Nothing screams fall like visiting a pick-your-own apple orchard and leaving with a few bags (or a bushel). And while this quintessential autumn activity is lovely on many counts, it can also present one major challenge: figuring out what the heck to do with your haul once you get home (besides consume those crispy, juicy orbs until your stomach aches).
Here, with the help of two apple orchard pros, we explain how to properly store your bounty so that it will last well into the winter — and perhaps even beyond. We also round up 33 (yup, 33!) recipes that will transform your hand-picked fruit into delicious meals, snacks, desserts, and more. Now your only challenge will be deciding which recipe to try first.
Unless you plan to chow your apples within a day or so, don’t leave them on the kitchen counter, says Terese Swearingen, kitchen and bakery manager at Apple Jack Orchards in Delano, Minnesota. Why? The room-temperature conditions will cause them to ripen and rot quickly, Sharon Perdue, owner and operator of YA YA Farm & Orchard in Longmont, Colorado, tells Kitchen via email.
A better bet is a dark, humid, and cold environment (think 30 to 35 degrees F) that will keep your apples fresh, juicy, and flavorful. The crisper drawer in your fridge works well. As an alternative to your fridge, you could also store apples in your garage with a blanket over the top, suggests Perdue. Of course this is only advisable during winter months in cold-weather places, like Colorado.
Wherever you’re storing the fruit, add a damp paper towel on top to lock in the moisture, says Swearingen, but avoid wrapping them tightly in any material. Apples easily absorb other flavors, so keep them separate from especially pungent foods like peppers, onions, and garlic, he adds. For that reason, you should also avoid storing them in a plastic bag (unless, of course, you enjoy plastic-y tasting apples).
These storage tips apply to all varieties of apples, although how long your apples will last varies by varietal, notes Perdue. In general, later-season apples, like Winesap, Cameo, Fuji, Jonathan, and Braeburn, are “your keepers,” writes Perdue. If stored correctly and kept continually cool, apples can last for months. Swearingen describes picking Honeycrisps in September and munching them well into April and May.
How to Cook Your Apples
Storing apples is pretty straightforward. Deciding how you want to enjoy them is more complicated. Roast or bake? Preserve or purée? Morning treat, lunchtime side, or fancy dessert? The options can seem endless.
For those in a baking mood, there are plenty of options that make for great desserts, snacks, and anytime treats (see: crisps, dumplings, fritters, monkey bread, toaster strudels, stack cake, French apple cake, yogurt cake, and one-bowl Bundt cake). There are also, of course, all of the apple pie iterations — like 3-ingredient slow cooker pie, bourbon apple pie, double-crust apple pie, apple pie granola bars, and even these mini apple rose pies. Perhaps you’d like to whip up skillet fried apples, or Hasselback your fruit for an impressive dinner-party dessert.
Lastly, to savor that delicious taste well beyond apple season, consider dehydrating your fruit. “It’s a great way to keep that fresh flavor and feel like you’re enjoying a real apple in March/April time when you can’t buy one,” says Perdue.
However you choose to cook and eat your hand-picked apples, enjoy the process. Your stash may seem bottomless right now, but when it runs out, you’ll have to wait until next fall to resupply.