will shrink by about half and darken in color during their drying time.
Set your oven between 140 – 170 degrees. (My oven’s lowest setting was WARM – 170 degrees). If your oven won’t go below 200 degrees, prop the door open with a hand towel and keep the temperature down a bit.
The drying time in the oven, as well as with the dehydrator, will vary depending on the piece sizes and humidity. I placed the batch below in the middle rack of the oven at 170 degrees right after lunch. I turned the oven off around 11 pm when I went to bed and kept the door closed all night.
In the morning they were almost done, so I scraped all the pieces together with a spatula to move them around, spread them back out and finished them in the oven at 170 degrees for about another 40 minutes. Again, drying times will vary.
(Again, use plastic wrap to line your pans. I used wax paper here and although the flavor and texture were fine, the paper discolored and didn’t look very appetizing.)
When they were done, the 1 inch long pieces ended up at 1/2” inch bites and the 1/2” inch pieces ended up the size of mini M&M's and were chewier.
The smaller length pieces were also tough to use in the dehydrator because they kept falling through the cracks on the tray. They also dried out much faster than the bigger pieces. That made them much harder and chewy like jerky. My kids liked the soft, bigger pieces much better.
These snacks won’t win any beauty contests, but I’d rather give my kids 0.9 oz. of yummy homemade fruit snacks with all of the extra vitamins from the garden than the 0.9 oz. of the store bought variety with all the fillers and junk.
Oh, and these were super cheap.
The store brand single serve packs work out to be about .20 each. The homemade variety ran me .06 each when I bought sugar (and used the cooking liquid for two batches) and .02 a serving when I used sugar on hand.
We have achieved SOUR fruit snacks!
These are sooooo good!
Mix 4 c. zucchini, 3 c. water, 1 c. sugar or splenda and 10 orange Kool-aid packs.
(Yes, you really do need 10 packs.)
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft.
Let cool for 10 minutes before transferring to trays.
Then dehydrate as usual.
You can go the bite-sized route with this snacks, but my kids prefer leaving them 3-4 inches long.
They make the cutest little sour gummy worms. Yum!
FreebieFetish Note: To make this even healthier, you can try shredding the zucchini and mixing them with something like unsweetened apple sauce or other pureed fruit instead of the water and sugar and then drying them like a fruit roll up, I think I may try that next. then there would be no added sugar at all.