Not all backyard apples are equal, and not all growing seasons produce perfect apples for all purposes. Some are great for eating on their own, but mostly they’re ideal for cooking and baking, where any inadequacies in the apples’ texture or sweetness can be overcome with time in the oven and an extra spoonful of sugar.
Before embarking on any large kitchen project using your backyard apples, it’s important that you get to know your apple tree. What do the apples taste like? Do you know what variety of apples you have? Are they firm or mushy, sweet or tart? Also, find out how well they’ll cook by whipping up a quick apple crisp or apple pie before you do any more baking.
Here are some of our favourite things to do with backyard apples, along with tips for managing your home orchard’s crop:
- First and foremost, don’t use the fallen apples as they will spoil quickly and can contaminate your canning or ruin the taste of your baking. It doesn’t take long for bruised apples on the ground to start attracting ants and other critters.
- Try picking apples daily and storing them in the refrigerator or cold room depending on the type of apple you have. Some backyard apples soften and over ripen quickly if not refrigerated.
- Ideally, you should store backyard apples in single layers in a paper bag or cardboard box in the fridge or in a cold room, preferably arranged so that the apples aren’t touching each other. They’re not the same as supermarket apples, and they must typically be used quickly or they’ll spoil.
- Applesauce is a quick and easy way to use up apples and crabapples. Applesauce can be frozen, which is a quick way to preserve.
- Cooking down the apples, extracting the juice and freezing it to make jelly in the winter is another option.
- Apples can also be frozen for later use in crisps, cobblers, pies and our Apple and Parsnip Soup. Just be sure to use an anti-darkening agent when preparing the apples for freezing. (For a quick and easy homemade anti-darkening solution, stir 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice into 4 cups cold water, then add the sliced apples. Leave apples in this solution for a maximum of 20 minutes to prevent flavour changes.)
- Making apple pies and freezing them un-baked is a wonderful way to stretch your harvest into the dead of winter. Just remember to use quick-cooking tapioca as a thickener (not corn starch, which loses its thickening properties when frozen) and bake from the frozen state until the pie filling is bubbling through the vents.
- Many of us love making apple crisps and crumbles, but the Baked Apples with Caramel Rum Sauce recipe on our website is a great alternative.
- Waldorf Apple Slaw, also on our website, is another great way to use up some apples and is a very refreshing change from plain salad greens. Note that this only works with apples that taste good uncooked.
- Apples are also an ingredient in many chutney recipes.