Preserving apples was the theme of my recent weekend. Part of living the homestead lifestyle is learning to preserve our harvests. For those who don’t have land, you’re still a homesteader if you’re living sustainably in your rental! You can certainly purchase produce to preserve. You help your local farmers and you know you’re preserving the best food you can get.
Preserving Apples Requires, Well, Apples!
As a matter of fact, I have 5 apple trees planted. But, . . . I just planted them this year. They won’t produce for another couple of years, so I purchased a half bushel of ‘seconds’ from a local orchard this year. Most orchards will sell them to you this way. There is nothing wrong with produce seconds! Purchasing seconds is a great homesteading thing to do! They are usually marked as seconds for silly reasons; they aren’t perfectly shaped, they’re a little small, their color isn’t perfect, there might be a small blemish or two. None of these things matter when you’re preserving (or just eating for that matter).
Multiple Ways of Preserving Apples
If you’re new to food preservation methods, preserving apples is a great place to begin. Apples are non-fussy, very easy to preserve, adapt well to many different techniques, and who doesn’t love an apple?
- Crockpot apple butter: It doesn’t get much easier than this folks! Really.
- Peel and core the apples. I used a slicer to make the process quicker. (*Note: You don’t have to peel the apples, but you will have to use a sieve to fish the skins out later if you leave them on.)
- Toss the apple slices into your crockpot.
- Add spices to taste (1 tsp – 1 Tbs each) cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves or any combination you love, plus a pinch of salt.
- Add ½ C –1C sugar. I chose not to add any sugar as I think apples are plenty sweet enough. Base this decision on the type of apple you have to work with—some are sweeter than others!
- Cover and turn pot on high—walk away for 4-6 hours.
- Once apples are soft enough, mash them. If there is too much liquid, tilt the lid slightly on the crockpot and leave on high until you get the consistency you want.
- I wanted my apple butter a bit smoother, so after it was the right consistency, I ran it all through my blender.
- Transfer it to a lidded container and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks (if it lasts that long!)
- Apple Pie Filling—Makes 4 quarts—1 quart is enough for 1 pie
- Peel and core 3 lbs. apples. Toss them into water with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
- In medium saucepan heat (until sugar is completely dissolved)
- 5 C water
- 2 ¼ C sugar
- 2 T lemon juice
- ½ T cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp each nutmeg, cloves
- If you are canning the pie filling, place apples in clean warm jars just over half full. If you’re new to canning, make sure to check out safety tips. This is a great go-to source for canning safety.
- Cover apples with warm liquid
- Add apples and liquid until jar is full—leave ½ inch headspace
- Add lids and bands. Process in hot water bath for 30 minutes.
- You can also freeze the mixture.
- When you’re ready to make pies—simply pour off about ¼ cup of the liquid; add 2 T cornstarch to this cold liquid, stir well then stir cornstarch mixture into apples. Pour into 9 inch pie shell and bake.
- Apple Chips—super simple snack
- Core apples. This time you can leave the skin on.
- Slice as thin as possible—no thicker than 1/8”.
- Place in one layer on baking sheet. (You can also use a dehydrator if you have it.)
- Sprinkle with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to taste.
- Bake in a 200 degree oven for 3-4 hours until dry.
- Once the slices are adequately dried and cooled, store them in an airtight container or ziplock bag.
- Dehydrated Apple Pieces—After all of this, I still had apples left! I decided to dehydrate small diced apples for tossing into muffin or pancake mix.
- Core apples.
- Cut into small dices.
- Place in dehydrator.
- They are finished when they shrink and are slightly leathery to the touch.
- Store for up to a year in a ziplock bag or lidded jar.
- DIY Apple Cider Vinegar—Don’t throw out the scraps! Make your own apple cider vinegar.
- You’ll need a large glass jar for this. I had an empty ½ gallon jar on hand, but you could use a quart. Use whatever you have!
- Fill the jar about ¾ full with apple scraps—cores, skins, blemished apples cut into pieces
- Heat water with sugar (enough to fill the jar). The mixture should be 1 Tbs sugar/1 C water.
- Pour the warm sugar water over the apple scraps. Make sure the apples are covered! Any apple that is open to the air can mold and ruin the whole batch.
- Cover with a cloth or coffee filter. Leave to sit in a warm, dark spot for 2 weeks.
- After 2 weeks, strain out the solids and return the liquid to the jar.
- Check once a week. Taste. When the taste is to your liking, put a lid on it and store in the refrigerator or a cool, dark cabinet. As long as you keep a tight-fitting lid on your vinegar, it should last for at least a year. It will lose its potency after a while.
While We’re Preserving Apples, Perhaps We Can Eat Some?
I still had some apples left, so I decided to make a quick apple crisp. My grand-daughter caught wind of this and asked if we could have blueberries in our apple pie. Hmmmmm, . . . . interesting idea!
Quick Apple/Blueberry Crisp
- 8-10 apples, peeled and cored, and cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 quart fresh blueberries (If you’re using frozen, don’t thaw them)
- Sugar (to taste) Again, I did not add sugar to the apples as mine were sweet. If you’re using a tart apple such as a Granny Smith, you may need to add sugar.
- ½ C flour (plus enough to toss apples and blueberries in to coat)
- ½ C brown sugar
- ½ C oats (quick cook or regular—not instant)
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ C butter, softened
Toss apples and blueberries in flour to coat. (This keeps the blueberries from bleeding into the dish. It also helps to create a thickish sauce as the apples release their juice.) Transfer to 9 X 13 pan. Sprinkle with sugar (as needed). Mix ½ C flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Mash with fork until well mixed. Stir in oatmeal. Sprinkle oatmeal mixture over fruit in pan. Bake @ 350 for about 30 minutes, until nicely browned and apples are soft. Enjoy! This is yummy warm with vanilla ice cream. The blueberries give a nice tart counterpoint to the apples.
So, have we hit apple overload yet? Is there such a thing? Here is the official count of what my ‘preserving apples’ weekend supplied:
- 4 quarts apple pie filling
- 1 quart apple butter
- 2 sandwich bags of apple chips
- 2 sandwich bags of dried apples for muffins/pancakes
- ½ gallon apple cider vinegar
- 1 9 X 13 pan of apple/blueberry crisp (not officially preserving, but it did come out of our ½ bushel of apples)
- Additions to my skill-set: I had never made vinegar before
Not a bad haul for $15 worth of apple ‘seconds’!
There are so many other ways to preserve apples. It boggles the mind! How do you preserve apples?
Want to plant your own apple trees? Make sure to check out my post on Planting Fruit Trees. Get started here. If you already have apple trees and you’d like to eliminate spraying them and get a better harvest, check out Fruit Tree Guilds.