Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Prepper's Pantry: An Apple A Day

Apples are one of the oldest cultivated fruits, having been domesticated between 4,000 and 10,000 years ago somewhere in central Asia. Being fairly storage stable, they followed trade routes to other parts of Asia, Europe and, by the 17th century, the Americas. Much credit is given to John Chapman, better known to folklore as Johnny Appleseed, for the spreading of apples among the North American colonies.

Currently, there are an estimated 7,500 different varieties (PDF warning) of apples (called cultivars) worldwide. They can generally be divided into two main categories: discovered or found, and bred or cultivated. These groups have a tendency to overlap as many of the breed histories have been lost to time.

An example of this is my personal favorite apple, the McIntosh, a small, hard, red and green apple with crisp flesh and a tart flavor. Good for saucing, baking, and eating, the McIntosh was discovered in 1811 when John McIntosh was clearing an old farmstead in eastern Ontario. There is no record of who planted that tree or where the seeds came from.

When properly stored, apples can last a long time while still retaining their flavor and nutritive value. One of the simplest ways for short to medium term storage of apples is the fruit drawer of a refrigerator. Apples store best right on the edge of freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and prefer high humidity, up to 90% if possible. Few refrigerators can provide this, which is why root cellars were, and still are, a traditional method.

A cool, damp basement is actually one of the best places to store apples. They should be carefully examined for bruises and cuts, wrapped in paper (one bad apple really can ruin a bunch), and placed in a single layer. Larger apples should be rotated out first as they tend to deteriorate faster. Depending on the type, apples can last up to a year in optimal conditions. 

Apples that don’t meet storage requirements can be eaten as-is, preserved in another manner such as drying, canning, or freezing, or used in sauce and baked goods.

Even if their skin is slightly wrinkled and their flavor has started to fade, properly-stored apples can still be a wonderful treat all year round.

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