How to Freeze Apples
Save that apple bounty for the months ahead.
If you are lucky enough to have an apple tree that is producing well, have recently enjoyed a trip to a pick-your-own orchard, or if you just went overboard at the farmers’ market this week (as I did), you may have more apples than you can handle this time of year. It may just be time to learn how to freeze apples.
While nothing quite compares to a fresh apple, freezing apples for use in cooking or baked goods is an easy way to manage an unexpected overstock and will keep those cobblers, pies and dumplings coming all year long.
There are a couple of things to consider before rushing to the freezer. Sweeter apples such as Fujis or Galas are more likely to hold their flavor than tart varieties, but any apple will do fine in the freezer for six to nine months.
Perhaps more important to keep in mind, though, is that freezing an apple does alter the texture, leaving the flesh spongier than that of a fresh apple. Just fine for any application that involves cooking, but if you are looking for the crisp bite of an apple straight from the orchard, eat your fill now before you hit the freezer.
Like many fruits and vegetables, how you freeze them depends on how they will be used.
The short answer is yes, apples may be frozen whole and with virtually no effort. Washed and wrapped in plastic or sealed in Ziploc bags to freeze, there is no quicker route from orchard to freezer. It may be easy, but bear in mind the end result is an apple that is inconvenient when it comes time to use it. In the long run you’ll be better off processing apples into something more manageable before hitting the big freeze.
Peel, core, and slice. If you’ve got apples to freeze, but no plan for their use, this is the way to go. Use later by the handful or bagful in any cooked recipes. Pies, muffins, cobblers and even applesauce can be made from frozen apples.
There are some fun peeling gadgets around and may save some time, but I tend to stick with my trusty swivel peeler. On the other hand, I can’t say enough about the value of a sturdy slicer/corer. An indispensable tool when you have a lot of apples to get through.
Once sliced, dip the apples in a bowl of water with a little lemon juice stirred in (about a tablespoon per gallon) to prevent browning.
To prevent clumping, arrange slices on a plate or baking tray lined with parchment paper and pre-freeze them for a couple of hours before bagging in an airtight container or ziploc bags.
Plums are a natural for home gardens with their compact size and easy-growing nature. These trees tend to be beautiful specimens and bear heavy loads of fruit—not enough to overwhelm, but more than enough to balance fresh eating with sharing and putting by. ‘Opal’ plum trees are self-fertile. Fruit ripens early in the season, ripening over a two-week window, so you’re not overwhelmed with produce.
Give yourself a treat by planting a cherry tree. These trees add beauty with their spring blooms, and it’s tough to beat the tasty fruit. Just make sure you protect your crop from hungry birds with a little scare tape or netting. For small yards, look for Compact Stella, a self-fertile cherry that grows 10 to 12 feet tall and starts bearing within two years. If you’re into pie baking, plant sour cherries, which are self-fertile. Other cherries need a pollinating partner.
In warm regions (Zones 8-10), kumquats make an excellent addition to the family yard. Trees have a natural compact size and classic deep green citrus-type leaves. Fruits are small and egg shaped and decorate trees from late fall to early spring. Kumquats are fully edible—skins and flesh. Skins are sweet, while flesh is tart, making for an unusual flavor combination. It’s the ideal choice for marmalade. Trees adapt well to containers in areas with colder winters.
Grafted Trees with Multiple Cultivars
Plant everyone’s favorite apple by growing a tree with several cultivars grafted onto the trunk. You can find multi-graft trees for apples (shown), citrus, peaches, cherries and pears. With these trees, you can savor a variety of fruits in a smaller space. Multi-graft trees also extend the harvest window and provide cross-pollination partners. It’s the ideal answer for home fruit production. Follow pruning instructions carefully as different varieties may grow at different rates.
Few fruits compete with the sensory delight peaches offer, from fuzzy skin to juice-dribbling flesh. Peach trees are lovely in flower and add good color to landscapes. Most peach trees are self-fertile, so you can get away with planting just one tree. The most critical aspect of choosing a tree is cold hardiness—make sure you’re getting a tree that will survive your winters. In colder zones, avoid planting peach trees on southern exposures, or you risk early blooms that a late frost might zap. Check out columnar peaches, which take up little space and adapt to containers.
For gardeners in Zones 9 to 10, mandarin oranges can serve as a stunning landscape plant with their deep green leaves, fragrant blooms and bright orange fruit. In colder zones, choose dwarf mandarin trees for container culture. Mandarins are actually hardier than standard oranges and feature that easy-peeling fruit perfect for tossing into salads. Semi-dwarf trees usually withstand pruning to a certain size. ‘Satsumi’ is the most cold hardy variety. Other good choices are ‘Honey’ and ‘Encore.’ ‘Pixie’ is more of a shrub.
Pears combine beauty with delicious fruit that’s a gift to any size yard. Look for dwarf pears sold on rootstock Pyrodwarf, which produces trees 6 to 8 feet tall. ‘Beurre Bosc Dwarf’ is a genetic dwarf pear that grows 8 to 10 feet high. This photos shows cordon pears. Cordon refers to a type of stem training and pruning that results in a tightly upright growth form. The method works on pear or apple trees that produce fruit on spur-bearing shoots, which are short side shoots along stems. You’ll get the best harvest by planting more than one pear tree for cross pollination.
Fresh ripe apricots are nothing like their hard, store-bought cousins. A ripe apricot is actually too soft to ship, so the only way to enjoy that taste treat is to pick it fresh from the tree. Apricot trees are medium size, but you can find dwarf varieties. This fruit tree easily hold its own as an ornamental in the landscape. Some varieties are self-pollinating, but most need a partner nearby. In colder zones, look for varieties that flower later to avoid losing blossoms to late spring frosts.
Fragrant leaves, flowers and fruits make Kaffir lime a delight to grow, whether in the landscape or in a pot. Dwarf Kaffir Lime tops out at 6 to 10 feet and is versatile in the kitchen, prized for its leaves, fruit zest and juice. This is the must-have lime for preparing Thai, Lao and Cambodian cuisine. Mexican or key lime is another good choice for home gardens. Lime trees are very cold sensitive and must be protected from frost. Most limes are self-pollinating, although the flowers easily beckon bees with their sweet fragrance.
Whether you grow them in a pot or small backyard orchard, apples bring a familiar, cherished fruit to the landscape. Spring flowers transform trees into works of art. Choose dwarf or cordon-type (columnar) trees for landscapes and containers. Apple blssoms need to be cross-pollinated. Ask where you purchase your trees which varieties are compatible with yours.
Small, 1-inch fruits resemble tangerines and offer an unusual taste treat. The peels on calamondin are sweet, while the flesh has more of a tart zing. This is a citrus tree that’s commonly grown in containers. It’s one of the more cold-hardy citrus trees, tolerating temperatures to 20°F. The trees are highly ornamental with deep green leaves punctuated by white flowers or orange fruit.
When it comes to easy, figs are near the top of the list. Plants grow with few demands. Pruning may be top of the list, although if you grow naturally short types, like ‘Black Jack’ or ‘Improved Brown Turkey,’ pruning to control height isn’t needed. Some varieties send up suckers to form fig colonies that resemble an oversize shrub. You can also raise a fig tree in a container, which is one way to grow this tasty dessert fruit in colder zones. Figs are self-pollinating.
Don’t overlook lemons when planning an edible home landscape. Fresh lemons bring sparkle and color to the dinner table and play a key role in many dishes, including fish, vegetables, desserts and cocktails. Ripe ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon fruit lasts eight months or more on the tree. In colder zones, grow lemons in pots that you can haul outside for summer and place in a protected location come winter.
For a stunning fall display, you won’t go wrong adding persimmons to your landscape. Fall leaves offer a host of fiery hues, and fruits turn deep orange when ripe. Most unripe persimmons are astringent, but ripened fruits are referred to as “food of the gods.” Asian varieties tend to be shorter, while native American types are full-on trees. Look for dwarf varieties for smaller spaces. Persimmons aren’t self-fertile; you’ll need two trees for fruit production.
Botanically speaking, tangerines and mandarin oranges have the same Latin name. In California, ‘Dancy’ is a long-favorite variety, with loose skin and late-season ripening. For many orchard owners, ‘Dancy’ sets the standard for tangerine flavor. In the home garden, consider ‘Fremont’ tangerine, with fruit that’s wonderful fresh or juiced. Ripe fruit lasts up to 8 months on the tree. Another long-time California favorite is Ojai Pixie, which is usually sold as ‘Pixie’ mandarin.
No additives needed. Homemade applesauce is an effective use of apple surpluses and it’ll be nearly as good coming out of the freezer as it was when you made it.
Apple pie filling can be prepared and frozen in an airtight container for up to nine months with minimal loss of flavor.
Taking this one step further, whole pies can be frozen for future use. Prepare your favorite recipe and freeze tightly wrapped in plastic wrap or sealed in gallon sized ziploc bags.
Basic Pie Filling for Freezing
¾ c sugar
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
2 T flour
1 T lemon juice
6 c apples (peeled, sliced and cored)
Combine sugar, cinnamon and flour together. Stir all ingredients together until well combined. Filling may be used immediately or frozen for up to 6 months.