How to Store Apples for Winter

Red Delicious and Golden Delicious Washington state apples

It's October, and that means apple harvest time! This past weekend, my sister shared some Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples picked fresh from her backyard.

Washington state is famous for its apples and I eat them every day, but with more than I could hope to use before they got ripe and mushy, I consulted my old copy of Putting Food By, by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene for tips on storing them longer.

Putting Food By book, tips for storing fruits and vegetables

According to a chart in the book, the ideal temperature for storage is 32 degrees with a relative humidity of 80-90% (or moderately moist to moist) with slight air circulation. Varieties best suited for storage include Winesap, Yellow Newton, Northern Spy, Jonathan, McIntosh, Cortland, and Delicious.

Apples are a climacteric fruit, which means they'll continue to ripen after being picked and give off ethylene during ripening. This release of ethylene can cause other nearby fruits and vegetables to ripen, often too quickly. (If you've ever stored apples and bananas next to each other on the counter and wondered why the bananas quickly went bad, you've seen this in action). For this reason, it's best to store apples away from other fruits and vegetables.

Although the book recommends root-cellaring them in a cellar dedicated to fruit, I'll be storing mine in the garage where they'll be kept cool but above freezing. Apples can freeze at 29 degrees, so a garage or shed that will keep them above this temperature should work fine.

How to Store Apples for Winter
1. Examine the apples for any bruises, cuts, or other flaws. Only perfect fruit should be stored, as bruises can quickly rot and spread to other fruits.

Inspect apples for bruises and damage before storing

2. Wrap the apples individually in paper to cut down their oxygen intake. Place the wrapped apples in a box lined with wood shavings, straw, hay, or dry leaves.

Wrap apples in paper to prevent over ripening in storage

I had packed the fruit in tightly at first, but decided to spread them out to give them a little more "breathing" room.

Insulate stored apples with straw, hay, or wood shavings

3. Cover the wrapped apples with more wood shavings or straw, and cover the box.

Cover wrapped apples with straw, hay, or wood shavings to prevent ripening

4. Check the apples from time to time and remove any that are starting to spoil.

Check stored apples for signs of damage and remove from batch

According to the book, apples stored in the right conditions can keep for 4-6 months - but I'm sure mine will find their way into a cobbler or pie long before that!

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