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Monday, August 30, 2010

Putting Up Apples

Last week, I challenged you to put up or shut up....assuming you haven't left in a huff, let's talk about putting up apples. The apples are coming on early here in my region of Ohio. The crazy, hot July weather followed by daily August rains has resulted in crops ripening as much as 3-4 weeks early! So, plan accordingly!

We put up a LOT of apples each fall in several different forms. Of course there's applesauce made from Lodi and Queen Anne apples. Yes, the tart green apples. They make beautiful white sauce with a bit of a kick. Gala makes wonderful sauce too, but it's just a bit too sweet for my taste. The process is easy although a bit labor intensive; peel and core your apples, chop and cook your apples, puree into a sauce, then can and process in a boiling water bath. The end result is stunning; dreamy white, creamy and sweet-tart. Nothing like what you'll find at Walmart. Not that I'm picking on Walmart :) My daughter could probably eat a pint of applesauce each day, so making it at home with inexpensive local apples is a real boon to our home economy.

Dried apples are another perennial favorite. They take me back to my childhood when we'd go down into the hills of eastern Kentucky to see my great-grandmother and she'd have screens of apple slices drying on the back porch. Before we left, she'd give us a big bag of those leathery slices and invariably they'd be gone before we made it to the Ohio River. They are so good! And so simple! Simply peel, core and slice a crisp variety of apples. Dip them in either salt water or lemon water then dehydrate. I use a dehydrator, but you can also dry them on screens covered with cheesecloth, string them up and hang them in a hot, dry room or set them on cookie sheets in a hot car for the afternoon. You don't HAVE to have a dehydrator to dehydrate. Once they're dry, they'll store for ages in air-tight jars. Dried apple slices are great for snacking, for adding to oatmeal or stewing for turnovers and apple pies.

We also can apple slices for quick side dishes and apple crisps. All you do is peel, core and slice sweet apples (such as Fuji) and give them a quick lemon-water bath. Blanch them for about 5 minutes in a simple syrup or apple juice, then pack them into quart jars and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Canned apple slices are so great to have on hand! Drain them and toss in a pan with a pat of butter and in 5 minutes you have a warm, sweet breakfast for cold mornings. Drain them and bake them in a baking dish with oats, brown sugar and cinnamon and in no time flat you have apple crisp for dessert. The uses are endless!

Finally, we store several bushels of apples each year. There is simply nothing more delicious in the dead of winter than a crisp, sweet orchard apple...nothing the grocery store stocks can touch them! And if you choose the right variety and store them properly, apples can last for months. Seriously. Months. Choosing the right variety is the most important thing. Some apples store well, others don't and those varieties can range far and wide depending on your area of the world. Here in southwestern Ohio, we love Stayman, Melrose, Mutsu, Empire and Braeburn apples for storage.

So how do we store apples? When the weather turns cold in October or early November, we pick slightly under-ripe, blemish free apples, wipe them down with a dry towel and gently layer them in an igloo cooler. We keep the cooler in our unheated garage on a stoop near the backdoor. It's probably best to keep them up off the concrete floor, even if it's only up on wood blocks. Make sure the lid stays closed to maintain even temperatures and if the weather turns frigid (I mean sub-zero), consider covering the cooler with a blanket. You want your apples cold, but not frozen. We normally have fresh apples available until February or later using this method.

Apples are a huge part of our diet year round and blessed as we are to have a family-friendly orchard just a couple miles away, we'd be crazy not to put up apples. It's become a favorite family activity, picking apples each fall. The kids love running around the orchard, picking one of these and two of those. And since it's fun, they don't realize that they're actually working for Mama!

So that's our approach.

What's your favorite way to put up apples?

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Ohio Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Ohio Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.