We have two apple trees that in a somewhat normal year are very productive. Since they started to bear, we've only had one year with a failed crop. In the past, we've gorged and gifted our bounty. Most of the 'bummer' apples are used quickly for pies and apple crisp until we can't stand the sight of them. This year, I have a dehydrator and have already begun to dry the slightly green but somewhat sweet apples. FYI, the dehydrator has a fan and timer. These features are absolutely worth the extra cost. Everything dries more evenly and quickly, and you can leave it unattended without coming back to cardboard food.
We have gusty winds, hungry birds and minor thinning affecting the trees now. Daily checks yield fresh fruit on the ground, new areas that are crowded and newly pecked fruit. All these 'bummers' now go to the early harvest. Well, almost all. I leave some bird-pecked fruit as a tithe to my lovely songbirds. The fruit with just a new peck or two can be sliced and dried with little waste. The waste goes outside the fence for the deer as we wait for summer rains that are almost a month late. Poor hungry deer!
When preparing the fruit, I first mix fruit fresh (essentially pure vitamin C), a little sugar and water to 'dunk' the sliced fruit. This does not completely stop browning, but reduces it by 80 to 90 percent. If the apples are later used in baking, the asthetic difference is meaningful. The first slice is a thin one to remove some skin, which doesn't dehydrate well. I taste this. If it is still astringent to taste, the apple goes in the deer bucket. The remaining apple gets sliced about about 3/16th inch wide. Eyeball-wise, that's less than a quarter but more than an eighth. This eventually makes a chip that can be used for cooking or eating as-is. Core goes in the deer bucket.
Depending on the humidity, a 9-tray load takes 6 to 8 hours to dry. The fruit should still be flexible but not have any mushy spots. I set the dehydrator out on the covered porch so that it doesn't heat up the house. When ready, I bring the trays inside to cool for about an hour. After a few samples, the chips go in an glass hermetically sealed jar. Those are the ones I raved about previously that have the rubber ring. No special process is needed to open and reclose the jars. You can use the dried fruit as needed.
By the time we get to the ripe apple harvest in a few weeks, I should have all the 'bummer' apples salvaged and in jars. What a great way to keep a taste of summer with us all winter!