What I Do With Apples From My Forest Garden

Here are some useful ideas for cooking and preserving an abundant apple harvest.

peeling apples

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I am lucky to have six mature apple trees on my property. Ever since my husband and I moved here in 2014, I have worked hard to create a forest garden around them and other fruit trees within a walled orchard.

We have a number of different varieties of cooking, cider, and dessert apples, and each year it takes quite a lot of work to process the harvest. There is just two of us—my husband and I—who usually do most of this work, along with processing plums and other fruits from the forest garden.

Some of our apples we eat right away, and a few are stored for fresh eating. Others are used in a range of sweet and savory recipes. We like to add apples to salads and use them in stews, as well as eat them in traditional pastries, pies, and crumbles. 

I try to make sure that not a single apple goes to waste, but since we cannot possibly eat all of them fresh, or cook them for immediate eating, I have had to think about how to process and preserve them. So, to inspire you to make the most of the apples from your own trees, I thought I would share what I do with my own abundant harvest.

Apple Juice

Many of our apples make a delicious juice or non-alcoholic cider. At first, we juiced a few of our apples with a household juicer, but we soon realized that, for the quantities of apples our garden produces, we needed something more efficient. So we invested in an apple crusher and a press, and now I make many bottles of apple juice each year, some of which I pasteurize and can so it will last longer. 

Apple Cider and Apple Cider Vinegar

We have also experimented with making alcoholic apple cider. My husband has added yeast, Campden tablets, and sugar to apple juice and left it to ferment. This beverage is refreshing on a hot day.

We use cider to make apple cider vinegar. This is useful for more than just culinary purposes and as a healthy addition to our home-grown diet. I like to use it in my natural haircare regime and to clean our home. We give some to our rescue chickens and our dog to keep them in good health. 

Dried Apple Slices

dried apple slices

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I dry some apple slices. Air-drying is not really an option for apples where I live, but I do put some in the oven to dry them overnight. I love the dried apple slices in muesli and other breakfast cereals, and eat as a snack. I find they keep well in sealed jars. 

Apple Jam and Apple Butter

I use some of our apples to make preserves like apple jam and apple butter. We enjoy eating a sweet and tart apple jam made with the more acidic cooking apples, as well as mixed fruit jams, such as apple cooked with blackberry. I also make a sticky spiced apple butter in an electric slow cooker. It cooks right down into a soft paste, and I love it with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. It is delicious spread on homemade bread, but we also stir it into oat pancakes and swirl it through muffin batter. 

Apple Chutney

Another preserve that I like to make is apple chutney, with caramelized onions, vinegar, sugar, and a range of spices to taste. This condiment is great with cheese and crackers, or on the side with curries. I have spread it through a nut roast for a warming winter meal. 

Canned Apples

making applesauce

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I like to preserve a simple, unsweetened apple sauce. Unsweetened is preferable because I can add sugar or other sweeteners for pies and desserts, or I can throw a jar into a winter soup or stew. We love adding apple sauce to soups and stews made with carrots, parsnips, turnips, and other root crops with leafy vegetables.

When dealing with a large apple harvest, you can go far beyond eating fresh apples and making apple pies. The ideas above are just some of the solutions that have worked well for me when determining how to use the abundant apples from my forest garden.