Guide to Preserving Apples

If you have an apple tree, an apple orchard nearby, or a good farmer's market, you are truly blessed. And if you have bushels and bushels every year, you are probably wondering how to preserve those apples. Let no apple go to waste, right?

One of the things I miss about living up north in Illinois and Michigan is apple season. Apple orchards aren't as common in Oklahoma as they are up north, but there are some apple varieties that grow well here in the South.

We planted several dwarf apple trees soon after moving to Oak Hill.  We've lost some of them over the years, but we still have plenty of apples to harvest in late summer and early fall. Some years there are so many that I don't know what to do with them all. If you're in the same boat, I've compiled this definitive guide to preserving apples to help you out.

Do you want to plant apple trees of your own? Here's 
While the best time to plant a tree was twenty 
years ago, the next best time is today.

The most obvious thing to do with apples is to make and can applesauce, which I did for a couple of years, only to realize that my family didn't really care for applesauce.

But there are many other ways to preserve and use apples, and we never let one go to waste. The windfalls, the overripe apples and the tiny, twisted fruits that are too much trouble to peel and preserve are given to the horses, carefully rationed to avoid tummy upsets. Apples are Ella's favorite treat; she can smell them a mile away.

How many methods are there to preserve apples? Let's explore the best-known methods and a few lesser-known ways too.

This post contains affiliate links; if you click on a link and make a purchase I might make a small commission but it doesn't affect the price you pay. Read my disclosure here.

Canning apples

An alternative to canning applesauce is canning apple slices in water or in syrup. But don't stop at canning them plain. I've canned brandied apples and cinnamon-spiced apples too.

Canned apple slices can be used in desserts, cakes, breads and apple pie filling, or served as a side dish. Try them slightly warmed up and sprinkled with cinnamon for breakfast.

Here is my step-by-step tutorial on water-bath canning apples. My local extension office uses apples in their beginning canning class because it's so easy.

Apple Jelly

Making and canning apple jelly is another way to preserve apples, and it's almost as simple as canning apple slices.

We don't eat a lot of bread, but there are so many additional ways to use jam and jelly. You don't have to spread jelly on top of homemade bread to enjoy it.

Use jelly to make delicious sauces for meat dishes. Deglaze the pan in which you cooked the meat with some cold stock, broth or wine, scraping the bits of meat from the bottom of the pan. Add a tablespoon or two of jam or jelly and cook just until it "melts." Add a pat of butter and viola! Spoon the sauce over the meat on your plate. You don't know what you're missing until you've tried this!

Apples pair very well with pork as well as chicken and salmon, so use some of your apple jelly to make a delicious sauce for roast chicken, pork tenderloin or baked salmon.

Most apple recipes will have a richer, more complex flavor if you use several apple varieties, so feel free to use all the colors and varieties of apples you have on hand. Especially if you make my Harvest Apple Jelly: use a variety of apples for the best jelly ever.

How to make Harvest Apple Jelly.

I have three favorite homemade jellies and jams, and Harvest Apple Jelly 
is one I make every year. Here's how to make and can this apple jelly 
that tastes like a crisp autumn day.

Apple juice

If I'm short on time or if the kitchen is too hot in the summer, I often make apple juice and can or freeze it to make jelly later. Last fall I put half a dozen quarts of apple juice in the freezer for this very reason. In the depth of winter I'm thankful for the warmth of the stove as I turn fruit juice into jam and jelly. Here's how to make fruit juice to be used in jelly-making.

Apple juice lends an unexpected depth of flavor to beef stew; use it to replace some of the water or stock in your favorite stew recipe.

Homemade apple juice is for drinking too. Boil it down a bit more to concentrate the flavor. My juice is unsweetened, so you might want to add some kind of sweetener to yours. Taste it and see what you think.

Apple cider

And let's not forget apple cider! Hubby loves fall for just this very reason: chilled apple cider. While growing up, his family made a trip to a local apple orchard in Illinois every fall to buy the real stuff: fresh, raw, unpasteurized apple cider.

Apple cider is easy to make at home with a DIY cider press; you can even make your own cider press for free with these instructions. Yes, for free.

Or, if you're fortunate enough to own a juicer, you can use it to make apple cider. I love appliances that have more than one use. If it's going to sit on my counter, it had better earn that space, so the fact that a juicer can do double duty is a good thing.

Making apple cider isn't a form of preservation though, and cider begins to ferment very quickly: in as little as one week when kept in the refrigerator. To preserve it you'll need to either freeze it or can it. While it isn't raw anymore, canning apple cider so you can drink it all year round is worth the work.

If you have enough space in your freezer, you can freeze apple cider instead. You'll need to allow about two inches of head space in the freezer container for the cider to expand when it freezes.

Dehydrating apples

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about Ma drying apples in the fall, and making dried apple pies with the slices. Of course Ma didn't have a dehydrator, she dried apple slices above the fireplace.

Ma also didn't live in a humid climate like Oklahoma. Moisture is the enemy of dehydrated foods; the best way to store dried apples is in well-sealed glass jars. For long-term storage you can vacuum-seal the jars, or place an oxygen absorber packet in each glass jar.

Dehydrating is the most space-efficient way to preserve apples. It's amazing how much less space you need to store dehydrated fruits and other foods.

  • To begin, peel and core the apples - save the scraps! I'll tell you why in a few minutes. (Be sure to read the note below too.)
  • Slice apples about 1/3 of an inch thick, no thicker than 1/2" inch. Slice them flat, not in wedges so that they are of uniform thickness.
  • Soak the apple slices in water and lemon juice - about one Tablespoon per quart of water. This will help keep the apples from turning brown.
  • Drain the apple slices. The more water you can remove now, the less time they will take to dehydrate.
  • Place the slices on your dehydrator trays in a single layer. Allow a bit of space around each piece so they will dry evenly. 
  • Set your dehydrator to 130°F and dry for about twelve hours.
  • When the apples are dried, remove them from the dehydrator and let them cool to room temperature for about ten minutes. Transfer to jars and seal them tightly. For long-term storage, vacuum-seal the jars or add oxygen absorber packets. Label the jars with the contents and the date. Store in a cool dark place.

Dehydrated apples can be used in apple pie recipes, cakes, and right out of the jar as healthy snacks.

To rehydrate dried apples, pour boiling water (or use apple juice or apple cider for even better flavor) over the dried apples and let them stand for an hour, then reheat the juice and apples for 10 to 15 minutes until the apples are tender.

You can even turn apples' healthy, natural sweetness into apple sugar with your dehydrator.

Save the peels and cores from apples. Use them to make vinegar or juice for jelly, or dehydrate them to use in homemade potpourri. Too busy right now? Freeze the scraps in zipped freezer bags for later.

NOTE: Apples are on the "dirty dozen" list of vegetables and fruits that have the highest pesticide residue, so don't use the peels unless the apples are from your own trees or you know that they are organically-grown.

Freezing apples 

While making Harvest Apple Jelly is my favorite way to preserve apples, freezing them is definitely my second favorite method.

It's the quickest way to "put up" apples, in my opinion. Last year I froze a great portion of our apple harvest and didn't regret it even once. (That's not entirely true. I did regret running out of them in February!)

Frozen apples are versatile and delicious, and can be used to make pies, baked into specialty breads and desserts... well, you name it, and you can probably use frozen apple slices to make it.

We used almost all of our frozen apple slices in fruit smoothies. Hubby and I both like to drink a smoothie every day.

Apples can be combined with almost any other fruit in smoothies. Their delicate flavor compliments instead of overwhelming or clashing with the other fruits you add to your smoothies. They add a natural sweetness too, plus they add beneficial fiber to your diet.

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You'll notice that the first four steps in freezing apples are nearly identical to the steps used to dehydrate apples.

  • Peel and core the apples - be sure to save the peels and cores! (Be sure to read the note above.)
  • Slice apples in wedges that are relatively uniform in size and thickness.
  • Soak the apple slices in water and lemon juice - about one Tablespoon per quart of water. This will help keep the apples from turning brown.
  • Drain the apple slices well. 
  • Spread the apple slices on cookie sheets. Line the sheets with parchment paper or freezer paper. Leave a bit of space between the slices so they won't freeze in a clump.
  • Put the cookie sheets in the freezer and leave for several hours or overnight.
  • Remove from the freezer and let the cookie sheets sit at room temperature for just a couple of minutes. This will loosen the apple slices from the waxed paper so they are easy to remove. If you wait too long though, your apple slices will begin to thaw and then they'll refreeze in a clump that's hard to separate.
  • Put the frozen slices in labeled, zippered freezer bags and return to the freezer. 

It's easy to remove just a couple of slices from the freezer bag to use in a smoothie, or use more to make a side dish to accompany a pork roast or to add to a dessert.

The obvious downside to freezing apples is the possibility of your electricity going out and the loss of everything in your freezer. To freeze or to can apples is a choice only you can make.

Cold storage

Apples store well unprocessed if you have the right conditions. A cold storage room in your basement or a root cellar is ideal, but depending on where you live, your garage or a shed might work as well.

Store apples between 30°F and 32°F with humidity at about 90%. Wrap each apple in newspaper and pack them loosely in boxes or baskets.

Inspect them regularly and remove any that are beginning to soften or develop bad spots. Evidently the song "one bad apple don't spoil the whole bunch, girl" isn't true. One rotten apple will spoil all those around it.

Make apple vinegar

Did you know you can use fruit and fruit scraps to make vinegar from scratch? I've made apple vinegar, plum vinegar, pineapple vinegar and more.

You can use sliced apples or just use apple scraps (those peels and cores I keep telling you to save). I've written a 12-page ebook all about making vinegar from scratch, which is yours free when you sign up for my weekly-ish newsletter.

More ways to use apples

Can you make apple pie filling and can it? Yes, but don't add flour or cornstarch to the filling. You can use Clear-Gel instead, or can the filling without a thickener and instead add it when you actually make the pie.

You can also make an apple pie and freeze it before baking.

Of course, if you make apple pies you'll need to make pie crust. Here's my easy way to make pie crust - it's simple and delicious no matter what kind of pie you're making.

Baked apples are one of hubby's favorite desserts, so I make them often during the fall when we have so many apples. They're quick to put together although it takes awhile to bake them to soft perfection.

How about making some apple salsa? or apple jack pancakes? Taffy apple salad, anyone? You'll find six unusual ways to use apples in this post.

What's your favorite way to serve apples? How do you preserve them?

This post is part of the blogger roundup
Preserving the Harvest

Do you love preserving the harvest as much as we do? Click the links below and get detailed instructions for preserving 23 of the most popular fruits and vegetables.

Preserving Vegetables (in alphabetical order)

4 Easy Ways to Preserve Cauliflower from Dehydrating Made Easy
Cucumber Fresh Pack Garlic Dill Pickles Recipe from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
How to Freeze Your Green Bean Harvest from The Reid Homestead
How to Preserve Leafy Greens from Homespun Seasonal Living
5 Ways to Preserve Onions for Storage from Rockin W Homestead
3 Ways to Preserve Peppers from Grow a Good Life
5 Ways to Store Potatoes from A Modern Homestead
Ways to Preserve Radishes from The Purposeful Pantry
3 Easy Ways to Preserve Zucchini from Grow a Good Life

Preserving Fruit (in alphabetical order)

Guide to Preserving Apples from Oak Hill Homestead
3 Ways To Preserve Fresh Summer Berries from Better Hens and Gardens
How to Make Cherry Jam from Scratch from The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
How to Freeze Peaches from A Modern Homestead

Have apples? You need this definitive guide to preserving apples so you can enjoy them year round!

What's the best way to preserve apples? Can them? Freeze them? Bake them into an apple pie? Let's explore the many ways of preserving apples.

How many ways can you preserve apples? Here are 6+ methods to get you started. You'll have plenty of ways to keep the doctor away!

This post and the images below contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure here.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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