An apple tree in the garden is one of the most satisfying food crops to grow and harvest. After a wonderful season of picking straight off the tree, the last harvest month rolls around and you may find yourself with more apples than you know what to do with. Try these preserving methods to enjoy these delicious fruits throughout the year.
Shaking an apple tree, although entertaining, is not the best way to harvest. Roll a fruit upwards and twist it and it should come easily off the branch. Don’t pull straight off the branch as this could damage the branches and leave the tree exposed to possible pests and diseases. The apples should come off easily when they are ripe.
How to Preserve Apples
When you think about apples, most people will think apple pie. So why not bottle your apples for use in this classic recipe. Peel, core and cut apples into chunks and heat with a bit of water, sugar and lemon juice to keep their colour. While hot, pack into sterilised jars, cover and pack away in a cool dark place until ready to use. This mixture can also be frozen.
Dehydrating is a great way to use apples as snacks. You can use a dehydrator or simply place slices in a single layer on trays and bake in a low oven (120°C) for a couple of hours. Turn them over halfway through and cook for a bit longer if you want apple crisps.
Apple jam or chutney
Apples are versatile and go with many other ingredients to make interesting chutneys – try walnut, onion and spices with apple, or add another fruit like plums or grapes for a tasty jam or chutney, or simply use them on their own. This includes the classic apple sauce, which pairs so well with pork dishes. There are also recipes for apple butter which is just like a jam and a mix of spices, maple syrup and cider vinegar, heated and blended to form a smooth ‘butter’ to spread on bread.
Pectin is sometimes difficult to find commercially and there are some fruits that don’t have enough pectin in them to set– like berries or cucumbers for example. Apples are very high in pectin, used to make homemade pectin which can then be stored in a jar in the fridge when you are ready to make jams of other fruits.
Apples can be frozen fresh with a few steps. Cut and core the apples. Slice them for ease and soak in a water bath with lemon juice added to stop them from going brown. Drain and place on trays in a single layer. Freeze for at least 4 hours and then pack in bags and label. The frozen apples are not going to be the same as the fresh version after thawing, but they are very useful for sauces and pie fillings.
Apple cider is easy to make, ready for use after around 7 days. Apples are juiced and the juice fermented using commercial yeasts or simply the yeast found in the air. The process takes around 7 days, but does require stirring a few times a day to keep it going until it starts buzzing around and the sugars convert to alcohol.
Apple cider vinegar
One of the healthiest ways to preserve apples is to make homemade apple cider vinegar. You can make cider and leave it for a couple of months to turn into vinegar, or you can just chop up some apples, place them in a jar with a bit of sugar, and top up with filtered water. It does require constant monitoring and stirring daily, but after 2 months, you could benefit from your own homemade apple cider vinegar.
By Madison Moulton