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How to store your apples

You may be too busy for juicing over the next couple of weeks, you may want to wait for a sunny autumnal day, or you may want to blend apple varieties that have ripened at different times. There are many reasons why pressing straight away may be inconvenient. If your apples are ripe right now, however, what can you do?

Apples for juicing

First of all, there is no need to panic! Depending on the time of ripening and the variety (see below) apples for juicing can usually be stored for 2 to 4 weeks. See the ‘How to Store’ section below for guidance on storing. Andrew Lea, cider and apple juice author, explains that storing apples for any longer may hinder the juicing process. When crushed, apples stored for too long, can produce an apple pulp which is quite slimy when crushed – it’s not easy to press and will give low juice yields. This natural reaction, Andrew explains, is caused by the soluble pectin that apples produce during storage leaching out and being partially broken down by enzymes in the fruit during pressing.

Apples for cider making

Storing apples for cider making is traditionally felt to be a necessity. Andrew explains how the apple’s natural process of converting starch into sugar continues even after falling or being picked from the tree and that it is desirable that this process is complete before fermentation. For this reason, he suggests that apples are stored for a period of 2 to 4 weeks, and confirms that are ready for crushing when they are 'sufficiently ripe for the thumb to be pushed easily into the fruit'. See 'The Science of Cidermaking' on his excellent Wittenham Hill Cider Portal for more information on cider making. Store your apples for longer than 4 weeks and you may end up with apple pulp which is quite difficult to press, as explained above. The important factor is that only ripe apples should be used for cider making. See the ‘How to Store’ section below for guidance on storing.

Apples for eating and cooking

Monty Don demonstrated storing apples for eating or cooking on BBC1’s Gardeners’ World this month [October]. The apple variety he picked and prepared for storage will store right through to next spring. “These apples,” he said, “will probably be better around Christmas time than they are now.” Although some apple varieties only reach full ripeness after a period of storage, others do not store well are best eaten straight away.

Effects of ripening time and variety on storage

Some apple varieties store better than others. If you are lucky enough to know which apple varieties you have it is worth checking how well they store with your fruit tree supplier or from a reliable source. The general “rule of thumb” is that early season apples don’t keep very well, mid-season apples will keep for around 2 to 3 weeks, and late season apples usually keep the longest – sometimes until next spring!

How to store

Commercial apple suppliers store their apples in temperature controlled stores which also regulate humidity and use carbon dioxide to delay ripening, so that consumers can eat fresh apples all year round. We have to use much simpler methods, but the principles are very much the same! Here are a few guidelines for storing apples:

For juice & cider making:

  • Check on the variety or ripening time to determine whether your apples will store well
  • Exclude rotten or bruised apples
  • Store the apples in a cool area – a barn or outhouse with a clean floor is ideal
  • Spread clean straw on the floor
  • Mound the apples on the straw (Andrew Lea recommends that the mounds are no more than 2½ to 3 foot deep)
  • Check the apples regularly and discard any that are showing signs of rot or mould immediately
  • Store for around 2-4 weeks
  • Immediately prior to juicing, wash the apples in batches using clean water for each batch
  • Discard any apples showing signs of rot or mould

If you don’t have a cool indoor area to store the apples, you can mound the apples up in the orchard but they should not rest directly on the soil. Andrew Lea suggests storing them on a base of hurdles arranged closely together, or on a simple platform of wooden planks resting on loose bricks.

For eating & cooking:

  • Check on the variety or ripening time to determine whether your apples will store well and how long you can store them for
  • Pick apples for storage off the tree. Adam from Adam's Apples recommends that apples are picked slightly under-ripe for storage - they will continue to ripen during storage. Bear in mind that on a large tree apples ripen over the course of a month so you may be picking more than once!
  • Handle the apples very gently so you don’t damage them
  • Remove blemished or damaged apples
  • Store the apples in a cool (but not frosty), dark and reasonably moist place – a shed or cellar is ideal
  • Use a rack to store the apples on. You can buy purpose made apple racks, or Monty Don used an old wooden bakery rack
  • Place the apples on the rack, one at a time, ensuring that they do not touch – there must be a gap between them

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