The peach harvest has been going on for several weeks now in southern Arizona. I decided I needed to replenish my stock of dehydrated peaches.
We had a hot June and then lots of rain (in the peach orchards at least) which resulted in bumper crops and very large peaches.
Last weekend, my wife and I went to one of our local orchards that offers u-pick and picked 128 lbs. of Red Globes (large, freestone, yellow meat peaches). They filled up 5 5-gallon picking buckets.
We got them spread out to finish ripening (softening really) for a couple of days. Here is about 2/3's of the picking. My wife loves peaches enough that she lets me take over the dining room table for a week to do this!
there were quite a few that are softball size and weigh 1 lb. each
After softening, we started the dehydrating process (it will take at least 3 batches to get all these done).
Step-1 - wash them, slice them, clean out any bad spots and set up on home made (non-metal) stacking trays for sulfering.
One trick I use is to spray the drying racks with some spray vegetable oil. It keeps the fruit from sticking to the rack when it is dried - they slide right off.
Step-2 - sulfering: The trays are raised up to get above the sulfer flames so they get sulfer smoke only.
1 cup of food grade sulfer is good for half-inch to 3/4 inch slices. It is best to use food-grade sulfer to be assured there are not some unknown (and maybe toxic) impurities.
Home made sulfering box - the sulfer sits under the stack of trays in the middle - well away from the cardboard sides. (I've been able to reuse this box for 3 years so far) Duck tape seals the cracks to keep the smoke in.
1 hour of sulfering is what I use for this size slice. Note how yellow they have become - the sulfering kills any molds and infestations I missed, keeps the fruit from turning brown during drying, and enhances the sugar content. (I cut out all large bruises and any bad spots before putting them into the sulfer box. You can see the placement of the aluminum tray used to hold the sulfer.
If you haven't done this before - only do this in a well ventilated area, with no metal parts. Sulfer smoke, mixed with water forms Sulferic Acid. If I don't have a breeze, I use a fan to disperse any remaining smoke, especially as take the cardboard box off so I don't breath much of the sulfer smoke (the moisture in your nose and throat will form sulfuric acid in your nose and throat! - a very unpleasant burning sensation!)
Close up to see the fruit - nice dark yellow color. Most of the Red colors from the pits and skin are gone - but will come back with drying.
Step 3 - Drying: Into the dehydrator. I use a Cabelas dehydrator with room for 12 racks. The racks are vinyl coated - makes them impervious to the sulfer smoke and easy to clean. I set the temp for 150 for the first 3 hours to get them warmed up faster (this many wet peaches takes a lot of energy to get them warmed up.
After 3 hours, I reset the dehydrator for a temp of 130 and set it to 24 hours (these are big slices) I'll check at 12 and 18 hours and remove fully dried pieces.
The result. The sulfering preserves the color . You can dehydrate without sulfering and they will taste good, but they will be brown. Another option is to soak the slices in a mixture of water and Fruit Fresh. That preserves some of the color - but not as well as sulfering (IMO) and they are not as sweet as when they get sulfered first.
I leave the skin on (it was well washed and rubbed prior to slicing, and the sulfering kills any remaining nasties). I like the chewy-ness of the skins, even though it means the drying takes longer. I like my fruits to have a bit of a chew to them, so I don't dry them down to a brittle state.
These will be packed up into 1-quart zip lock bags and put into the chest freezer (which will keep them for close to 5 years theoretically, but we eat them faster than that). We pull a bag out as needed. In the Pantry - these last for a couple of months.
This load made 6 quarts of dried peaches. Two to three more loads to go till we are done with the original 128 lbs.