Picking, storing, and processing apples to enjoy all year
It’s apple season! Find out when apples are ready to be picked, how to properly pick an apple, how to store apples to keep them as long as possible, and what to do with a glut of apples—from freezing apples and drying apples to making apple juice and more apple treats!
When and How to Pick Apples
There are some clues to look for when checking to see if apples are ready to harvest. The fruits’ skin color will deepen. Fruits at the sides and tops of the trees will usually ripen first because they receive the most sunlight. Finding windfalls on the ground below the tree is a good sign that apples are ready to harvest. If in doubt, pick and taste one!
Never tug an apple from a tree. Instead, cup it in the palm of your hand, lift it up, and twist it gently. A ripe apple will come away easily, complete with its stem. Apples on the same tree will ripen at different rates, so harvest regularly. Handle apples carefully to avoid bruising them, and take care when using a ladder to pick apples from higher up on the tree.
Early-season varieties don’t store well, so eat them as soon as possible after picking. Mid-season varieties should keep for several weeks, and late-season varieties will store for up to six months.
Stored correctly, most varieties of late-season apples should safely keep to the end of the year, and some as long as until next spring!
Only store apples that are not bruised or blemished.
Ideally, pick apples in the morning while it’s still cool, and choose those that are slightly under-ripe so they don’t over-ripen in storage.
Store apples in a dark, well-ventilated, cool but frost-free place, such as a garage or shed.
Ideally, stored apples should not touch each other; rot spreads on contact. They should be on slatted trays or racks or in slatted boxes to allow air to circulate. You can also store them wrapped in newspaper. Keep different varieties separate, and eat those with the shortest storage life first, including large ones; they are likely to begin to go bad faster than small ones.
Check your stored apples regularly and remove any that show signs of damage or rotting. In cooler areas, consider insulating boxes with hay, straw, or shredded paper over the winter.
Fall brings an abundance of juicy apples. But what to do with them all?
You can freeze apples for use in baking, smoothies, jam, jelly, and applesauce.
Core and peel your apples. Cut them into slices and coat them with lemon juice to prevent discoloring. One lemon should provide enough juice to treat slices from up to ten apples.
Place your apple slices onto a cookie sheet, then put them into the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them to freezer bags or containers. This prevents the slices from freezing in a single lump. Alternatively, simply freeze them in portion-size containers.
You can also prepare ready-to-bake apple pie fillings for the freezer.
Make Apple Rings
Wash and core your apples, and peel them, if you wish. Cut them into very thin slices up to a quarter-inch thick, then place the slices on oven racks or dehydrator trays so they’re not touching. Set your dehydrator temperature to 135ºF, or set your oven as low as it will go. Your apple rings are ready when they’re dry and leathery to the touch; this takes between 6 and 12 hours. If you like, dry them longer for crispy apple chips!
Once your apple rings have cooled, pack them into airtight bags or containers. Store in a cool, dark, dry place for up to six months.
Make Apple Juice
Apples can be juiced without any special equipment. Core and chop your apples, then place them into a large stewpot. Cover with water, bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer on low heat until the apples become mushy. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve, working a spoon back and forth over it to extract the juice.
If you wish, filter your juice through cheesecloth or coffee filters to make it less cloudy. Taste and adjust sweetness. Add more water, if necessary.
Refrigerate your juice and use it within a week or can the hot juice in sterilized jars or freeze it in airtight containers for up to six months.
Or why not try making applesauce, jams, or jellies? See a few recipes:
See our short video on how to store apples safely to last all winter, how to freeze apples, and how to make chewy apple rings and fresh homemade apple juice!
If you love growing your own food, why not take a look at our online Garden Planner? Available here: https://gardenplanner.almanac.com