Using an orchards-worth of apples?
November 4, 2010 11:48 AM   Subscribe

What to do with an orchards-worth of apples? I have access to a semi-abandoned orchard (it's maintained, but no-one uses the fruit), and it seems a pity to have all the fruit rot; there's still a fair amount left on the trees.

The apples I've tried are edible, if rather tart, so I'd tend towards cooking with them rather than eating them raw. What would be a good way of using multiple crates of apples? If cooking/baking with them, can I just add more sugar to make up for the sourness?

I have seen this question, but the apples mentioned there seemed to be definite eating varieties, which I'm not sure the ones I'm thinking about are.

I'd quite like to try making (alcoholic) cider, but I don't have any of the equipment or a huge budget. What's the minimum of equipment required? Labour-intensiveness isn't a problem, as I can probably get a bunch of people involved.
posted by Jakob to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You make apple butter with tart windfall apples. You can easily render down a hundred pounds into a manageable quantity of apple butter. Can it for long term storage.

Then you bake pies, roast pork loins, and slather toast with it.

Cider is fun to make, but you need a press (which you can probably rent) and a way to get a huge pot up to pasteurization temperatures (access to a commercial stove, or some kind of crazy propane stand). Then you need containers - glass carboys or food-grade buckets. And yeast. And time - it'll take at least a year, closer to 5 if your cider experiments are like mine, for your harsh homemade cider to mellow into something drinkable.
posted by peachfuzz at 11:53 AM on November 4, 2010

If worst comes to worst, you can start a compost pile.
posted by emilyd22222 at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2010

Apple butter and applesauce are both super easy and can transform a lot of apples into delicious and shelf-stable form. I use honey to sweeten both of those; regular sugar will be sweeter, and you can replace some or all of the water with cider to increase the sweetness without "OMG botulism risk."

For non-canning applications, I'd fry slices of your tart apples with onions and use that to decorate pretty much everything (but especially roast pork sandwiches).
posted by janell at 11:56 AM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd quite like to try making (alcoholic) cider, but I don't have any of the equipment or a huge budget.

DIY cider press!

Here is a simpler design, using this $15 step-stool from Ikea.
posted by exogenous at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2010

(You can use a turkey fryer for a pasteurization kettle if you make cider a la peachfuzz's answer).
posted by janell at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2010

If you bake/sauce/butter them, get yourself one of these. It really will save you lots and lots of time and effort if you're processing large quantities of apples.
posted by juliapangolin at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2010

How tart is tart? Could you take some to a food bank?
posted by arabelladragon at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2010

This is pretty much my stock answer for any "What can I do with a boatload of [food item]": Consider donating some to a local homeless shelter/soup kitchen/meals on wheels type organization. Even if they're a little tart, they might make a nice treat to go along with the gruel for someone less fortunate. They could cut 'em up and beef up an otherwise-mostly-cantaloupe fruit salad with them, or maybe with enough apples they can make their own pies for the holiday season.
posted by Gator at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do you know of any homeless shelters that might appreciate the fresh fruit? Sometimes they'll only accept canned goods, but it never hurts to ask. You could use half for apple butter and apple treats, and the rest could go to charity.
posted by patronuscharms at 12:05 PM on November 4, 2010

Oops, what Gator said, 'cause that's a better answer. :)
posted by patronuscharms at 12:06 PM on November 4, 2010

Donate them to a food bank?
posted by COD at 12:06 PM on November 4, 2010

And just to mention if you do find yourself with a cellar full of cider and you still have apples left over, you can always consider someplace like Backyard Harvest. In my community, volunteers will come and 'glean' any surplus crops you might have, and one of them might have a lead on a press you could borrow.
posted by stellaluna at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2010

Dang preview. I should add the nice thing about Backyard Harvest is they do the work.
posted by stellaluna at 12:07 PM on November 4, 2010

Are you close to a zoo? You could check to see if they would take them as donations. There are many zoo animals who can eat apples as a supplement to their diets.

Alternatively, there may be farmers in your area who could use them (pigs and horses, for example, love apples).
posted by amyms at 12:10 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Stellaluna: Backyard Harvest looks great; alas, as I'm UK-based, I don't think they'll be of much use to me personally.
posted by Jakob at 12:12 PM on November 4, 2010

Ask around/put up a flyer at local homebrew stores and maybe CraigsList selling access to the orchard for cider makers. Three friends of mine spent $150 to get around 600 pounds of apples (already picked I think) at an orchard for cider making. Even though it took them all day to press, they thought they got a screaming deal.
posted by turbodog at 12:22 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Trade to farmers for other locally grown foods.
posted by leafwoman at 12:27 PM on November 4, 2010

There may still be a community press in operation somewhere. I did the same with an old orchard and had about 200 gallons of cider, a lot less work than turning it into apple butter. I did make some apple butter and did not use any sugar. Instead, I added cider, but it takes forever to cook.

Do you have Community Sustained Agriculture over there? Farms that allow people to buy and receive a portion of whatever crops they grow. If you do, contact the nearest and see if they can do something with the apples.
posted by mareli at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2010

Depending on the kind of apple they are, they may store well in cold (but above freezing) temperatures, such as a cellar or fridge or in a cooler in an unheated but attached space like a garage if it gets some heat leaking in to keep it above freezing. Can you post any pictures of the apples?

You can slice and dry them. Put them in your oven on its lowest setting and maybe crack the door open. Sprinkle on some cinnamon maybe. Great snack all winter.

Apple sauce is easy. Read up a bit on water bath canning (most general cookbooks probably have a discussion of it.)

You don't want to pasteurize it if you're making hard cider btw! I made a quick and dirty airlock setup by drilling (or use a hot nail) holes in the lids of screw caps to gallon milk jugs (sterilized them with hot water and "star-san" sanitizer), inserting and gluing tubing into the caps, then sumbersing the ends of the tubes in a cup of water. This makes an airlock that lets CO2 bubble out but not (much) air back in. Glass carboys with real airlocks are better if you plan on doing this every year though. Add about 1/2 tsp of ale or wine yeast to each gallon. I err on the side of less yeast. You could add a bit of sugar if you don't think the apples have enough. When it's not bubbling that much anymore (3-4 months in my case) bottle it in beer bottles (the thing to put caps on the bottles is pretty cheap.) I put six packs of the bottles in tied plastic bags, you know, just in case :)

You will need to make or find a press though.

Lots of info on homemade hard cider on the net, or in books (such as
posted by thefool at 12:57 PM on November 4, 2010

... If slicing apples for drying or other use, get one of these:

There are lots online and in some stores, I see them in consignment/junk/second hand stores periodically as well.
posted by thefool at 1:00 PM on November 4, 2010

... Correct link:
posted by thefool at 1:01 PM on November 4, 2010

Thirding drying. Get a dehydrator and one of those apple slicers. Saucing also easy.
posted by recurve at 1:12 PM on November 4, 2010

I was going to suggest making yummy cidre de glace, but then I saw you're in the UK, which won't get cold enough.
posted by scruss at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2010

I find myself in a similar dilemma this fall, and I decided I would take the opportunity to perfect the apple pie. I've been baking pie after pie after pie, changing the recipe a little each time, and taking notes. Just a thought to consider; this is a great opportunity to tinker with an apple-related recipe of your choice.

Alternatively, mass quantities of apple butter will condense those apples into something you can store long-term.
posted by pemberkins at 1:39 PM on November 4, 2010

Hire an apple press here, get your mates to do all the hard work and pay them in juice.
posted by Dr.Pill at 2:23 PM on November 4, 2010

You could try and find a community organisation like not far from the tree, which will come and pick your fruit in exchange for some of the fruit.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 3:28 PM on November 4, 2010

apple-pie baking contest for charity? where anyone who wants to enter has to use your apples?
posted by lblair at 9:37 PM on November 4, 2010

We don't have Craigslist or food banks as such in the UK. Canning at home isn't such a big thing here either.

My suggestion would be to make apple jam/pies and maybe sell them for charity.
posted by mippy at 8:44 AM on November 5, 2010

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