Kitchen 101: How to Store Apples

The apple is one of the most-loved well-loved fruits in the world; loved so much, in fact, that people go to great lengths to preserve and store apples so they can enjoy the wonderful taste all year long, even when the fruits are out of season.

In the following article we will talk about the topic “How to Store Apples” in more detail, including some tips for storing the apples in the short term, and a section on how to store apples for the winter months when they are not in season.

How to Store Apples: For the Short Term

When we talk about the shelf life of apples, you’ll be happy to know that they actually last longer than most other fruits or vegetables, provided they are stored correctly.One of the questions that many people have is “Should apples be stored on the counter or in the refrigerator?” And the answer is: it depends.

It actually depends on two basic factors: how soon you plan to consume the apples and how much room you have in your refrigerator.

Counter Storage

If you plan to store your apples on the counter you should be prepared to eat the lot of them within about a week. So if you have very little room in your refrigerator at home, and you intend to store your apples on the counter, your best bet is to buy only enough that you’ll be able to eat them in a week or less.

Refrigerator Storage

The most ideal place to store apples for the short term is in your refrigerator, or to be more specific, in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. Apples stored in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator tend to hold their moisture content better, and can thus last for up to a month when stored in this manner. Although apples can be stored in a plastic bag within your crisper drawer and still last much longer than they would on the counter, most experts suggest you take the apples out of the bag before storing them to ensure the utmost in freshness.

Regardless of whether you store your apples on the counter or in the refrigerator there are a couple of rules you should always follow. First, when shopping for apples, be sure to ask your grocer how long they have (already) been out. Many people make the mistake of buying older apples from less than reputable grocers—apples that will thus have a shorter lifespan at home.

Always inspect the apples you plan to purchase very carefully, and never buy an apple that has been bruised during the transportation and storage process. Bruised apples are already damaged, and have thus been losing their moisture content from the day they were bruised. Like apples that are not very fresh, bruised apples tend to have a much shorter shelf life than fresh, unmarred apples.

Finally, always store your apples by themselves. Do not ever store them next to oranges. When apples and oranges are stored side by side, together they emit a gas that drastically shortens the shelf life of both fruits. Instead, have a separate basket for each. Truth be told, oranges should always be stored in the refrigerator for maximum freshness anyway. Do not store apples next to potatoes or tomatoes either. Potatoes and tomatoes also emit an imperceptible gas that can damage other fruits and vegetables.

How to Store Apples: For the Long Term

Storing apples for the long term, or for the winter when they are not in season, is very possible under the right conditions. Of course, many people turn to canning when attempting to store their apples, which is perfectly fine. From apple jam, to apple butter, to apple sauce, canning is a great way to enjoy apples all year long.

However, if you want to enjoy whole, un-canned apples during the winter, you are going to want to follow the process below. However, before we describe this process, let’s talk a minute about the notion of freezing apples.

Freezing Apples: Yes or No?

There are two schools of thoughts on freezing apples for the long term. Some people say apples should never be frozen, while some say it is perfectly okay to freeze apples in some scenarios.

Although nothing can compare to a fresh apple, you actually CAN freeze apples if you intend to use them later on as an ingredient in baked goods, such as pies, cobblers and dumplings. However, before you rush to the freezer to freeze as many apples as you can, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, the best types of apples to freeze are the sweeter varieties like Fujis or Galas, as these are more likely to hold their flavors than tart varieties like Granny Smiths.

You should also be aware that freezing an apple will either slightly or greatly alter its texture, leaving the flesh spongier and mealier than that of a fresh apple. This is actually okay for the making of baked goods, but if you are thinking about freezing an apple with the goal of preserving that crisp textured flavor, you better think again—this will just not happen.

Finally, never freeze an apple for more than six months. Although it will still be safe to eat after that time, the damage to the texture and flavor will make it quite unappetizing.

Storing Apples for the Long Term: The Process

Believe it or not, apples—at least the right apples—can be kept fresh for up to 3 months or more provided they are stored correctly. So what are the “right” apples? Actually, it would take less time to point out the “wrong” apples—the ones that won’t store as easily.

Do not try the following process on softer, thin-skinned types like Gala and Delicious apples (red or yellow) as these do not age well or store well. Summer or early-ripening varieties like Gall also should be left off the list for the same reason. Your best bet is to go with later-ripening varieties that are bit harder in nature.

Be sure to select apples with no bruises. You will need storage conditions that will best suit the apples, such as the ones outlined below:

  • You want a place in which the temperature is cool; just above freezing, but never at freezing or below for the reasons we mentioned above. This may be hard to find depending on where you live.
  • You also want the conditions to be very dim if not dark. Your storage spot should receive no direct sunlight.
  • Lots of humidity. A place with at least 90 percent humidity is best to prevent any drying out of the apples. That being said, you do not want the apples to get wet, as direct moisture will start the rotting process. For best results, see the types of spaces we mentioned below, or use a humidifier to achieve the desired results.
  • Vermin and insect free—for obvious reasons.
  • Do not store apples in the same room as potatoes or tomatoes. As these age, they emit a gas that will accelerate the spoiling process in apples.

To achieve these ideal conditions, a walk-in fridge or root cellar is absolutely ideal. You can also use an unheated basement, an enclosed, unheated porch, or an unheated garage that does not freeze.

Once you have found your ideal location, you will need just a few materials. These include newspaper and some shallow boxes or crates, at least enough boxes to store every variety of apple you plan to store. You should never store different apple varieties together, as different apples have varying rates of spoilage.

Now that you have your apples, location and materials, just follow the process outlined below carefully and to the letter for the very best results.

  1. Wrap the Apples. Wrap each apple you intend to store liberally with a sheet of a newspaper. For each apple you wrap, you are going to want to use one-half of a double sheet of newspaper, so collect your newspaper with this in mind. Start by putting the apple at one end of the newspaper page and simply roll it up to the other end. Then, twist the leftover ends on each side very tight to prevent the newspaper from unraveling.
  2. No mixing. Again, be very careful about mixing apple varieties. Be sure to have an extra box for each variety of apple you intend to store, and mark the boxes accordingly.
  3. Inspect the Apples. As you carefully wrap each apple, inspect it thoroughly to ensure it is bruise-free. Apples with large bruises should probably be thrown in the garbage, as these will not keep very long. Apples with small bruises can be used immediately, but they should not be stored with your bruise-free apples. As the old saying goes, “just one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.”
  4. Shallow means shallow. The reason we said to use “shallow” boxes or crates is because you never want to stack apples on top of one another, as this too can accelerate he spoilage process. Instead, stack the apples into the box in rows, only 1 apple deep.
  5. Store the Apples. Place the boxes into your pre-determined cool, but not frozen room with high humidity and low to no-light conditions.

Once your apples are in storage, you should monitor their progress about once a week. To do this, simply unwrap two or three apples from each box and inspect them carefully. Look for dark or wet spots as a sign of possible spoilage. If you do locate any apples in this condition, immediately remove them and any newspaper that may have become contaminated.

If you do this process correctly, in the right types of conditions, you can generally expect your apples to last 3-4 months, just long enough for you to enjoy them all winter long.

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