Harvested a bushel or a peck? Or maybe you just got carried away at the local grocers or farmers’ market. Whether you’re storing a week’s worth of apples or enough to—hopefully—last the winter, here are some apple storage tips to make yours last (and, of course, taste their best):
• Choose a good variety for keeping. Some apple varieties keep better than others, so if you want to keep apples for several months, choose a good late-keeping variety at the end of the season. Good keepers include the tart, thick-skinned varieties: Granny Smith, Jonathan, Fiji, McIntosh, Melrose, Rome, Honeycrisp. That thick skin protects the apple, and most of these also have firmer flesh. And because they’re less sweet, there’s less sugar to contribute to breakdown of the flesh. If you have thinner-skinned, sweeter apples—like Gala or Golden Delicious—eat those up first. Whichever variety you buy, make sure the apples have no bruising or wrinkling.
• Handle carefully. Apples look hardy, but they’re actually pretty tender, so take care not to bruise them. If an apple does get damaged (dropped on the floor or tossed like a ball by a toddler, for example), use it up right away—either for eating fresh or for cooking.
• Inspect. Before you store apples, check them carefully and remove any that are bruised. Even a spot can cause the whole batch to rot more quickly. (Yes, one bad apple!) While in storage, look over the apples once in a while and take out any that are going bad. Bigger apples tend to get soft before smaller ones, so use those first.
• Store apples whole. You might save time cutting up some of your produce in one fell swoop, but apples are last-minute fruits; they’ll brown if you try to cut them ahead. (If you cut them in the morning for a lunchbox, just soak them in lemon juice for a few minutes before packing.)
• Keep them separated. For long-term storage, wrap each apple in paper (skin-to-skin-touching produces soft spots, which leads to trouble), then place in a single layer in a box or crate. Some people use newspaper for this; if you do, stick with black and white, not color pages. Or layer the apples with straw between the layers for protection. If you’re serious about apple storage, you may want to invest in a special stand or tray made for produce storage.
Come up with a system to keep different varieties separate in long-term storage, so you can easily identify them when you retrieve some—they tend to ripen at different times, and you’ll want to eat the earlier- ripened fruits first.
Even in the refrigerator, don’t stack the apples. Put them in a single layer. Some people like to wrap each apple in paper or put each in a paper bag, even if they’re just storing them in the fridge. Whether or not you take that step, don’t share the drawer with other produce, because the ethylene gas that apples give off can cause the other produce—especially produce that’s sensitive to it, like lettuce, peppers, and avocados—to ripen too quickly and decay.
• Provide a cool space. Store apples at 30 to 35 degrees F with about 90 to 95 percent humidity. The crisper drawer of your refrigerator is perfect, if you have just a handful of apples. Put them in a single layer with a damp paper towel on top of them, to boost the humidity a bit.
For long-term storage, apples will keep in a cool basement, root cellar, pantry, or an outdoor building (like a shed or garage) where they won’t freeze or get too hot. The temp should be close to freezing but not below.
If you follow these tips, you’ll have an apple a day for many days to come!
Have you found a great place to store apples? What’s your favorite variety and does it keep well?
Searching for the perfect apple pie recipe? My favorite is from Smitten Kitchen. This page contains the recipe, along with its history and what goes into making it so terrific! (I love how deep dish it is, and that it uses an abundance of different apples.)
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