Those of us with apple trees on our yard know that autumn’s bounty can also be a burden. Unless your family switches to an all-apple diet by early September, chances are your apple tree will produce more fruit than you can eat before it spoils. Luckily, there are many great ways to extend the life of your apple harvest. Here are some of my favourite ways of preserving apples, listed from least-to-most time-consuming:
If your goal is keeping your apples whole and crisp for longer than a week, refrigeration is key to making that happen. The cool, dark air and higher humidity keeps them from spoiling as quickly, so you can enjoy them weeks down the road.
Remember, though, that apples give off ethylene gas, which is great at helping them ripen, but too much of it can suffocate them and your other fruits and veggies into rotting. Prevent this by keeping them in a plastic bag in a separate crisper drawer on their own.
This method is great for apple pie fans. I know the saying goes, “American as apple pie”, but I’ve met a lot of Albertan gardeners who have their apple pie prep down to a science – and it often starts with a freezer full of peeled and sliced apples. When freezing large volumes of apples, it’s worth the investment to buy a combination apple peeler & corer. This will save your time, and your hands, trust me.
Homemade applesauce has endless uses – from a delightful condiment for pork dishes, to a natural and wholesome baby food. Simply boil coarsely-chopped apples with lemon juice and a generous grating of lemon zest, along with some sugar, water, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Once the apples have softened enough that you can easily puree them into a sauce, add more sugar and salt to your preferred taste.
Apples are naturally high in pectin, and can be used as a substitute for pectin in any fruit jam recipe. You can also enjoy the pure, hearty flavour of apple in a simple apple jelly or apple butter. You can easily find apple jelly and apple butter recipes for all tastes online, and most of them are five ingredients or less!
I love homemade apple cider, and it’s definitely one of my most favourite ways to use a large volume of apples. It takes about 8-10 apples to produce about a half-gallon of cider. That may sound like a lot, but during holiday season, you can never really have too much cider on hand (especially when spiked for a little adult twist). Simply boil together apples, sugar, and water with your preferred spices, mash, let cool, and strain for delicious flavour.
If you’re fortunate enough to own a dehydrator, you can use it to make delicious apple chips. Thinly slice your apples and toss in a solution of lemon juice, water, and cinnamon before placing in the dehydrator. Dehydrate for 7 hours. You can also do this in a conventional oven set to 160°F (65°C) for about 6 hours, checking frequently.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has a wealth of health benefits and is beloved by famed celebrities for its probiotic power. The method to produce apple cider vinegar is very similar to making cider, but it takes much longer – mostly just letting it ferment, like homemade beer. The good news is that making apple cider vinegar allows you to use the whole apple, so it’s great for those core and peels that would otherwise go in the trash.
With so many ways to preserve apples, your apple tree can do wonders for your fall baking, support your healthy eating goals, and help you produce thoughtful holiday gifts. If you don’t have an apple tree yet and you’d like to transform your yard into an orchard, read my tips for growing the perfect apple here.