For many families, a favorite fall activity is going apple picking. Even if you cannot get out to the orchard to pick them yourself, you can find an abundance of them at local farm stands or even grocery stores.
Apples are a good source of fiber, providing 17% daily value of fiber in one medium apple. They also contain some vitamin C, providing 14% of the needed daily value, making them a healthy snack.
After a fun day in the orchards, you may get home and think, what do I do with all of these apples now? There are several preservation methods that you can use to enjoy your apples all year long.
As with any food preparation, make sure to always start with clean work surfaces, and wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
If you have apples that are crisp and firm, like Granny Smith, they can be frozen after you have washed, peeled, cored and sliced them. To prevent them from browning and keep them at peak quality, you can pack them in syrup made of 3-3/4 cup sugar for every 5 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid. Another option is a sugar pack that you can make by mixing 1/2 cup sugar for every 1 quart of fruit. Then add 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid mixed with 3 tablespoons of water or steam blanch slices for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes, and cool in very cold water and drain.
Syrup or sugar packs are good for apples you plan to use in a dessert, like apple pie, but you can also dry pack apples by following the same instructions as the sugar pack, but without the sugar. Dry packing would be a great option if you wanted to control added sugar or calories.
Make sure to pack the apples in freezer-safe containers with 1/2 to 1 inch of headspace. The recommended storage time for apples is up to 8 months in the freezer.
To make applesauce, it is best to mix tart and sweet apples. Start with 1-2 pounds of tart varieties like Granny Smith or Pink Lady, for every 3 pounds of sweeter varieties, like Fuji or Gala. Then prepare the apples — wash, peel and core them, and soak them in a solution made with 1 teaspoon of ascorbic acid for every gallon of water to prevent browning. Next, place the drained slices in a pot and add 1/2 cup of water. Cook them for 5-20 minutes until tender, while stirring occasionally. Press the mixture through a sieve or food mill if you desire a smoother texture. If you would like, you can add 1/8 cup sugar for every quart of sauce. If you plan to can the applesauce so that it can be shelf stable, fill the jars to 1/2-inch head space and process in a boiling water bath canner: 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts, remembering to adjust for altitude. If you are not processing in a boiling water bath canner, the applesauce must be refrigerated and used within about 3 weeks. If you see any mold forming, throw it out.
You could also freeze the applesauce for 8-12 months.
Another great option for preserving apples is making it into fruit leather. It is simple to do, and a great snack for kids. Start by cooking the apples, following the instructions above for applesauce, then puree it until smooth. At this point, you can add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or 1/8 teaspoon of ascorbic acid for each 2 cups of fruit to prevent darkening. For drying in a dehydrator, spread the mixture evenly, about 1/8-inch-thick onto a plastic drying tray. For the oven, use a cookie sheet with raised edges and line it with a non-stick material like parchment paper. Spread the puree evenly, leaving space at the edges of the tray. Drying time will take about 6-8 hours in a dehydrator at 140 F or up to 18 hours in your oven at its lowest temperature setting. You will know the fruit leather is done when you press on it and it does not leave an imprint. If you accidently over-dried the leather, just add some applesauce and return it to drying. Once the leather is done, peel, roll and wrap it while it is still warm. Fruit leather will store for 1 month at room temperature or 1 year in the freezer.
These are just a few of the countless options for preserving apples. Other preservation ideas include canning the apples or canning apple pie filling.
Visit https://extension.psu.edu/lets-preserve-apples to view Penn State Extension’s publication on preserving apples for more information.