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I have a secret. I don’t like apples. At least not raw. EVERYONE likes apples, right? Even I am tempted by the sound of someone biting into one and the satisfying munching that follows. The rest of my family loves them. “We must always have apples in the house” is an unspoken rule, even if I say, “but they’re not in season right now.” My family just looks at me. I will eat thinly sliced raw apple with cheese or a dip of some sort. But I MUCH prefer them baked or cooked, sauced or pressed. Apples can be enjoyed so many ways and, with a little planning, can last quite awhile. Of course we all love apple pie, apple crumble and all kinds of apply baked goods. But what else can we enjoy? Take a look at a few more apple ideas and then plan your fall trip to your favorite local apple source!
The best and easiest thing to do with an abundance of apples is share them! They make a GREAT classroom or office snack. Other ideas for enjoying apples right NOW are switching to PB&A sandwiches, adding them to Brussels sprouts or squash (just TRY it), including them in a sausage and egg bake, adding them to coleslaws, salsas and green salads or baking them whole (I do this in the crockpot) for a breakfast or dessert.
One way to preserve apples that can be fairly quick is freezing. You can freeze them in any state of preparation, starting with whole apples. Just wash them and freeze them on a tray before transferring to freezer bags. You’ll lose the crispness but can use the apples for sauces and baking. If you have a little more time, peel, cut and core the apples before freezing on trays. You can take it a step further by adding sugar and spices to get it ready for pie filling. You’ll be able to take out the filling and just add it to your crust, adding a little extra baking time if the fruit is still frozen.
If you are a canner, you can stock up on apples and make the abundance last until next season. Many people do this in the form of apple jams, jellies and pie filling. Filling can be used in apple pies, of course, and other baked goods, but all of these can also be used in smoothies, oatmeal, chutneys, yogurt, fried for breakfast or dinner and even ice cream.
But for non-canners, how else can we preserve apples? First we can try to keep them for snacking on “fresh” for as long as possible. Tart apples with thick skins are best for this. Do not wash the apples before sorting them and choosing the apples that have no soft spots, bruises, or holes. “One bad apple spoils the whole lot,” as they say. Take your best apples and then wrap each one in black and white print newspaper, twisting at the top into a little autumn gift. These will now need to be stored in a cool, dry place, away from potatoes. A cardboard box works well to hold them. According to Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, storing apples in elderberry flowers gives them a pineapple flavor over time. I would love to try that!
You can also dehydrate your fresh apples, using a dehydrator or oven. Also consider string drying over gentle heat source. The Preserving Food book suggests taking your wrapped apples well into winter, as they begin to wrinkle, and doing this. The book also says dehydrated apples can be stored with elderberry flowers for the above mentioned pineapple effect. Dehydrated apples make great snacks, as well as additions to breakfast grains, yogurt, granola, cookies, breads, and teas and warm beverages.
Apple sauce is a staple in many households. I had never been a fan until I tried homemade sauce. Yum! Many apple sauces, pastes and butters follow a similar method. I make mine in a crockpot and often don’t peel the apples, giving the sauce a pinkish hue (if using red apples). The crockpot allows me to keep an eye on it from a distance and to make a big batch. I may add cinnamon but even adding nothing yields a just-sweet-enough sauce that can be used plain, added to yogurt, coated on nuts or granola, baked into cookies and cakes, put into popsicles, served with pork chops or more. You can also take your sauce and dehydrate it for a fruit roll snack that
Fermenting apples can give you some variety in your usual apple bounty. Try a chutney or relish with apple in it. Or add them to your sauerkraut. While sweet, the fermentation still gives a nice, unexpected flavor kick. Or you can take it to the wild side and look at the OTHER kind of fermentation! Hard cider, apple mead, apple wine? How about infused apple vodka?
Finally, try making apple cider vinegar! I tried this last year. It appealed to me (I almost wrote a-peeled – you’ll see why I barely resisted) because I could use the scraps and cores! I was making other apple goodies and I took the peels and cores, put them in jars, added water and waited. That’s basically it! This will last you all year and maybe more and costs nothing if you were just going to toss those bits and pieces anyway. It’s a great family project and an example of waste not want not.
So embrace the cooler weather, the bountiful harvest and all the gifts we can get from the versatile apple.