Question: What is the proper blessing for fruit leather?
Answer: The Gemara (Berachot 38a) states that “Tarima”, a food made out of mashed dates, requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” because the fruit contained in it remains the same as it was before.
The Rishonim disagree what exactly “Tarima” is. Rashi writes that this refers to dates which were somewhat crushed and thus require the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz”. We can infer from the words of Rashi that if the fruit was completely mashed, it then requires the “Shehakol” blessing. The Rama (Chapter 202) rules likewise.
On the other hand, the Rambam (Chapter 8 of Hilchot Berachot, Halacha 4) explains that “Tarima” refers to pitted dates that were extremely mashed such that they resembled a dough and even so, it requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing because the dates remain in a similar state to what they were originally. Indeed, Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch rules: “Dates which were pitted and mashed them until they resemble a dough, their blessing remains unchanged and they require the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing.
Many fruit leathers produced today are made from mashed apricots which are then flattened into a thin sheet. According to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, this requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing since the leather is made out of apricots which require the “Ha’etz” blessing. Thus, even when the fruit is completely mashed, its blessing does not change, as explained by the Gemara and Rambam.
Nevertheless, according to Rashi who explains that the Gemara refers only to a case where the fruit was not completely mashed, fruit leather would require a “Shehakol” blessing. This is the opinion of the Rama as well. Indeed, Ashkenazim customarily recite the “Shehakol” blessing on fruit leather.
Many Sephardic Jews customarily recite the “Shehakol” blessing on fruit leather as well, in accordance with the Rama’s ruling. Although we usually always follow the rulings of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, nevertheless, since this issue is subject to a disagreement among the Poskim in addition to the fact that if one recites the “Shehakol” blessing on fruit leather one would fulfill one’s obligation even according to Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch, it has become customary to recite the “Shehakol” blessing. Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l rules likewise in his Responsa Rav Pe’alim (Orach Chaim, Chapter 28).
Nevertheless, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would customarily recite the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing on fruit leather. The reason for this was that there is no need to be concerned with the Rama’s opinion regarding this issue, for even the Rama would agree that one who recites the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing on fruit leather has fulfilled one’s obligation since this is not a lie, for ultimately, it is a derivative of the fruit of a tree. According to the Ashkenazi custom, however, one should recite “Shehakol”, as we have explained above. (See Responsa Yechave Da’at, Volume 2, Chapter 35 for further reference.)
On the other hand, there are other simpler forms of fruit leather which are manufactured commercially and have all sorts of ingredients inside, including sugar, extracts, and concentrates, and these require the “Shehakol” blessing according to all opinions, for only fruit leather made of real fruit requires the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing.