Category Archives: Apples

How to preserve and store apples at home.

Crockpot Applesauce

Healthy applesauce with peelHere is some applesauce that recently made and canned at home, yielding 4 pints from about 15 Fuji apples. It was so easy, using a crockpot and very little hands-on time. In the past, I have been unsure if it was worth the effort to can my own applesauce because you can easily buy applesauce with no added sugar from the store. Usually I will only go to the pains to can something if I feel like it is better quality, healthier, or tastes better compared to what I can buy. I found that my applesauce came out with a lot more flavor compared to the store-bought applesauce I had in my fridge, so I give a few reasons below why it is totally worth it to can your own applesauce, if you have some time to make it happen!

REASONS TO CAN YOUR OWN APPLESAUCE FROM HOME

1. More fiber and nutrients (if you leave the peel on): Most of the fiber and nutrients in apples are found in the peel. Unfortunately, a lot of applesauce recipes suggest removing the peel before processing the apples – this is done mostly for aesthetic and texture reasons. Know that you don’t HAVE to remove the peels before turning your apples into applesauce – it is totally optional. Yes, the color of your applesauce will be slightly darker from blending the peels into it, compared to leaving the peels out, but you and your family will be glad that you are getting the extra fiber and nutrients later!

2. Better flavor: Canning applesauce at home gives you the leverage to choose your own, favorite apples with the flavors that you prefer. I personally prefer gala, honey crisp, and fuji apples for a lot of my recipes where I am going for a sweet flavor. But you can also use tart apples if you prefer, or a mix of both tart and sweet. Trust me, like about anything else homemade, your applesauce will taste much better than what you can buy from the store.

3. No added sweeteners: There is plenty of applesauce out there to buy that does not contain any added sweeteners, but there is also plenty of commercially canned applesauce that has had extra sweeteners added to it. If you want to buy applesauce from the store for convenience, just check the ingredient list to make sure it doesn’t contain added sweeteners. Otherwise you will be increasing your caloric intake with empty, sugary calories.

EASY STEPS TO MAKE YOUR OWN APPLESAUCE

1. Wash, core, and cut your apples into slices. You can peel the apples if desired, but I prefer to leave mine on for the extra nutrients and fiber.
2. Fill your crockpot with the apple slices, all the way to the top. Pour 1/2 cup water over the apples and cover with crockpot lid.
Easy Crockpot Applesauce3. Turn the crockpot on high, and allow the apples to cook for 2-3 hours, until they completely break down and can be mashed easily. While they are cooking, stir the apples every 30 minutes.
4. Using an immersion blender, blend the apples (peel and all) until they form the puree consistency that you would like for your applesauce.
TIP: Do not blend your applesauce in a high-speed blender if you are planning on canning it. This will add lots of air bubbles into your applesauce.
Immersion Blender Applesauce

Your end product will look like this.
Homemade crockpot applesauce5. While it is still hot, pour the applesauce into hot, sterile canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Follow proper canning procedures and appropriate boiling times based on the altitude where you live. If you are unfamiliar with canning, you can find instructions on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website HERE. Label and date the jars after they have cooled, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year to retain maximum quality.

During the following year, pull your canned applesauce out for a quick, healthy snack for you or your family!

Cinnamon-Raisin Apple Leather

homemade apple leather, apple raisin leather, healthy fruit leatherMaking homemade apple leather is a great way to store extra apples in a healthy, fun way. Homemade apple leather can be fun since you can add different spices and ingredients to make fun varieties. This recipe is much healthier than fruit leathers from the store, since it is mostly fruit (including the apple peel) with very little added sweetener. The sweetener that I suggest is raw local honey, which I prefer any day of the week over high fructose corn syrup that is generally found in fruit rollups from the store. If you want, you can decrease or leave out the added honey altogether. Added sweetener is not necessary to dry the fruit – it is just a matter of taste and your personal preference.

This leather makes a great, healthy snack for kids (or adults)! It can easily be included in a lunch box, and is great for travel, hiking, or any day of the week!

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CINNAMON-RAISIN APPLE LEATHER

INGREDIENTS

4 large red apples, cored and chopped (no need to peel)
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
2-4 Tbsp raisins

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop the apples into pieces that are small enough to blend well in your blender (this may vary depending on the type of blender you own).
  2. Add all ingredients to the blender. Blend on high speed until the apple mixture becomes a smooth puree.
  3. Pour puree onto a lightly greased dehydrator sheet into a liquid layer that is about 1/4 inch thick. Using the back of a large spoon, smooth the liquid out over the sheet, leaving at least half an inch space at the edges of the sheet to prevent the liquid from spilling over the edges.
    how to pour fruit leather on dehydrator sheet
  4. Sprinkle raisins over the liquid mixture according to taste. (This step is optional, and you may leave the raisins out entirely and still make a great fruit leather.)
    homemade apple leather, homemade fruit leather
  5. Place the dehydrator sheet into the dehydrator at 135 degrees F for about 8-10 hours, until it has completely dried, but is still soft enough to bend and fold into a fruit roll.
    Checking for dryness: Be sure to check the middle for dryness, since fruit leathers tend to dry starting at the edges and dry in the middle last. It should easily peel off the dehydrator sheet when it is sufficiently dry, and should feel slightly sticky, but not wet or moist. Do not overdry it, or the leather will become brittle and will be difficult to fold onto itself without breaking.
    what does dried fruit leather look like, how to tell when fruit leather has dried
  6. To store fruit leather: Remove the leather from the dehydrator sheet (it should come off easily if the sheet was properly greased before drying). Place the fruit leather on plastic wrap or wax paper, and starting from one of the corners, roll the leather into a fruit roll. how to store apple leatherPlace the leather into an airtight container for storage, and label with the date. Fruit leather will store well for 1-2 months in the pantry, several months in the refrigerator, and up to one year in the freezer.
    how do I store fruit leather, how to wrap fruit leather

Fun Option: When leather is partly dry (about halfway through the drying process), use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes in the leather. Then allow the leather to dry the rest of the way. I did this one night, and my kids were so excited when they saw the little “gingerbread men” in the morning. Your kids will love it!
shapes with fruit leather

How to Make Low-Sugar Apple Butter

DO YOU HAVE TO ADD SUGAR TO CAN APPLES?

Generally, apple butter recipes contain a large amount of sugar in relation to the apples. Because I don’t eat a lot of added sugar in daily life, it felt weird to be canning apple butter and dumping multiple cups of sugar into it. So I researched some food preservation extension office articles to find out – do you really have to add all that sugar to safely can apple butter?

I found out that thankfully, you don’t have to add any sugar at all to apples to safely can them! In another article HERE it explains research-based guidelines on the use of sugar when canning fruit. Basically, when canning fruit, sugar aids in retaining flavor and texture of the fruit. The fruit’s shape and texture will be preserved better over time with increased amounts of sugar, compared to recipes with no or low sugar, but it is not necessary.

MAKING YOUR OWN HEALTHY APPLE BUTTER SAVES MONEY!

Sugar free apple butter

As you can see in the above picture, which I took when shopping at my local grocery store tonight, buying apple butter with no added sugar from the store, that is “just apples”, comes at a steep price! You will save a lot of money by canning your own healthy apple butter!

In the recipe below, I used naturally sweet apples – Gala or Fuji – which decreased the need to add sugar for a sweet flavor. I added just 3 Tbsp of honey, to balance out the sourness of the lemon juice, which was added to help retain color and quality over time. I would suggest using the apple butter within one year of canning for maximum quality in taste, texture, and nutrition. This apple butter really is nutritious, especially since it contains the apple peels, and is much lower in sugar compared to traditional apple butter recipes! I gave this apple butter out as a Christmas gift last year, and my husband’s grandma called me within a few days to let me know that it was the best apple butter that she had ever had! My favorite way of eating it is on top of whole grain pancakes along with a dollop of whipped cream – it tastes like apple pie for breakfast!

This recipe is great for people with diabetes, for people trying to lose weight, or for those who are just trying to cut down on sugar consumption.

EASY STEPS TO MAKE DELICIOUS LOW-SUGAR APPLE BUTTER

healthy apple butter, healthy canning, apple butter diabetes

(Recipe fills 4-5 half-pint canning jars)

INGREDIENTS

5 lbs sweet apples (about 10 large apples – I prefer gala or fuji)
½ cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Core apples and slice them into wedges. No need to peel.
  2. Place cut apples in a slow cooker and pour ½ cup water over apples, into the slow cooker. Cover with lid and turn cooker on high.
  3. Cook apples for 2-3 hours until they become soft, stirring them every 30 minutes.
  4. After apples are soft, use an immersion blender to blend them into an applesauce-like consistency. (If you don’t own an immersion blender, you can use a blender to blend the mixture in batches, and then return it to the slow cooker.)
  5. Add lemon juice, honey, vanilla extract, and spices. Stir into mixture.
  6. Continue to slow cook apples on high for an additional 5-6 hours, removing the lid the last hour of cooking to allow moisture to escape. Butter is done when it remains rounded on a spoon, without liquid separating.
  7. While still hot, pour the apple butter into sterile canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Follow proper canning procedures and appropriate boiling times based on the altitude where you live. If you are unfamiliar with canning, you can find instructions on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website HERE. Label and date the jars after they have cooled, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year to retain maximum quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Ways to Preserve Apples

Right now it is Fall here in Utah, which means apple season! We are lucky to have some local apple orchards nearby,  and a local distributor has been selling freshly picked orchard apples, for $0.50/pound! So I have stocked up on Gala and Granny Smith apples, buying 34 lbs for just $17. Now what to do with them?

Traditional food preservation recipes call for lots of sugar. Commercially preserved apples, that have been either dried or canned, also generally contain significant amounts of sugar, corn syrup, or both. Over the next few posts, I will show you different ways to preserve your own apples in a healthy fashion, preserving maximum nutrition, without loading them with sugar! I will share with you how to make some of my favorite, storable snacks with apples.

How to Make Dried Apple Rings at Home (No added sugar!)

Homemade dried apple rings are SO much better compared to storebought ones. Most commercially dried apples that I have found have not included the peel (where the majority of the nutrition lies), they have already turned brown from oxidation, they have had oil and sugars added to them, or they have been sulfured as a food preservation technique. In the picture below, I compare home dried apple rings with a few commercial ones from my local grocery store – there is really no comparison!!! And the home dried one tastes MUCH better!

Difference between home and commercially dried apples, apple rings

Can you tell which ones are homemade? They are the pretty ones on the lower right! It is hard to tell in the picture, but the other ones are more brown, and the ones on the top right have oils, corn syrup, and other preservatives added to them. The ones on the top left actually taste pretty good and include the peel, but they are more crunchy compared to home dried ones, and they came broken in pieces. The rings on the lower left were taken from bulk bins in the grocery store health food section – they don’t include the peels and were highly oxidized (brown – meaning some nutrient loss) when I bought them.

SIMPLE STEPS FOR HOMEMADE, DRIED APPLE RINGS

  1. Wash and core apples. For maximum nutrition, leave the peels on. They also look prettier that way when dried!Picture of how to core apples
  2. Slice apples into rings about ¼ inch thick.
  3. Lay apple rings on a lightly oiled dehydrator sheet. The oil will prevent sticking. (Optional: Before laying the apple rings on the dehydrator sheet, soak the rings in pineapple juice or ascorbic acid mixture for 3-5 minutes. Pat the rings dry. Dipping apple rings is not necessary to dry them. However, it does extend shelf storage life by slowing oxidation of the apples. The ones shown here were not dipped.)
    Apple rings on dehydrator sheet
  4. Place apples in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for 8-10 hours (time will depend on thickness of rings). Check the apples for doneness – there should be no visible moisture when you bend the apple ring, but it should still be pliable and be able to bend without breaking.Homemade dried apple rings
  5. Store apple rings in an airtight storage container. I prefer quart-sized glass canning jars or airtight ziplock bags. Label and date your container.

Stored apple rings in quart jars

Tips for storing dried apples: I prefer to use a clear container so that you can see when the dried apples need to be used (you can see if there is any moisture in the jar, or mold growth). The container should be airtight, to prevent oxidation of the apple rings. You should also store the apples in a cool, dark pantry, away from light. Avoiding exposure to heat, air, and light will help to preserve maximum nutritional value. The dried rings last for about a year if stored properly. You can also put them in the freezer, in a freezer appropriate sealed container, for extended storage.