With this year’s bounty of apples, proper storage can extend the harvest into the new year. By freezing and canning, you can enjoy homegrown apples and homemade applesauce, apple butter, even pie until the next harvest rolls around. Here’s how:

Storage

Humidity and cold temperatures are the key to storing apples for months, says Einar Olsen, owner of Bayfield Apple Co.

He suggests putting fresh apples in a plastic bag with holes in it. Put the bag in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Then place a wet washrag that’s been rung out on top of the plastic bag.

“Moisture condenses through a plastic bag,” he explained. “That works out really well. You can triple the length of time they’ll last.”

Exactly how long depends on the variety.

“Later maturing apples are usually the best keepers,” Olsen said. “Apples that mature the latest are firmer.”

Cortland and Haralson are good keeping apples, for example, while McIntosh, Beacon and Paula Reds are not, he says.

Stored in this fashion, Cortlands picked at his orchard in early October are still good at the first of the year, Olsen says.

According to University of Wisconsin-Extension Service, apples should be washed before storage, then put in baskets or boxes lined with plastic or foil to retain moisture. Late-season apples kept in this manner-at 30 to 32 degrees and 95 percent humidity-will keep for two to six months.

Apples should be free of bruises and punctures and stored away from other fruits and vegetables. Check them periodically and remove rotten apples.

The University of Minnesota Extension Service recommends keeping the stems on the apples when picking them. That helps prevent rot caused by bacteria entering through a break in the skin.

Freezing

Firm, crisp apples can be peeled, cored, sliced and then frozen for later use in cooking, baking and desserts.

Apples should first be treated with an antioxidant because enzymes in apples will cause them to brown quickly and lose vitamins when exposed to air and during freezing.

The most common way is to dip apples into a solution of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), typically 1,500 milligrams per quart of cold water. Dip apples for one minute, then drain, according to the University of Wisconsin Extension Service.

Another way is to dip the slices in a citric acid such as lemon juice. Three tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart of water will do. Dip for 1 to 2 minutes.

“It stops the enzyme actions so it doesn’t lose color, flavor and texture,” said Kathy Miller, the Extension Service’s family living educator for Bayfield County. “Drain them and you can just freeze them like that in a freezer baggie or freezer container.”

“Without dipping in a solution, they would probably discolor and lose some of their flavor,” she continued. “It wouldn’t be harmful, it’s not a safety issue, but lemon juice helps preserve color and crispness of the fruit.”

While whole apples can be frozen, few people do because it makes more sense to slice or dice the apple for its intended use, Miller said.

Before packing her apple slices in bags for freezing, Ann Kregness of rural Duluth mixes them with a syrup of equal parts honey and lemon juice. Kregness, a local grower, later uses the slices for apple cakes, pies and apple crisp.

Once treated, apples can be frozen in several ways: in a dry pack, with no sweetener added; in a dry sugar pack that has sugar sprinkled over the fruit; and in a sugar and water mixture called a syrup pack if a more sweetened apple is desired.

For a light syrup pack, Miller suggested two cups of sugar to four cups water. Medium syrup is three cups of sugar to four cups of water. Use hot water to dissolve the sugar faster, but prepare the solution ahead of time so it can cool down before it is poured over the apples.

“Put apple slices in a firm container and just barely cover it with the syrup,” Miller said.

Fruits packed in syrup are usually best for pastry and uncooked desserts, while those packed dry or unsweetened are best for cooking when sugar can be added later, according to university extension services.

Canning

Apples for canning should be juicy, crisp and can be a combination of sweet and tart. Slices must first be treated in a solution of ascorbic acid or a citric solution such as lemon juice and water.

University of Minnesota Extension Service offers this precedure for canning sliced apples:

Pretreat apple slices with ascorbic acid or a citric solution. Drain. Boil slices in a light to medium syrup in a large saucepan for five minutes. (A light syrup is 6 3/4 cups of water and 1 1/2 cups sugar; medium syrup is 2 1/4 cups sugar and 5 1/4 cups water).

Fill jars with hot apple slices and hot syrup or water, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and place in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

Source: University of Minnesota Extension Service


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