What to Do with Your Harvested Apples for the Holidays
Standard apple trees take 5-8 years before first fruit and up to ten years to get into full production mode. We’re looking at 4-21 bushels per tree every year, and will produce for 30-32 years. Dwarf apples will fruit in 2-4 years and will yield a bushel or two each year. Pick your apples before they are fully ripe and on a dry day, as damp fruit will spoil quickly. Then store it in a cool place right after it is picked, unless you plan to use it right away. Pick by hand, and safely. Using a ladder is fine, but may times it is best to use an apple picker, which is a wire cage on a long pole. It is best to sort the apples while picking. The bruised, soft and very ripe ones should be used immediately and will be best for applesauce. The apples with wormholes can be given to pigs and cattle, which is what I used to do when I was living in Maine. Store the greenest and soundest into storage, and never be rough with them, as bruised apples will spoil quickly. Even if the apples have fallen from a tree and no damage is showing, they are bruised. Make apple cider out of these drops. The fastest way to harvest for cider is to simply shake the tree. If the wasps are hanging around, get your apples late in the day to avoid snaring any wasps with your apples. If you sprayed your tree(s) with chemical pesticides, make certain that you wash them before use.
Root Cellar Preservation
The hard apples are best for storage—winesaps, imperials, granny smiths, etc. Some apples should be harvested after frost, and these will be the ones to store for winter. The later that they are stored the longer they will last. They keep better on the tree than they do in the root cellar. For apples to be stored, keeping them cool is vital. If you try to keep them in the kitchen for even a couple of days, they will begin to shrivel, lose their crispness, and rot where they are placed. Pick over the apples occasionally, as rot will spread from the bottom of the box on up. Apples touched by frost will be brown on that spot, and no good. The best way to cool your cellar for storage is to open it up at night, and close it tightly during the daylight. If you’re fortunate, the apples might keep until spring, but don’t allow them to freeze. You can even insulate your boxes of apples under straw, in a box lined with crumpled newspapers and a blanket or two atop them.
Applesauce is best for fruit that will not keep for any length of time. Cut fruit into pieces, simmer until soft in as little water as possible to prevent sticking. Put through a food strainer or a mill, and add sugar to taste. Reheat to simmering(185 to 210 degrees F) and pack hot into hot jars, leaving a headspace of a half inch. Adjust your lids and waterbath the jars. From sea level to 1,000 feet above sea level, process pints 15 minutes and quarts 25 minutes. From 1,001 to 3,000 feet, process your pints 20 minutes and quarts 25 minutes. From 3,001 to 6,000 feet, process pints 20 minutes and quarts 30 minutes. Above 6,000 feet process pints 25 minutes and quarts 35 minutes.
Cook rhubarb in spring and freeze it. When the apples come on, combine half and half with applesauce for a wonderful side dish or dessert.
Peel and core, unless they are small or never sprayed. Place in shallow pan with a piece of butter and a dollop of honey in the center of each apple. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Add 3 cups water to your pan and bake covered at 375 degrees until juicy and tender. If you bake uncovered, baste frequently. Serve with whipped cream or hard sauce, which is brandy, butter and sugar. For the holidays, stuff the empty center with pitted, mashed dates, or raisins and nuts before baking.
Peel and quarter about a dozen round, tart apples. Stew until soft with as little water as possible, then put them through a sieve. For each quart of sieved apple, add a cup of sugar, 2 finely chopped medium onions, 2 cups vinegar, a tablespoon salt, and a teaspoon each black pepper, cloves, dry mustard, and cinnamon.
You’ll need a bushel of good eating apples that aren’t sprayed, been lying on the ground for a long period of time, or partially rotten. Clean and cut your apples. Put them through a chopper or grinder, saving your juice. Then squeeze your grindings through a strong cloth bag.
Boil six cups apple cider in stainless steel or enamel pan. While cider is boiling down, core and quarter about ten pounds apples. Add apples when cider is ready and continue cooking slowly until apples are tender. Put through your colander. Put butter back into your pan and add 1 ½ cups brown sugar(or more, to taste depending on the sweetness of the apple that you are using). Optionally, you could add a pinch of salt and ¼ teaspoon each allspice and ground cinnamon. Continue to cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until cider and sauce no longer separate when you place a spoonful on a plate. Then pour into containers for canning and freezing.
Half cider and half tea, flavor with lemon juice and sweeten to taste. For a crowd, combine 4 cups cider, 2 cups tea, and the juice of a lemon and two oranges. Then sweeten to taste.
Combine 2 cups each of cider and ginger ale, a cup of orange juice, ¼ cup lemon juice, and sweeten to taste.
Here's a few things that will surely keep you intrigued for those holiday meals. Most of these recipes are fairly straightforward. Keep in mind that you can always use cider from the organic market or the grocery store to do some of these recipes. Enjoy!