If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, how many doctors are bored because we’re averaging 2-3 per person around here this fall?
Most people would probably be rolling in the leaves this time of year.
Not our family.
We’re rolling in the apples.
Three weeks ago, we went to the apple orchard and picked 3 full bushels of apples (that’s 6 baskets). This weekend as we prepared to return for the later varieties, I figure we had already eaten more than half. I didn’t preserve a single one and only made one pot of applesauce.
We are a family of five.
Methinks we eat a lot of apples!
This trip, we bought five bushels and really filled the garage…
Anybody want an apple?
5 Ways to Preserve Apples and Embrace Fall
Some of the best fall smells are associated with apples: the fresh apples filling the garage and Farmer’s Markets, the cinnamon-rich, homestyle smell of applesauce cooking on the stove, and of course the buttery-flaky baking smell of a from-scratch apple pie. A simple trip to the orchard is one of our family’s favorite autumn activities, hands down.
As I gaze proudly at the dozen or so assorted quarts and pints of canned applesauce on the counter and realize they cost less than $3 total, I pretty much think I’m rocking out the frugal food scene. (Even better yet are some readers who are foraging apples this fall – way to go, ladies!)
In-season apples feel like just about the most frugal snack, fruit, ingredient or food, period, that I can buy. While prices on everything we eat soar, I’m thrilled that I can still get a huge mess of apples for under $11/bushel. (Michigan’s a great place to live for real food…but we have snow to deal with half the year too, before you get super jealous.)
Apples are a great food to focus on for this Eat Well, Spend Less series, and if you don’t have inexpensive apples in your locale, try Stephanie Langford’s Real Food on a Real Budget for more comprehensive food purchasing strategies.
Here are some of the ways we will deplete the boxes and bags of apples:
1. Make Freezer Applesauce
Applesauce is incredibly easy to make. It needs no recipe and no special equipment. Just core some apples, peeled or unpeeled, douse in cinnamon and perhaps a few Tablespoons of water, and cook until soft. You shouldn’t even need a sweetener, especially if you use a variety of apples in one pot.
You can do it with skins or without, using perfect apples or mushy, iffy-looking ones. Or just eat it, of course. Applesauce will stay good in the fridge for weeks.
I made quite a bit this weekend, and my mother-in-law was surprised when I said, “Just apples and cinnamon,” after she complemented it. Her eyebrows raised into the “Wow there’s no sweetener in these?” position.
If you skin the apples first, you can even just mix them up with a fork for chunky applesauce, or use a potato masher to get it a bit smoother.
For perfectly smooth sauce, or if you leave the skins on, use a hand blender in the pot or a full-sized blender once it cools a bit. Applesauce freezes easily in any kind of container: plastic box, bag, or glass jar. (How to Freeze in Glass Jars)
2. Can Some Applesauce
If you’ve got a canner, you can just can the homemade applesauce, processing for 15 minutes for pints or 20 for quarts, half an inch headspace. Check an approved recipe to add some lemon juice or citric acid for safety.
The greatest purpose for canned applesauce at our house is to mix with homemade yogurt. As I mentioned when I talked about eating plain yogurt with less sweetener, heavily cinnamoned applesauce is a great mix-in, and you can even get away with zero sweeteners.
3. Dry the Apples
Apple-cinnamon fruit rolls are a perfect toss-em-in-the-bag-and-forget-them sort of snack. They’re a fun piece of my Healthy Snacks to Go eBook (but I’ll share the secret here, too).
Just spread your homemade applesauce, heavy on the cinnamon, in my opinion, onto parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and bake at 200-250F until thoroughly dry, usually 1-2 hours. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn. (If you do have a dehydrator, make the rolls on unbleached parchment paper or trays on about 135F for 8-12 hours or until fully dried but not quite crispy.)
Dried Apples (above) are quick and easy and last a really long time. I still have some in my vehicle as “emergency car snacks” from last year’s bounty. Here’s how to dehydrate apples, or how to dehydrate apples without a dehydrator. We dried one apple of each of our first picking, and decided that macintosh make the best dried apples.
Maple Apple Chips are on the “must try” list for me. A friend tells me that very thinly sliced apples become chips after about 30 hours on 135F.
Here are some more ways to pack healthy food when you’re on the go.
4. Freeze the apples
I don’t think I have room in the freezer this year, but I usually freeze at least one bag for later.
Raw apples freeze great as long as they’re destined for cooked dishes. You can sprinkle a little lemon juice on the slices to help prevent browning. I like to freeze 4-5 large, peeled Golden Delicious apples that can quickly go into a mid-winter apple pie. Don’t even thaw all the way before mixing and baking.
This is also an easy way to have a super quick dessert of baked apples: just toss some butter, brown sugar or maple syrup, and oats or chopped nuts on top, bake, and enjoy!
5. Ferment the apples
I’m not a very experienced fermenter, but it’s coming up on my “time to do it” list soon. Luckily, I’ll have all the wisdom of the GNOWFGLINS eCourse on fermented foods from which to draw: doesn’t this fermented apple chutney (pictured above) look amazing?
How do you Wash an Apple?
I tested 8 different kinds of produce wash on apples, including homemade, commercial and rubbing on the jeans. You’ll never guess what was the second most effective!
Bonus: Lots of Apple Recipes
These are some of my favorite apple recipes:
- Apple Squares (pictured above)
- Apple Crisp (the free download from the upcoming desserts book!)
- Baked Apples (just core and sprinkle streusel type topping – also a grain-free version in the desserts book)
- Grain-free Apple Flax Muffins
- Grain-free Almond Apple Pancakes
- Baked oatmeal
- Caramelized Banana-Apple Dessert
- Apple Flax Muffins
- Asparagus Apple Salad
- Cocoa-Nut Almond Butter (a dip for apples)
I’ve also recently tried:
- Raw Applesauce (for the freezer, or to eat immediately – I had to wait until I got a Blendtec first)
- Fruit Scrap Vinegar (actually uses the junk leftover from making applesauce!) 8 more ways to use garbage in your cooking
The Eat Well, Spend Less ladies have done it again! These posts are packed with autumn tips for saving money while eating wholesome (and delicious!) foods.
- Life as Mom: 10 Frugal Fall Snacks for Hungry Kids (and a recipe for spiced pear cake)
- Food for my Family: Hearty Breakfasts for Cold Mornings (I must learn to take food photos like Shaina!)
- Kingdom First Mom: How to Save for Thanksgiving (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’s right about nuts – I stocked up with 60 one-pound bags last fall!)
- Good Life Eats: Favorite Fall Recipes/Using Fall Produce in Season (pears, pomegranates, pumpkins, oh my!)
- Simple Bites: Seasonal Soups (and a recipe for French Onion Soup, which may be the fate of the beef stock in my freezer…)
- Tammy’s Recipes: Enjoying Fall’s Bounty of Pumpkins and Squashes (mostly baked goods, but some good ideas for the dozen squash on the back deck!)
- Denver Bargains: Holiday 2011 Grocery Sale Predictions (even real foodies can save money at a normal grocery store – then you have more to splurge with at the farm!)
- Amy takes the cake – she’s already rounded up all the apple recipes from all over! (And have you seen her pumpkin recipes roundup? Delightful!)
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