How To Preserve Apples
Eat homegrown apples all year round; fresh, bottled, frozen or preserved
Apples are one of the most widely grown fruits and autumn is the time to harvest and store the fruit. Early fruiting varieties are not suitable for storing so must be eaten straight away or preserved. These varieties include: Beauty of Bath, Discovery, George Cave and Grenadier. The mid fruiting varieties will store for a few weeks if they are picked just before they are fully ripe. These include: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Greensleeves, James Grieve, Red Devil, Prima and Topaz. The late fruiting varieties are most suitable for storing and are usually picked just before the first frosts. These varieties include: Bramley, Blenheim Orange, Braeburn, Egremont Russet and Fiesta. These will keep, stored correctly, for up to 6 months; so with a carefully chosen selection of apple trees you should be eating home grown apples almost the whole year.
Harvest apples by cupping the fruit in the hand and twisting slightly, if it is ripe it should come away with a section of the stalk. The apples around the edges of the tree and on the south side are usually the first to ripen. Another indication that they are ready to harvest is if there are windfalls.
Storing apples is the most common method of keeping them. Only use blemish free fruit; check for splits and bruising and don’t use windfalls. Wrap each apple in tissue or newspaper and store in trays in a cool, frost free place such as a cellar, shed or garage. Make sure they are rodent free and that the fruits don’t touch each other. Make sure you label the fruit so that you can eat them at their best. They should not be stored near strong smelling vegetables such as garlic and onions; keeping near potatoes should also be avoided as they give off a gas which prevents the apples from keeping.
Freeze apples by storing in a sugar solution or as individual slices. Make up a fairly dense sugar solution, 40% sugar, adding ascorbic acid or lemon juice to prevent discolouring, pour over the sliced fruit and pack into plastic containers or bags. If freezing the slices individually, brush with ascorbic acid or lemon juice and lay out individually on a tray. When frozen pack into plastic bags. The apples can be made into pies and frozen uncooked. Apple sauce and puree can also be frozen.
Poor grade apples not suitable for storing can be juiced. Any variety can be used but a blend of cooking and dessert gives a better balanced flavour. As a rough estimate 2.5kg (5.5lb) of fruit gives 1ltr (2.1pts) of juice. You will need a fruit press, but if you don’t have a dedicated crusher to pulp the fruit it can be frozen then thawed, then pounded with a wooden stake in a sturdy bucket. The juice can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. To freeze the juice, cut the top off a cardboard juice container, place a plastic bag inside, pour in the juice, seal the top then place in the freezer. Once frozen the bag of juice can be removed from the carton. There is some credible research that juice is better for you than the apple as it contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and E, also trace elements and minerals. It is also reputed to ease respiratory problems. There are companies who will juice your own apples, which will be pasteurised to last approximately 18 months.
Apples can be bottled, which will last up to 18 months. Adding a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to the syrup imparts a lovely flavour.
Now is a good time to assess the health of your orchard. If the apples have brown patches inside, they have a condition called bitter pit, which is calcium deficiency in the fruit. It occurs most commonly after a hot dry summer. It can be remedied by feeding in the growing season with a balanced fertiliser and making sure the tree has an adequate water supply. If there are holes in the core of the apple it is most probably caused by codling moth. These can be controlled by grease bands and pheromone traps applied at the appropriate time. Holes in the fruit are often a result of sawfly action. An environmentally friendly remedy for this is to keep chickens in the orchard who will eat the insects. Blotches or black and brown spots are apple scab which is caused by a fungus. This is not easy to treat as any fungal treatment must cover the whole tree, which in the case of a large mature tree would be very difficult. Scab resistant varieties are available or remove and burn any infected material, such as windfalls and any dead wood which will harbour the fungus. If you have had a poor harvest pollination could be the problem so consider putting a hive of honeybees in the orchard. If you don't want to look after them yourself there are local beekeeper associations who would be happy to place a hive amongst the trees.
1.5kg cooking apples, cored and diced
750gms light muscovado sugar
2 onions, finely chopped
2tsp ground ginger
700ml cider vinegar
Place all ingredients in a large, heavy pan and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
Simmer for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick.
Leave to cool then put into sterilised jars.
Pork, apple and cheese burgers
450gms (1lb) lean minced pork
1 green apple, cored and diced
1tbsp apple sauce
1 onion, finely chopped and browned in 1tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
1tsp BBQ seasoning
Combine all ingredients and shape into burgers.
Cook on the barbeque for approximately 15mins.
Serve on a warm ciabatta roll with shredded lettuce, a slice of beefsteak tomato and BBQ sauce.