We went apple picking this week.We love eating freshly sliced apples as a snack or with lunch.We love them dipped in caramel or Nutella for dessert.We love them just about any way they can be consumed: as applesauce, apple butter, apple pie, or apple cobbler.We love apples.So I started thinking about ways to preserve apples, because just as we discovered on our blueberry expedition back in June, fruits are affordable when picked ripe and in season.But how can we enjoy these apples not just now, but also later…say, in December? Or February?We can freeze them, I’m told.We can can them, though I don’t have the equipment or know-how.We can turn them into applesauce and freeze them in that form.We can make apple pies and freeze those.Or…the most curious and tempting long-term storage idea I’ve heard so far is what an 83-year-old woman described to me last night: “putting them to sleep.”She said she grew up on a farm, and they would dig a hole, line it with straw, then pile up the apples in a little pyramid-type stack.A little more straw tucked all around, a few shovelfuls of soil to top it off, and they left them like that undisturbed through fall and into winter.They were deep enough in the earth not to freeze, and she said she remembered sticking her hand in the hole sometime in February, pulling one out and taking a bite. “It tasted good — just as crisp and fresh as if it had just been picked.”You should have seen the look on her face. Those apples must have been delicious.How the bugs or worms don’t slither in and ruin them or start the composting process, I have no idea. But from the look on her face, reliving the memory of that apple, I want to try.The Oregon State University extension service website gave details for a less adventurous but potentially successful indoor storage explanation:
Store apples and pears in clean wooden or cardboard boxes that are ventilated to allow air circulation. Do not line the boxes with paper or individually wrap the fruit. An old but still serviceable refrigerator makes a good fruit storage place. Ideally, storage temperature should be 30 to 32°F, but such conditions are difficult to achieve at home. An unheated garage, shed, or basement may be satisfactory if temperatures below 30°F and above 45°F can be avoided. An insulated box, storage cabinet, or dug-out underground room that can be ventilated at night for cooling makes a good storage place.Maintain high humidity in storage by placing the fruit in unsealed or perforated plastic bags. Placing an open pan of water in the storage place will increase the humidity. Shriveling of Golden Delicious apples can be avoided by storing them in loosely tied plastic bags.Store fruit immediately after it’s picked. Do not store fruit with onions, potatoes, or other strong-smelling items because the fruit will absorb flavor volatiles from them. Inspect regularly for mold, flesh breakdown, freezing, or excessive ripening.
The website claimed that some varieties of apples could be stored for 90 to 180 days at the right temperature. They provide a nice chart to study.We’re going back to the orchard.We’re picking more apples.And then, we just might dig a hole out in the garden and put our apples to sleep for a long winter’s nap.But we’ll probably try the crate method, as well; and store some in the back of the fridge.If we dig the hole, I’ll be sure to post photos.Because who doesn’t want to see Ann Kroeker put her apples to sleep?