In order to obtain the best results, fruit must be picked from the trees (not shaken) when ripe, but not over-ripe. Half-ripe fruit does not dry well because a sufficiency of sugar has not been developed and the green portion of the fruit assumes a dark, uninviting appearance. Fruit must not be shaken as the bruises dry black, and an unsaleable article is produced.
No matter what method of drying is used, the fruit must be absolutely clean.
In the drying of peaches and apricots, each fruit must be cut down the centre in exact halves, care being taken that the halves are entirely divided. There must be no skin left to join the pieces together. If the two pieces are not completely severed sorting after drying is materially interfered with. Peeling may be done by small machines made for the purpose, which can be readily obtained, but hand peeling is preferable in the case of peaches like the Transvaal yellow, which has a very light thin skin. Peaches with very loose and heavy skins may be sulphur skinned. This means that the fruit is cut for drying, placed in a suitable box, and exposed to the fumes of sulphur for fifteen minutes, after which the skins can be readily taken off. Peaches handled in this way have a nicer appearance than when peeled by hand.
Apples and pears take longer to dry than any other kind of fruit. All varieties of apples may be dried, but some are better for this purpose than others. Large, white fleshed varieties are the most suitable. Early in the season, before the fruit is quite ripe, the windfalls and those attacked by codling moth may be pared and quartered or cut into rings and dried. Fruit that would otherwise be lost may thus be turned to profitable account.
With apples, peel, core, cut away bruised parts, if any, slice in rings about a quarter of an inch thick, put into salted cold water for 15 minutes to preserve the colour, 4oz. of salt being used to a gallon of water. Afterwards place the rings thinly on the trays, or thread them on a string stretched across the drying frame. Cling-stone peaches should be pared and cut into halves. Apricots and plums should be halved, but not peeled.
Bruises, scars, all damaged parts, in fact, should be cut away from pears. In dealing with inferior or badly damaged fruit from which a lot of cutting has to be done, the fruit may be cut into conveniently sized pieces regardless of shape, and these pieces dried. In dealing with perfectly sound, ripe fruit, which should not be soft, the usual method is to half the pears, and dry in that form. In doing this a thin paring of the peel is removed longitudinally from the stalk of the fruit to the eye on opposite sides of the pear and the pear halved right through the centre of the peeled part. The peeling is done in this way so that when the pear loses bulk in drying out it presents a clean cut surface and not a jagged edge of projecting peel as it would otherwise do. Remove the stalk and scoop out the core with a "coring spoon" or "corer." The halved or cored pieces should be immediately put on the trays, cut side up and as close together as possible. Sometimes the halved pears are dropped into a tub of water in which about 4oz. of coarse salt to a gallon has been dissolved. After remaining in this solution for a few minutes they are put on the trays. If left too long in the salt water it tends to break up the issues of the fruit and render it unduly soft. Five to ten minutes is long enough.