Drying apples

Every fall, I spend about a month making dried apples from the apple trees in our yard. It’s been a meager harvest this year. By far the smallest since we’ve lived here. Spring 2022 was extremely rainy and, as a consequence, many of the flowers didn’t get pollinated. We have three apple varieties – mystery red, mystery yellow, and the epitome of perfection, Golden Russet.

Because of all the rain, we also had severe apple scab develop on many of our mystery yellow and red apples (left). Golden Russet appears to be more resistant and only developed mild symptoms (right). As long as the scab wasn’t too extensive or woody, these were fine for eating fresh. Everything else got processed for drying. 

This year, we also saw more fruit rot than usual. Again, probably because of all the rain. That’s blossom end rot on the left and core rot on the right. As long as the rot isn’t too extensive, I will just cut out the bad parts and dry the rest of the apple.

Fruit rots are often associated with codling moth damage. You can see the “sawdust” from where one of the larvae tunneled out at the bottom of this apple, which also has apple scab. Probably best not to think of it, but that’s actually frass, or larval poop. Again, as long as the damage isn’t too extensive, I just cut out the affected part and dry the rest. Usually, codling moth damage isn’t too bad. The larvae tunnel to the center of the apple and feed in the core where the seeds are located. By the time the apples are ripe in the fall, the larvae are long gone, so no need to worry about encountering one (or half of one) wriggling around inside.

Birds, squirrels, and raccoons also take their fair share of our apples. Here is one that was pecked by a bird. Again, as long as the damage isn’t too severe, I can salvage most of the apple for drying.

I use a mandoline and a melon corer to process the apples for drying. The mandoline gives me nice thin slices and the melon baller helps me to take out the core where the seeds are located. There is a plastic grip (lower right of photo) that keeps my fingers well away from the blade, although I also have a pair of cut-resistant gloves. Safety first!

I slice the apples on the mandoline until the seed cavity begins to appear. Then, I take the melon baller and remove the core before continuing to slice the rest of the apple.

A bunch of sliced apples, blemishes and all. Next, I will remove anything that is brown.

Those that don’t need anything removed go directly to the drying rack. Any slices with blemishes go on a cutting board for clean up. After I cut out any bits of stem, rot, etc., I rinse them off…

…and place them on the rack. They will bake at 135F for about 8 hours for more chewy apples or at 160F for a crunchier texture and more caramelized flavor.

Final product. This year we chose crunchy.

I also made some shortbread cookies at the same time. They won’t win any baking shows based on their appearance (inconsistent shape and they merged together as they baked), but they sure were good.

On the plant side of things, I recently walked into the greenhouse at work and was startled to smell a very strong, floral/honey scent. I looked around, didn’t see anything blooming, and sort of forgot about until a week later when I encountered the smell again. Where the heck was that scent coming from? I spent a few minutes poking around and finally saw that our zipper plant, Crassula muscosa, was covered in hundreds of tiny flowers. Source identified. Hard to believe how incredibly potent the scent is from such a small flower. Some describe it as cloying or disgusting, others as pleasant. I would say it’s more on the pleasant side for me, but I wouldn’t want to smell it for long periods of time. A short whiff here and there is more than enough.

I also noticed something interesting while I was digging up my Seemania sylvatica ‘Bolivian Sunset’ from one of our perennial beds before the big freeze. There were these weird little rhizomes sticking out of the root ball. I didn’t know that Seemania could do that!

Young rhizome on the left and a compressed, thicker rhizome on the right.

That’s it for today. Off to do a little concrete work.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Kris P

    I admire your industry in drying the apples. I really should do something with my persimmons next year…The flowers on the Crassula muscusa are interesting. I’ve had the plant in various locations for years but have never seen much less smelled the flowers.

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      Persimmons are one of those trees I thought of growing once, but then I never did end up liking the way they taste. Too insipid and overly sweet for me. Our friend made some of their famous persimmon cookies, and someone else made a persimmon pie, but I never detected a distinctive persimmon flavor that made me want more. Pretty trees though. I wonder if drying the fruit would concentrate some flavor?

      This is the second time our C. muscosa has bloomed in October/November. I wonder if it is something about our shorter, cooler days that stimulates them to bloom? If so, maybe the conditions aren’t right in southern California for blooming to occur.

  2. Anna K

    What Kris said… wow! That would have taken me the better part of a day, but dang – they look delicious! I bet the effort was MORE than worth it!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      We do love our dried apples. When the harvest is large, I usually spend an hour every evening processing them. I’m a little relieved there were so few this year. Not much of a canner, otherwise we might make applesauce.

  3. hb

    That’s really interesting process, thanks for explaining it. The chips are like a treat, or can you cook with them?

    Love, love shortbread. Yummmmmm!

    My sister in Alaska has old apple trees on the property and she is able to store some, eat some, and makes apple sauce to freeze from the rest. I asked her about apple pests there–she said they don’t have any. You just have to get them before the moose do.

    Now I need to make some shortbread!

    1. Garden Curmudgeon

      We just eat them as a snack. We haven’t tried cooking with them, but imagine that you could if you remoistened them. She is very lucky to not have any apple pests. So glad we don’t have moose though I would like to see one some day. The deer, rabbits, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and voles are more than enough!

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