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I know what you might be thinking: rather have the apples fresh then preserved, you’ll just pick them fresh off the shelves! But “fresh” is not exactly what you get off the shelves, because according to Martin Lindstrom (marketing visionary and author), the shelf life in the U.S. of the average apple is around 14 months! Shocking, I know. But luckily there are DIY alternatives for preserving and storing fruit, far more Eco-friendly and healthy then what you find at your local super market. The methods are easy and cheap to apply, and you’ll definitely notice a great difference in flavor, texture and nutriments. Apart from natural fibers and sugar, apples are also a great source of polyphenols (antioxidants that reduce cancer risk and aid muscular recovery after fatigue). The longer an apple is stored, the more antioxidants it loses. But storing the right way will help preserve as many of them as possible.
Store and preserve apples for juicing / cider making
It all comes down to factors like apple variety and the time of ripening, but in general, apples juicing or cider making can be stored for a period of 2 – 4 weeks. According to Andre Lea (apple juice and cider author), apples that have been stored for longer than necessary periods of time are not too generous when it comes to providing natural juices. They rather produce an apple pulp that is hard to crush and very succulent. This is because of the soluble pectin produced by the apples during storage time, which gets broken down by enzymes during crushing. For juicing, the fresher the apple, the better it is. But in the case of cider making, things are different: the apples are suitable if they’re ripe and ready; as soon as the thumb pushes easily into the fruit, then you have prime cider making material. Even after being picked, the apples continue the conversion of starch into sugar, and it’s important that the process is complete before fermentation.
- check the variety of the apples you’re using and the ripening time to make sure the apples will do well during the storage period
- make sure to exclude rotten or bruised apples before conserving, as you risk damaging the whole batch (the origin of old saying goes: “one rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch!”)
- make sure the storage area is cool and dry; an outhouse is preferable, but if you don’t have one, a small storage space will do just fine
- cover the floor in clean straw
- set the apples in mounds; Lea suggest that the ideal mounds are 2 ½ – 3 ft deep
- check the mounds periodically and remove every apple that shows the slightest of mold or rot (make sure to check every single apple thoroughly)
- the recommended storing period is of 2 – 4 weeks
- right before juicing make sure to wash the apple batches with clean, cold water
- before juicing check again for signs of mold or rot and discard the affected apples
Store and preserve apples for eating
If you’re planning on storing apple for consumption, you must be very aware of the variety of apples you plan on using. Some apples are perfect for storing and do very well in such conditions, while others don’t last for very long, no matter how good the preservation process is. The Arkansas Black does extremely well in storage, it’s perfect for baking but a bit too hard for apple sauce making. The Fuji is just as good for storing (not very pretentious), gives the best apple sauce and it’s perfect for eating raw as well. On the other hand, varieties like the Honeycrisp, the Sweet Tango, the Jonathan or the Cameo do poorly under storage conditions and are preferable for raw consumption or cooking only while fresh.
- check on the variety and the ripening time of your apples to determine their exact storing period and whether they’ll do well in storage conditions
- it’s preferable to pick the apples for eating directly from the tree while they’re slightly under-ripe, because the fruit will continue to ripen even after being picked; keep in mind that on large trees apples while ripen over the course of a month, so you might need to pick several times from the same tree
- the apples require gentle handling, as not to get bruised or damaged in any way
- inspect them carefully, and remove any apples that seem to be spoiled or damaged
- make sure you storage space is ideally cool (not frozen!), dark and moist; a cellar or a shed would be perfect for such an endeavor
- store your apples carefully on wooden racks; you can improvise the racks or simply buy purposely made apple racks
- gently place the apples on the rack, one at the time and make sure to leave space between each once
There are alternatives for those of you out there who don’t have the commodity of a large storage space. You can preserve you apples in the refrigerator (or an equally chill place) over winter using this simple method:
- ensure all the apple are fresh and undamaged
- wrap each apple individually in paper then store in a plastic bag tightly sealed; the paper will absorb moisture and prevent the apples from rotting, while the plastic bag will prevent them from dying out
- sort them by size, as bigger apples tend to spoil faster; this way you can make sure the bigger ones get eaten first
- store them in the fridge (or in an equally cool place), at about 35° – 40° F
Follow these tips exactly and you’ll get great results. If money can’t buy “fresh” anymore, it’s up to you to make “fresh”.
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