I love, love, love apple season! There is something awesome about gardening and growing your own vegetables and food, but though we do not yet have an orchard of any kind, we do have some local apple growers from whom we can purchase an awesome supply of apples on a regular basis at a reasonable price. During this season, we enjoy a bushel of apples every two weeks, which means that if we do not figure out some means of preservation, we will enjoy these lovely beauties for a time and then they will be gone. Of course, we can purchase apples throughout the year, but it is just not the same as freshly picked, seasonal apples.
You may not have the same blessing as we do regarding a local source for inexpensive apples, but there is something to be said for opening a jar of homemade apple sauce, or apple butter, in the middle of winter. Or even pulling out from frozen seasonal apples for a winter apple pie. Preserving the harvest is a blessing and I personally enjoy the thrill of tapping into something so age old, and presently under appreciated, as the art of preserving food. If you are as adventurous as I am, this is a great season to try your hand at some home preservation techniques. Choose one, choose two, choose them all, but I urge you to give something a try! =0)
Frugal Friday: Ways for Preserving the Apple Harvest
There are a variety of different options that are available to us when it comes to preserving food. Some of you may know them all, while others may not have a clue. I want to give you a handful of options for apple harvest preservation so that you can make a decision for what might work best for you and your family. I try to dip into each different option to preserve as much as possible, so if you have an abundance of apple delights in your home (or within easy access), I hope all of these options help to spread your opportunity to extend the harvest even more.
1. Dehydrated Apples (i.e. Apple Chips)
This is a family favorite…in other words, the kids devour these! But, dehydrating apple slices and making them into fun little apple chips/crisps is such an easy and delicious way to enjoy apples in a different way. As much as I desire to keep some of these around for the winter and spring seasons, my kids tend to beat me to it, but they are easy enough that I don’t mind. We do have a dehydrator, which I LOVE, but if you are without such a kitchen gadget, baking them at a low temperature in the oven works just fine too.
The basic method for dehydrating/drying sliced apples is:
- With either a mandoline slicer or a sharp knife, slice out thin slices of apple. You can choose to core the apple, which will create little apple circles, or you can leave the core and slice, removing all the seed bits that fall out. These way leaves fun stars in the middle of the apple slices (again, a kid favorite).
- Lay the apple slices thinly across a parchment paper lined baking sheet, or the dehydrator trays.
- You can sprinkle some cinnamon across the apple slices at this point, if desired. Very yummy!
- Set the dehydrator to the fruit temperature (135F), and if using the oven, set it as low as it can go (mine goes to 170F).
- Place trays/baking sheets into dehydrator/oven and let dry for several hours. The oven will go faster than the dehydrator. Expect between 2-4 hours in the oven, and 8-12 hours in the dehydrator. If by these times the apples are not crispy, leave them in for another hour or two. If planning to store them, you want them completely dry to inhibit any chances of mold growth or bacteria from moisture.
- Once dried thoroughly, let cool, and then either eat or store. Storage is best in airtight containers, but it all depends on how long you want to store them. The longer the desired storage, the greater the air-resistance you want. I like to use pretty half gallon mason jars =0)
2. Homemade Apple Sauce
Last year I enjoyed making some homemade apple sauce, and this year I expect to enjoy it just as much. Apple sauce can really be as simple or difficult as you make it, but no matter what your kitchen supplies, you can pretty much easily whip up a batch for easy storage in no time. The basic, and easiest, way to make apple sauce is dice up apples (setting aside the cores), toss them into a high powered blender, or food processor, and process until smooth. If you like your apple sauce to have added spices, make sure to add them (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, etc). If you want to freeze this, pour into freezable containers/baggies and store. If you want to can it, pour into a larger pot and heat on the stove until warmed through, then boil in a water bath canner as recommended, or use a pressure canner. This is also a quick and easy method for making a fast batch of homemade applesauce on the fly, ready for immediate use. Last year we canned 12 quarts of apple sauce and I froze two huge gallon-size ziploc bags too. We just used up the last of the freezer bags two weeks ago, and it was still as yummy as ever…perfect for adding to homemade yogurt.
3. Homemade Apple Butter
I am no expert, but apple butter seems to be a close relative of apple sauce, except that it is far more cooked down. I am trying my hand for the first time with apple butter this year, and I am excited to taste the final product. Since I am following Trim Healthy Mama, I will not be adding any added sweeteners to my batch, but if you prefer it that way, there are plenty of tried and true recipes available with a quick search. The recipe I am trying out today comes from Angela at Oh She Glows. I may change things up slightly, but I love that she uses no added sweeteners and keeps it very basic and to the point. The basic plan of action with this recipe is to chop up lots of apples (setting aside the cores, more on that shortly), enough to fill my crockpot. Once added, turn the crockpot on high for 4 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the apples from sticking. After the 4 hour, or so, mark, the apples should be squishy and soft, so I will be using an immersion blender to make them into some version of apple sauce (Angela put hers into the blender, but I’m going to try the immersion blender this time for sake of ease). Once made into apple sauce, add back into the crockpot (if removed) and cook down on high again for another 1-2 hours (or more, if desired). Add preferred spices (cinnamon especially) and a bit of lemon juice (helps to keep the color lighter). If freezing, pour into desired storage containers, and freeze. If canning, pour into sterilized jars and can with chosen method. Store and enjoy!
4. Freezing Sliced/Diced Apples
This is probably the easiest mode of apple preservation, though uses are quite different from those previously mentioned. Simply slice up apples (still setting aside the core…I promise I will explain), bag (or lay out onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper), and freeze. If using the cookie sheet option, once frozen mostly, pour into freezer Ziploc bags and then store in the freezer. The reason for using the cookie trays is to help reduce the apples chances of sticking/freezing together in the freezer, which helps with easier use later on. These sliced/diced apples can be used easily in baked goods for months to come, mostly notably in apple pies. Yum!
5. Apple Fruit Roll-ups
We may or may not get around to this method this year, but if we do, I bet it’ll be a fun time! Essentially, you make some applesauce, and pour it into the dehydrator trays (over parchment paper, or special dehydrator paper for making roll-ups), and let dehydrate until roll-up consistency. At that point the roll-up (or fruit leather), can be rolled, cut, and stored as desired. I did this last year with peaches and the results were delightful!
6. Make Fruit Scrap Vinegar
Remember all those apple cores I have been telling you to set aside, here is where we best the kitchen waste even more by turning it into something new. I just love it when a plan comes together! Fruit scrap vinegar is basically the idea of making vinegar out of the scraps left from various fruits; in this case, apples. If I had apple peels, I’d throw them in. If I have cooked apple parts, I’d use them too. This will be my first attempt at making apple scrap vinegar, but I am excited! There are several different “recipes” on various sites, but I liked the version done by Kate at The Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking, so that is the one I will be following. We love apple cider vinegar in this house, so the idea of making my own is exhilarating! What a neat way to use up the leftover parts of the apple harvest. I am definitely all about composting, but this is just another level altogether to me. I hope you too opt to give this a shot, making as little, or as much, as will accommodate your apple scraps.
Six Ways to Preserve (and Extend) the Apple Harvest
There you have it. Six fun and interesting, all be it fairly simple, ways to preserve the apple harvest and stretch your enjoyment of seasonal fruits. I hope you will give at least one of these a try. Which of the options strikes your interest the most? I’d love to hear about it. God bless!
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