Intensely flavorful dried peaches are good for eating out of hand and adding to granola; or plumped up in breads, chutneys, cobblers, cookies, dumplings and pies.
Peaches are one of just three fruits (the others are apples and pears) that benefit from treatment with an antioxidant solution before drying, says Deanna DeLong, author of "How to Dry Foods" (HP Trade, 2006). Otherwise, they turn brown and lose vitamins A and C.
DeLong's preferred treatment is a solution of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C powder), found in drug stores; or for those who aren't sensitive to sulfites, food-grade sodium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite, available at purveyors of winemaking supplies, and online at www.homebrewit.com. You can also use Fruit-Fresh, a Ball product containing citric and ascorbic acids but no sulfites; it's available at www.freshpreserving.com.
Here's how to dry peaches, according to DeLong:
— Select firm, ripe fruit that is heavy for its size, and with the most pronounced flavor.
— Wash and scald in boiling water briefly to remove the skins. Immediately plunge into cold water to cool. (The fruit can be left unpeeled, but the skins tend to become tough when dried.)
— Cut the fruit in half and discard the pits (which will, if left in, impart a bitter taste). If the halves are large, cut each into two slices.
— Submerge the peach halves in a solution of 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid per quart of water or a solution of 1/4 teaspoon of sodium bisulfite or potassium metabisulfite per quart of water. Stir to dissolve. Soak for no more than 15 minutes.
— Lightly rinse the peach halves in clear water.
— Arrange the peach halves, cut sides down, on the rack of a food dehydrator fitted with a thermostat, a fan and heating element. Dry at 130 to 140 degrees for about 8 hours; if there is a lot of humidity, it may take up to 12 hours. The dried peaches should be leathery and pliable with no pockets of moisture.