We’re dealing with 300 pounds of peaches from our garden. We donated about 200 pounds and have tried to preserve most of the rest. One option is to dehydrate them.
We got rid of our dehydrator a few years ago. It was a flimsy plastic thing that cost about $40, took up counter space and didn’t have enough tray space to make the effort or energy expenditure worth it.
Yesterday we built one. As you can see it’s super hi-tech. It took about ten minutes to assemble and cost us $0 ‘cos we used things we had lying around the house. We based it on a design for $10 JERKY MAKER that calls for a cardboard box, a PVC pipe and a 100 watt bulb. It uses a square foot of floor space and works like a charm. We improvised based on what we had.
We had a 100 watt bulb with a clip-on holder that had a plug at the end that we use for certain photo projects. If I recall correctly, we paid around $8 each for the bulb and clip-on holder – $16 total.
J pulled out a cardboard packing box (12x12x12 inches) from the attic. Unfold the end flaps of the box and tape them together along the edges so that the box “stands” upright and is taller by 5-6 inches. Cut out a square on one side that allows you to insert the bulb and holder, using the clip to secure it in place. if you don’t have the clip-on feature, simply place the bulb contraption on a baking sheet.
We didn’t have PVC pipes and substituted some 1/4 inch bamboo rods used to stake our plants in the garden. Make holes in the cardboard on opposite sides and skewer 6 bamboo stakes through. These will serve as shelves to place your tray/skewers. The shelves should be 5 to 6 inches apart. We had five stakes. Ideally, you’d use six – three per “shelf”.
On the lower shelf, we place an upturned baking rack – the type on which you cool cookies. You can also use a netting and frame used on windows as stipulated in the original design.
Since we had only one of those, on the upper rack, we used metal skewers. Fold the top flaps closed leaving a small opening for the warm air to escape. (see pic 1)
Those are ten pounds of peaches in all. In 12 to 16 hours, they will be ready. The bulb gently heats up the air inside, which rises to the top and creates a temperature that is consistently about 20F above room temperature. When you’re done, fold up the cardboard and put it away along with everything else.
You can make a whole heap of sun-dried tomatoes this way. This link also has a step-by-step pictorial on how to make beef jerky along with a recipe.
Coming up: Three ways to preserve peaches.