Isn’t autumn magnificent! All those colourful leaves, fresher mornings and wild pickings to be had – and then there’s the abundance of awesome apples! They’ve been cropping since summer, but it’s the later to mature apples that will keep the longest.
Read on or watch our video to discover how to store apples properly, and three delicious ways to process them...
" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>
How Long Do Apples Keep?
When apples ripen is a good guide to how long they’ll store for. Early ripening apples don’t keep for long at all, so they’re best eaten straight off the tree.
Apples ready to pick mid-season generally keep a while longer, for around two to three weeks. To maintain freshness put up to 10 apples into a polythene bag, pierce some air holes into the bag then place your apples into the refrigerator.
Late-season apples are the real keepers. Most varieties should keep to the end of the year, and some as late as next spring – if they’re stored correctly.
How to Store Apples
Only store varieties known to keep well. If you can, pick apples in the morning while it’s still cool, and slightly under-ripe so they don’t over-ripen in storage. Only perfect apples make the grade, so use up blemished or bruised fruits immediately.
It’s important to prevent apples from touching in storage. That way if one goes bad it won’t contaminate the others. You can loosely wrap the apples in paper to help avoid this.
Apples should be stored somewhere cool but frost-free. If it’s still warm and you only have a few apples, keep them in your refrigerator until the weather turns fresher.
Place the apples into slatted boxes, racks or a purpose-made apple store. Whatever you use, it must allow for good air circulation. Consider insulating boxes with hay, straw or shredded paper if temperatures are likely to fluctuate or drop too low. Suitable storage spaces include sheds, root cellars, well-ventilated basements and shaded, enclosed porches.
Smaller apples tend to keep for longer, so eat the largest ones first. Regularly check stored apples and use up or compost any that are going soft or beginning to rot. Your garden birds will appreciate any less-than-perfect apples, especially at a time of year when finding enough food’s a struggle.
If you haven’t got anywhere suitable to store your apples, freeze them. Frozen apples can be used for baking, smoothies, jam, jelly and applesauce.
Begin by coring then peeling your apples. Cut them into slices then coat the slices in lemon juice to prevent them discolouring. One lemon should give enough juice to treat slices from six to ten apples.
Arrange the slices onto a cookie sheet or baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment, then pop them into the freezer. Once they’re frozen solid they can be transferred into labelled freezer bags or containers. This stops the slices from freezing into a single lump. Or simply freeze them in portion-sized containers. You can also prepare ready-to-bake apple pie fillings for the freezer.
Making Apple Rings
Or make your own apple rings. Start with washed apples, either peeled or (my preference) left as they are. Core the apples then cut into very thin slices – about an eighth to a quarter inch (3-5mm) thick. Arrange the slices onto oven racks or dehydrator trays so they’re not touching. If you like, add a dusting of cinnamon. Dehydrators make drying easy and give a uniform result. Set the temperature to 135ºF or 57ºC. If you’re using an oven, set it as low as it goes – usually 150ºF, 65ºC or gas mark 1.
Drying takes from six to 12 hours depending on slice thickness, water content and drying conditions. Your apple rings are ready when they’re dry and leathery to the touch. Or dry them further for crispy apple chips!
Once your apple rings have completely cooled pack them into airtight bags or containers and store somewhere cool, dark and dry for up to six months.
Making Apple Juice
Apple gluts can also be juiced – and you don’t need any specialist equipment! Put cored, chopped apples into a large stew pot. Add just enough water to cover, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat till the apples collapse to a soft mush. Now strain the mash through a fine-mesh sieve, working it back and forth with a spoon to extract all that lovely juice. This will need doing in stages.
If you prefer your juice clearer, filter it through cheesecloth or coffee filters. If necessary, adjust sweetness and add more water if it tastes too strong. Refrigerate your juice to enjoy within the week, can it by pouring hot juice into sterilised jars, or freeze in airtight containers to keep for up to six months.
Whether you eat them fresh, put them into store or process them into delicious snacks and drinks, there’s no excuse for wasting apples this autumn! Please share your ideas for storing and processing apples below.