What to Do with the Bushel of Apples You Just Picked (Besides Eat Them)

updated Oct 9, 2019
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Nothing screams fall like visiting a pick-your-own apple orchard and leaving with a few bags (or a bushel). And while this quintessential autumn activity is lovely on many counts, it can also present one major challenge: figuring out what the heck to do with your haul once you get home (besides consume those crispy, juicy orbs until your stomach aches). 

Here, with the help of two apple orchard pros, we explain how to properly store your bounty so that it will last well into the winter — and perhaps even beyond. We also round up 33 (yup, 33!) recipes that will transform your hand-picked fruit into delicious meals, snacks, desserts, and more. Now your only challenge will be deciding which recipe to try first. 

How to Store Your Apples

Unless you plan to chow your apples within a day or so, don’t leave them on the kitchen counter, says Terese Swearingen, kitchen and bakery manager at Apple Jack Orchards in Delano, Minnesota. Why? The room-temperature conditions will cause them to ripen and rot quickly, Sharon Perdue, owner and operator of YA YA Farm & Orchard in Longmont, Colorado, tells Kitchen via email. 

A better bet is a dark, humid, and cold environment (think 30 to 35 degrees F) that will keep your apples fresh, juicy, and flavorful. The crisper drawer in your fridge works well. As an alternative to your fridge, you could also store apples in your garage with a blanket over the top, suggests Perdue. Of course this is only advisable during winter months in cold-weather places, like Colorado. 

Wherever you’re storing the fruit, add a damp paper towel on top to lock in the moisture, says Swearingen, but avoid wrapping them tightly in any material. Apples easily absorb other flavors, so keep them separate from especially pungent foods like peppers, onions, and garlic, she adds. For that reason, you should also avoid storing them in a plastic bag (unless, of course, you enjoy plastic-y tasting apples). 

These storage tips apply to all varieties of apples, although how long your apples will last varies by varietal, notes Perdue. In general, later-season apples, like Winesap, Cameo, Fuji, Jonathan, and Braeburn, are “your keepers,” writes Perdue. If stored correctly and kept continually cool, apples can last for months. Swearingen describes picking Honeycrisps in September and munching them well into April and May. 

How to Cook Your Apples 

Storing apples is pretty straightforward. Deciding how you want to enjoy them is more complicated. Roast or bake? Preserve or purée? Morning treat, lunchtime side, or fancy dessert? The options can seem endless. 

To break it down, we’ll start with breakfast. You could cube your apples for this apple-cinnamon french toast casserole, cut them into chunks for these apple pie breakfast cookies, or dice them for these healthy apple muffins. You could also roast and fold them into your steel-cut oats; chop them for this apple pancake recipe, or skillet cook them for this sausage and smoked cheddar breakfast casserole or this whipped yogurt delight

For those in a baking mood, there are plenty of options that make for great desserts, snacks, and anytime treats (see: crisps, dumplings, fritters, monkey bread, toaster strudels, stack cake, French apple cake, yogurt cake, and one-bowl Bundt cake). There are also, of course, all of the apple pie iterations — like 3-ingredient slow cooker pie, bourbon apple pie, double-crust apple pie, apple pie granola bars, and even these mini apple rose pies. Perhaps you’d like to whip up skillet fried apples, or Hasselback your fruit for an impressive dinner-party dessert.

Beyond baking, you could also enjoy your apples in sippable form (sparkling apple cider sangria, anyone?) or pop ‘em on a stick and dip them in caramel or chocolate. Or, make your apples spreadable with these recipes for applesauce or slow cooker apple butter

As you experiment, don’t forget your savory options. Add cut, raw apples to greens, like in this easy spinach, walnut, and feta salad, or this apple bacon slaw. Or enjoy them alongside meat, like with this juicy & tender roasted pork loin, or this chunky pork stew

Lastly, to savor that delicious taste well beyond apple season, consider dehydrating your fruit. “It’s a great way to keep that fresh flavor and feel like you’re enjoying a real apple in March/April time when you can’t buy one,” says Perdue. 

However you choose to cook and eat your hand-picked apples, enjoy the process. Your stash may seem bottomless right now, but when it runs out, you’ll have to wait until next fall to resupply.