Knowing how to store apples long-term is a valuable skill, especially if you want to enjoy their flavors and benefits throughout the year. While they can last about a week at room temperature, apples can be stored for up to six to eight weeks when properly refrigerated.
Understanding the optimal conditions for apple storage can help ensure their freshness and quality for an extended period. Keep reading to learn the appropriate techniques and storage materials and enjoy these delicious fruits for months on end.
Choosing the Right Apples
Varieties for Long-Term Storage
Not all apple varieties have the same storage capabilities. Some apples are best for short-term consumption, while others can last for months when stored correctly.
Selecting the right variety for long-term storage is essential. Some apple varieties known for their long storage life include Fuji, Granny Smith, Rome, Winesap, and Jonagold.
These apples have a firmer texture and slightly thicker skin, allowing them to retain their freshness in storage for longer periods.
Preparing Apples for Storage
Washing and Drying
Before storing apples long term, it is essential to clean them thoroughly. Gently wash each apple under cold running water to remove dirt and any residual pesticides. Be sure not to use soap or detergents, as these can leave residue on the fruit.
After washing, use a soft, clean cloth or paper towel to pat the apples dry, making sure there is no excess moisture remaining on the surface. Moisture can lead to mold growth and spoilage, so drying the apples properly is crucial for successful long-term storage.
Sorting and Wrapping
Once the apples are washed and dried, it is necessary to sort them by size, type, and quality. Apples with noticeable bruises or damage should not be stored long-term, as these imperfections can hasten spoilage. Put aside any damaged apples to eat or use in one of these recipes.
For ideal long-term storage, wrap each apple individually ensuring that they do not touch each other. If using recycled newspaper, double-check with the publisher about the types of inks used to avoid potential contamination.
Alternatively, apples can be stored in plastic bags with holes or covered with a damp paper towel to maintain proper humidity levels. Storing apples in a cool and humid environment, such as a refrigerator’s crisper drawer, is crucial for preserving their freshness.
Traditional Root Cellar Storage
Root cellar storage is a time-tested method for preserving apples for an extended period. This technique involves storing apples in a cool, dark, and humid environment. To store apples in a root cellar, follow these steps:
- Allow the apples to dry for a few days in a cool, airy place.
- Wrap each apple in a piece of newspaper, which helps protect the apples and prevents them from touching each other.
- Place the wrapped apples in shallow boxes to maintain a single layer.
Storing apples in the refrigerator can help increase their shelf life. Most modern refrigerators have a fruit or crisper drawer that provides an optimal environment for preserving apples. To store apples in the refrigerator, follow these steps:
- Place the apples in the crisper drawer, if available. If not, put the apples in an uncovered plastic container near the back of the refrigerator, where it is the coldest.
- Drape a damp paper towel over the apples to help maintain humidity.
Forced-Air Cooling Systems
For larger-scale storage or commercial purposes, forced-air cooling systems can be an effective method of preserving apples long term. These systems work by cooling the apples rapidly and maintaining uniform temperature and humidity levels. To use a forced-air cooling system:
- Ensure the apples are clean and dry before placing them in the system.
- Regularly monitor the temperature and humidity levels to ensure proper storage conditions.
Ideal Storage Conditions
Temperature and Humidity
To store apples long-term, it’s important to maintain an ideal temperature and humidity level. Apples should be stored in a cold, but not freezing, environment with relatively high humidity. The best temperature range is between 30 and 35°F, and a humidity level of around 90% is recommended.
In most cases, the crisper drawer of a refrigerator is suitable for maintaining these conditions. Storing apples in a plastic bag with holes or covering them with a damp paper towel can help increase humidity.
Air Circulation and Ventilation
Proper air circulation and ventilation are essential for preventing mold and rot during the long-term storage of apples. It’s crucial to keep the apples separated from each other and allow space for air to flow around them.
One option is to wrap each apple in a terry cloth, newspaper, or old t-shirt. This will help absorb moisture and promote airflow while protecting the apples from touching each other directly.
Light and Odor Protection
Apples are best stored in a dark spot, away from direct sunlight, as light can cause them to deteriorate more quickly. Ensure the storage location shields apples from artificial sources of light as well.
Additionally, it’s important to keep apples separate from other fruits or items with strong odors. Some fruits, like bananas, emit ethylene gas that can cause apples to ripen too quickly. Ensure that apples are stored away from such sources to maintain their freshness during long-term storage.
Monitoring and Maintenance
It’s essential to inspect stored apples during long-term storage periodically. Regularly checking the apples helps to identify any signs of spoilage, such as mold or decay, before it spreads to other apples in the storage area. It’s recommended to inspect stored apples at least once every 1-2 weeks.
During the inspection, make sure to examine the condition of the apples, paying attention to their color, texture, and any presence of insects. Keep an eye out for any changes in temperature or humidity, as this can affect the apples’ freshness.
If you notice any signs of spoilage during your inspections, it’s crucial to act quickly to prevent the problem from escalating. Remove any spoiled apples promptly to avoid contaminating the healthy ones. Keep in mind that it’s best to handle apples gently to minimize bruising and potential damage.
After disposing of the affected apples, clean the storage container, and place fresh absorbent material to maintain appropriate humidity levels. If you’re consistently experiencing spoilage, it may be necessary to reevaluate your storage method or conditions.
Preventing pests from accessing your stored apples is another essential aspect of long-term storage. Store apples in secured containers or use fine mesh netting to cover them, ensuring that insects cannot access the fruit.
Be aware of common pests that target apples, such as fruit flies, apple maggots, or rodents. By taking preventive measures like keeping the storage area clean, you reduce the likelihood of a pest infestation.
If you do encounter pests, seek appropriate treatment or consult with a professional exterminator to address the issue.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
When storing apples long term, there are several mistakes to avoid to ensure the fruit remains fresh and tasty. Following are some common errors to watch out for:
1. Storing grocery store apples: Apples purchased from grocery stores have often been stored for months before arriving at the store. For long-term storage, it is recommended to pick fresh apples from an orchard, your own tree, or buy from a farmer’s market.
2. Not wrapping apples individually: To prevent the spread of potential rot or mold, it’s crucial to wrap each apple in plain paper, avoiding papers with colorful, toxic inks such as newspapers or glossy advertisements.
3. Storing apples of different sizes together: Larger apples tend to ripen faster, so it’s advisable to sort apples by size when storing them, with the smallest ones on the bottom and the largest on top. This will ensure that the faster-ripening larger apples will be used first.
4. Storing apples in a warm area: Apples should be stored in a cool spot in your home, ideally in a pantry, closet, or basement nook, as warm temperatures can accelerate the ripening process and reduce the shelf life of the fruit.
By avoiding these common mistakes when storing apples long term, you can help prolong their freshness and enjoy delicious apples throughout the year.
Wrapping up How to Store Apples Long Term
Storing apples long-term is not only possible but also quite easy. By implementing these effective storage techniques, you can maximize the freshness and taste of your apples, allowing you to savor the delightful flavors of autumn throughout the winter months.
Discover all you could want to know about growing and caring for apple trees on our Apple Trees page.
- About the Author
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Matt Cunningham, co-founder of Minneopa Orchards alongside his brother Ryan, is a steward of the land with roots deeply embedded in the farming life. Raised on a farm with both parents imparting their love for agriculture—his father a farmer and his mother a gardener. Matt’s orchard and vineyard journey has blossomed into Minneopa Orchards – dedicated to sharing the joy of growing food with a community of like-minded enthusiasts.