Late summer/early fall is apple season! We are obviously able to buy apples at the store year round, but nothing beats an apple picked right off the tree. My favorites are the Ginger Gold, and they are everywhere right now. In fact, my friend Po brought me an entire bushel for my birthday last week. Yay!
Since I couldn’t get to them for several days, I made sure I checked the box regularly and removed any soft or spoiling apples. There’s a definite truth to the saying “one bad apple spoils the bunch!”
We ate many of them fresh throughout the week, and my extended family even took a handful or two when they stopped by. Yet I still had quite a large box of apples that I needed to preserve before they went bad.
I opted for a combination of methods. Since my family is not a big fan of applesauce, I decided to skip that in favor of baking and dehydrating. I chopped up the ones that were starting to “turn” or had a bad spot or two on them and used the pieces in muffins and breads. These items I can easily make in bulk and freeze for future consumption.
Dehydrating is very easy, but it does take time – many hours per batch to fully dry. The good thing is that it’s one of those set it and forget it kind of things. While the dehydrator is running, you can move on to other chores, even leave the house. Not too many cooking tasks I can say that about.
If you’ve never dehydrated anything before, apples are the perfect thing to start with. I did! You’ll need some equipment, obviously, and dehydrators aren’t cheap ($200+). But they are SO versatile. You can use them to dry fruits, veggies, herbs, meats, even sauces (making “leather” – think fruit roll up). And the food that you dehydrate stores for a long, long time, especially if you use a food saver to do it.
A dehydrator is not a complicated machine. It’s basically a big box w/mesh shelves and a fan that circulates hot air. That’s it. Mine has two knobs – (1) a temperature setting for how hot the air gets, and (2) a timer. Easy peasy.
The first step is slicing your apples. I use a handy little tool called – oddly enough – an apple peeler/corer/slicer. Except in this case, I don’t peel them. The skins are the best part! Here is what it looks like with an apple loaded and ready to go. It sticks to my counter via the suction cup at the bottom.
These tools normally cost around $20. I think Pampered Chef sells one, but I’m guessing any cooking store does, too. You can probably even find one at the thrift stores (if you knew what you were looking at!). I actually found mine at the local grocery store. They were on clearance, a STEAL at $5 each, so I bought six! Talk about a back-up for your back-up.
In front of the apple is a small circular blade. When you turn the handle, the apple gets pushed through and it slices and cores it at the same time (it would peel, too, if I hadn’t pulled back the peeler). Be sure to have a bowl ready to catch the drippings and any pieces that fall off. I also highly recommend paper towels (several) underneath. Peeling apples is quite a sticky, messy process!
Here is what it looks like midway through:
And the finish product, pulled off its core:
Don’t worry if yours doesn’t come out like this. Mine don’t always. It depends on how soft the apple is and how fast I’m turning it. Sometimes the pieces just FLY off onto the counter, lol. That’s okay! Just use them anyway. If nice, firm uniform slices are important to you, the best apples to use are Granny Smith. They seem to come out perfect every time.
Then I just take a knife and cut the stack in half.
Place the pieces in a single layer on the dehydrator sheet:
Sprinkle with a little cinnamon (optional, but it definitely only needs a little), and put the shelf inside the machine. Repeat until all shelves are filled. It takes around 15 large apples to fill mine. A full dehydrator makes four fully-packed quart jars (plus a few extra pieces I tossed to the dog).
Here is the dehydrator all loaded and ready to go:
Dehydrating time varies depending on what you are drying and how thick the pieces are. These apples slices will take about 9 hours. If I had timed it right, I could get another batch in before bedtime, but I think I’ll be too tired to cut up more apples and clean my kitchen again at 11pm tonight! Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. And there are always more apples!