There’s nothing like the smell of fresh, sweet apples. When you walk in your kitchen door and smell the sweet scent of apple baking in a pie shell in the oven, you know it’s going to be a great day!
I grow my own apples in my orchard. When the trees begin to produce, I get excited because I can instantly dream of all the things I will bake with them and how many jars of apples I will preserve for the year.
However, one of my favorite ways to preserve the apples I produce is by dehydrating them. It’s a simple process which can save a considerable amount of time.
I’m going to walk you through the dehydrating process from start to finish. Here’s what you need to know to dehydrate apples:
How Do I Get Cheaper (but Good) Apples?
I haven’t lived on a farm my whole life. Nor have I lived where I had an orchard right outside of my door. Since I do now, I take full advantage of it.
But what if you’re someone who likes to put food away but don’t have the food at hand you’d want to preserve?
Well, you can easily shop around to find apples for a discounted rate to be able to place food in storage. There are a few reasonable options which should work for most.
1. Buy Them on Sale
Apples will go on sale from time to time. When they’re on sale, purchase as many as the store will allow you to have.
This way you won’t spend as much as you might pay purchasing them at regular price, and you can have all the apples you need to preserve them or store them for later use.
2. Buy from a Local Orchard
Next, if you have a local orchard nearby, consider purchasing apples from them. Before I had my own miniature orchard, I would travel less than an hour up the mountain where apple orchards are a dime a dozen.
Not only did I get fresh apples, but I also paid less for them because there was plenty of competition.
Shopping with family-owned orchards is a beautiful experience the whole family can enjoy. Most of the orchard owners would give my children free samples, and I’d get to shop around until I found the produce I was looking for.
A quick tip is to be sure you ask to view their ‘seconds’ or canning apples. They’re the apples which aren’t the prettiest but should do fine for preserving.
3. Trade for Them
Finally, if you have friends or family members which do have apple trees, consider asking if you can trade for their produce.
I freely give our food away to my close friends and relatives because my trees produce more than I need for our family of five.
Look around because you don’t know which neighbor will be willing to share their harvest.
4. Grow Them
Apple trees take a few years to begin producing, but if you know you’re going to want to preserve your own apples, consider planting a couple of trees.
If you don’t have space, consider planting a dwarf option in a container. Keep in mind; you’ll have to bring the tree indoors during the winter.
However, this could be a great way to have the apple harvest you need when you need it in the future.
The Dehydrating Process
Dehydrating apples is a simple process you’ll be glad to learn about. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be on your way to learning a new skill.
1. Pick the Apples
I’ve listed above a few ways you can obtain the apples you need for dehydrating. Whether you purchase your apples from your local grocery store, farmer’s market, a local farmer, local commercial orchard, or your backyard, getting the apples is the important part.
If you haven’t picked fresh apples, it’s essential to choose the apples which are fully ripe. From there, you gently twist the apple, and it should come right off the tree.
You should use a bushel basket to collect the apples during your picking session. When your basket is full, or you’ve collected all of the ripe apples from your tree, you’re ready to move forward with the process.
2. Clean Them Up
Once you’ve picked or purchased your apples, you’ll need to bath them. Apples can have dirt on the outside and worms on the inside. Which is why cleaning is such an essential part of the process.
Begin by filling your kitchen sink or a teacup with cold water. When the sink or tub is full, place as many apples as you can in the water.
Toss the apples around in the water gently. You don’t want to bruise them, but you do want to knock as much dirt from the apples as possible.
It’s also a good idea to rub each apple with your hands to cause gentle abrasion to loosen any stubborn dirt.
You might have to dump the water and add fresh to get the apples as clean as needed. Depending on how many apples you have, you could have to wash apples in batches.
When you’ve gotten every apple clean, you can move to the next step.
3. Core and Peel
There are two ways to perform this step. The first option is to do all of it by hand. You can peel the apple with a knife or apple peeler.
When your apples are peeled, use the knife to remove the core of the apple. When the skins and cores are removed, you can move on to the next step where you slice the apples.
However, if you choose to peel and core apples by hand, I’ll warn you your hand will grow tired quickly. This may not be such a big deal if you aren’t planning on dehydrating large quantities of apples at a time.
But if you’re like me, you’ll be dehydrating large batches. This poses a problem which is why I recommend purchasing an apple peeler which also cores and slices.
I have one, and it saves my hands a great deal of work and time too. When your apples have been peeled and cored, you can move on to slicing.
4. Thin is the Key
This step is one of the most critical steps in the process. If you fail to cut the apple slices thin enough, it’ll take them much longer to dry.
You’ll want each apple to be around ½ inch to an inch thick. Again, this is why I use an apple peeler which cores and slices for me as well.
It makes this part of the process much more manageable. When you’re slicing your apples, place them in a bowl of cold water and add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the water.
It will keep the apples from turning brown while you’re slicing. When all of the apples have been sliced, you’re ready to dehydrate.
5. Dehydrate and Wait
There are multiple ways to dehydrate apples. Some ways require equipment, others require no equipment, and some options are DIY. Here are three different ways to dehydrate your apples:
Three Dehydrating Methods
1. Use a Dehydrator
If you own a dehydrator (or would like to purchase one), you’ll place the slices of apple on the tray in the dehydrator.
Be sure your apples are only one layer thick on the tray. When you’ve placed your apples in the dehydrator, turn the dehydrator on, and wait.
You can refer to your instruction manual to get an idea as to how long apples should take to dehydrate. You can also keep a watchful eye over the next hour until the apples have shrunk in size and appear slightly wrinkly.
When you feel confident the moisture has been removed from the apple, you can turn off the dehydrator, pull your apples out, and store in an airtight bag or container.
2. Create Dehydration Screens
When I dehydrate apples, I have a dear friend who allows me to use her dehydration screens. These are large trays which have a wooden frame and screen in the middle.
You can make them as large as you’d like to accommodate as many apples as you’d like. Her screens were designed to be the width of a truck camper.
When she dehydrates apples, she’ll slide these trays inside her truck with the camper on. They place a large fan towards the truck until the apples dry.
My truck doesn’t have a camper top. Instead, I place the screens where two bar stools support them. I position the stools in the middle of my living room under a ceiling fan.
I leave the trays there until all of the apples have been dehydrated. This is an excellent method if you’re drying large quantities of apples at one time.
3. Put Them in the Sun
Let’s say you aren’t dehydrating large quantities of apples, and you don’t have a dehydrator. What should you do?
If you have cookie cooling racks, you can place the apples on them. Place the apples outside on a screened porch or another area. The goal is to put them where the apples can get sunlight, a breeze, and not be infested by bugs.
When you discover the perfect place, be sure to place the trays where they are elevated. This will allow the wind to encompass the tray of apples fully.
This process will take longer than the others mentioned, but once the apples are dry you store them in an airtight container for later use.
How to Use Dehydrated Apples
You’ve dehydrated your apples. Now what? There are multiple things you can do with dried apples. Here are a few ideas:
1. Eat Them as ‘Chips’
Are you tired of eating unhealthy foods, but you love to snack on chips throughout the day? Consider eating dried apples in the place of chips.
You can add a little cinnamon to the top before eating them. Either way, they’re a healthy snack which requires little preparation.
2. Use Them as Christmas Ornaments
My sister-in-law does this every year, and I love the idea. She’ll dry apples and whatever she hasn’t utilized around Christmas she places ornament hooks through them.
You can add festive bows to the apples too. When finished, you place the dried apple ornaments on your tree, and it makes your home smell wonderful while adding an old-fashioned décor look as well.
3. Dried Apple Tea
Do you enjoy a hot beverage? You’ll love this idea. Place a few dried apple slices in a teacup. You boil water and pour it over the slices.
Allow the slices to steep in the water for a few minutes. When satisfied, remove the apple slices, and enjoy your delicious hot tea.
4. Fried Apple Pies
I began dehydrating apples because of my mother-in-law. She made fried apple pies every Thanksgiving. This meant we needed to dehydrate apples for the pie filling.
Though I’m not sure what her exact recipe was, this recipe calls for the use of dried apples. It looks close enough to what my mother-in-law included, and I feel confident these pies will be a delicious way to use your dried apples.
Well, you now know where to find apples to dehydrate, three methods to dehydrate the apples, and have four ideas on how to utilize your dried apples.
You should be all set to embark on this new adventure and find great (and delicious) success in the making. Enjoy!