Thursday, November 5, 2015

What to do when life gives you mealy apples? Turn them into a tasty snack



Our local produce stand closed for the season, the other day. I made sure a stop there was on my calendar before they closed. One of the items I picked up, was a 24-lb box of new-crop apples, at 37cents per pound. They were tagged as "new crop", so I thought they'd be good. They smell fantastic. But they've been a disappointment in texture. I should have asked to buy one at the case price, to check them out.

Bummer, right? However, I've discovered that I can salvage quite a lot of foods, at least the ones that haven't spoiled. These apples have good flavor. They're just not really crisp.

When a food is dried out, you add moisture. When it is too soggy, you dry it out. If it is bland-tasting, you add flavor. If it is too flavorful, you tone down the flavor with the addition of bland ingredients. With apples, that are verging on mealy, you change the texture and form of the apples.

Tossing the apples out isn't an option for my budget. But I do have a few possibilities. I could make some into applesauce. I could make a batch of spiced apple butter. I could add dices to breads, muffins or cookies.

What I am really wanting, though, is something that could be a snack or lunch item, without the extra ingredients of baked goods. I bought these as lunch and snack apples, so that is my hope and plan for most of them.

Enter the idea of turning these into apple chips/dried apple rings. They're simple to make. Slice thin, and dust apple rings with cinnamon and sugar, then dry. So easy and quick -- less hands-on time involved than baking a batch of cookies.

This is what I use:

1 apple per food dehydrator tray (I have a SnackMaster)
1 teaspoon of sugar per apple
1 scant teaspoon of cinnamon per apple

small serrated knife or mandoline
something to core the apple rings with (I have a small plastic orange-corer thingy)
large bowl for tossing apples with cinnamon and sugar



And this is how I make them:

Wash the apples well. Pat dry. Slice off the top. Slice apple into 1/8th inch slices, leaving skin on. One slice at a time, remove the center seed cavity of each slice, with corer.



Toss apples in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. I do this, gently, with my hands, and only toss one apple with cinnamon and sugar, at a time, to prevent the rings from breaking.

Place the slices on the food dehydrator trays, as close as possible, without overlapping. Set the temperature to 135 to 140 degrees F. Dehydrate for about 5 to 6 hours. Allow to cool, then pack in airtight container. About 2/3 the way through drying, I switch the trays around, top to bottom. In my machine, the bottom tray dries them faster, so this evens out the drying.


If you want your apple slices more like chips, allow to dry for slightly longer. When dry to your liking, spread them out on a cooling rack. Once cooled, pack in airtight containers. Check for condensation after a day. If there is any condensation inside the container, on the lid, or on the inside of the bag, they need more drying time. Just pop them back into the dehydrator for another hour, or spread on a baking sheet and put in an oven which is cooling after baking (check after 20 minutes).


The above photo shows all that was left from 4 apples. I ate the tops and bottoms of the apples, raw, as a snack after taking this photo. They just don't dry as well, because of the skin. So, after my snacking, all that remained was the core. Not bad on the "waste not" front.

These are soooo good. After dehydrating, there was not even a hint that the apples had been on the mealy side. Most of the time, when I try to salvage a food item, the salvaged item is not quite as good as the original should have been. But these apple chips are better than fresh apples, according to my family. And you'd never guess that I used mostly mealy apples for these.

Something to mention, though -- although I used apples verging on mealiness, really mealy apple slices will break when you try to core them, or handle too much. Unless you are really set on having perfect apple "rings", this shouldn't be too big of a problem, if you're just trying to use up mealy apples. Apple slices that are halved are snack-able, too. Once dry, however, even the mealy apples hold together nicely.

With our box of apples, we found the larger, darker red apples to be most mealy, and smaller, lighter colored to be less so. As a result, we've been eating the smaller apples, fresh, and in apple salad, and I used the larger ones to make most of these chips. So far, I've made 5 1-quart jars of cinnamon apple rings. I've got about half of the apples left. I may do some dried cinnamon apple pieces, for adding to granola, next.


No dehydrator? You can also make these cinnamon apple chips in an oven, set at 200 degrees F. Place apples on silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Turn every 30 minutes. They should be dry in about 1 & 1/2 hours to 2 hours.

21 comments:

  1. What a great idea! We have been tossing the idea around for a couple of years to buy a dehydrator but with a decreasing family size we just haven't done it and probably won't.

    We much prefer applesauce over dried fruits. No skins on anything for my hubby since he can't digest the skins on anything. We'll stick with what we know works but I sure would try this using the oven method with a couple of apples.

    I have to tell you about last nights dinner. I bought huge pork roast a couple of weeks ago and wanted to do something with one of the roast and apples. I made my own version of pork and apples. After frying the chops (seasoned with seasoned salt and garlic powder), I removed them to a plate and I drained all the fat and deglazed the pan with water and let that boil down. I poured the "gravy" into a bowl and then added sliced onions (1 large) and apples (2 apples sprinkled with cinnamon) and added the "gravy" as needed to keep the onions/apples from sticking. I added in the pork and brown sugar and a little bit of water and let that simmer until the chops were nice and tender. I added some rubbed sage sometime after the chops were mostly cooked and served this over homemade rice-a-roni. It was sooo good and I thought I made enough for hubby's lunch today he ended up eating all of it last night!

    Alice

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    1. Hi Alice,
      I think you can get very similar results using an oven to dehydrate, as the dehydrator. The only drawback to the oven is the slightly higher temperature. But this can be a good thing, too. For instance, if you want to make dehydrated fruit faster, as it's late in the day when you begin. The oven-method would be favorable. You just have t watch the fruit more closely, and turn from time to time.But otherwise, unless you come across a great deal on one at a garage sale or through craigslist/freecycle, or can borrow one from a friend, dehydrators aren't totally necessary to drying foods.

      Your dinner last night sounded so very yummy! I've been thinking of using some of these apples, roasted with a pork roast. Thank you for the inspiration! It sounds very yummy, indeed!

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  2. Great use for those apples! Bet the house smelled wonderful, too! Just out of curiosity, were they Red Delicious? Seems like I have the most problems with mealiness with that type. I prefer other kinds anyway, but hubby likes Red Delicious so we occasionally purchase some.

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    1. Hi Cat,
      It did smell wonderful! All natural air fragrance, no chemicals or anything allergenic!

      Yes, they were Red Delicious. Those are known to go mealy quickly. When fresh off the tree, they are so good, crisp and juicy. We went to an orchard, one year, and picked our own apples, and even the Red Delicious were great. But this box was a disappointment.

      I am amazed at how delicious the apple chips turned out, however. And they'll still work as snack and lunch items, so I'm very glad for that.

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  3. Lili, the apple rings look delicious! I have some apples in my fridge that are starting to get mealy and I'm going to make apple rings. Thanks for the how-to post. I don't have a dehydrator, and reading through your post I was wondering if the rings could be made in the oven. I was happy to read the last paragraph of your post!

    I'm with you 100% on it not being in our budget to waste foods that our not spoiled, but not really desirable. We have two later crop apple trees that were there when we moved into our home. The apples are green, but I don't think they are Granny Smith. They are usually sweet and great for snacking. For some reason, the apples were really tart this year. I know they were ripe, but they were tart and not pleasant at all to eat.

    I made a few apple crisps, but wanted to make something out of them besides desserts that had to be baked. I found a crockpot applesauce recipe. I had seven pounds of the apples, and only used 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp lemon juice and 1/2 cup of sugar. The recipe called for 1 tsp of cinnamon, but my personal preference is applesauce without cinnamon. The crockpot cooked the apples on low all day, and I used my electric mixer to smooth the sauce when the apples were tender. After the sauce cooled, I ladled it into jelly jars that are freezer safe, used my white reusable plastic lids, and put the jars in my deep freeze . We all love this applesauce! It's not too tart and not too sweet. I was hoping it would be sweet enough, and am astounded that those too tart to eat apples turned into wonderful applesauce with only 1/2 cup of sugar added. My youngest son and I love to get a jar our of the freezer, let it thaw a bit and then eat the applesauce when it's still slightly icy. Yum! Something wonderful from something that might have been tossed!

    Angie

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    1. Hi Angie,
      I'm glad this post is helpful.
      Hmm, I wonder why the apples on your trees would be different this year. I don't know enough about growing apples to even guess.

      Your applesauce does sound very delicious, and so easy to make! I agree, making applesauce is a great way to use less-tasty apples. A friend of mine brought over 2 shopping bags full of apples from a neighbor who doesn't like his apples. They are bland, tasteless and very small. So my friend and I turned them into really delicious applesauce, by adding lemon juice, a bit of sugar and cinnamon. I still have some in the freezer, but we're going through it quickly. Enjoy yours!!

      If you make these apple rings in the oven with your apples, let us now if this can turn less-tasty apples into a delicious snack, too.

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    2. With my apples, the only thing I can think of is storage time. I have read that some apples are more tart when first picked and become sweeter with storage in the refrigerator.

      This is only our third harvest from that tree. In the other two harvests, we were still eating our red apples when the green apples were ripe. I stored the green apples in the fridge for a couple of weeks and we finished the red apples first. This year our red apple tree didn't do as well. So, we were eating the green apples right off of the tree. That's the only idea I have.

      Reading through some of the comments about Red Delicious apples, I do have trouble with those getting mealy rather quickly too. The other thing I notice with Red Delicious is that the skin seems tough to me. We usually slice fresh apples with the skin on for snacking. The skin seems especially tough compared to that of other apple varieties.

      Angie

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    3. I've heard other people comment on the toughness of skins of Red Delicious.

      I'm eating one of the Red Delicious I bought with lunch today, and this one is quite good. I did read that the larger and redder ones go mealy faster than smaller, and more striated with yellow ones.

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  4. Those sound delicious, Lili. I will remember this next time I have apples that aren't so crisp. I have used mealy apples chopped in breakfast oatmeal or baked goods, but haven't tried drying them. It's great to hear how to dry them in the oven without a dehydrator.
    Mary

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    1. Hi Mary,
      These did exceed my expectations for mealy apples, and I recommend trying this if you ever need to use some up!

      Have a great day, Mary!

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  5. Great idea! My husband has made dried apples (they come out in "chip" form) and they are tasty--but we find that if they don't get eaten fairly quickly, they get moldy. Maybe it's our climate? We end up keeping them in the fridge, which makes them slightly more moist (not my favorite thing) but they are good in oatmeal.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      I wonder if freezing them would keep them from molding, and keep them crisp? Or if periodically spreading them on a baking sheet and adding some dry time would extend their life? I'll be trying that out with this larger than usual batch of apple chips. I like the chewy texture, but really prefer the crispy ones, so I will likely be crisping them up from time to time. Thanks for the heads-up on the mold issue.
      Good added to homemade granola, too!

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  6. I haven't read all the comments so hopefully I'm not repeating someone else but I just had to ask you, have you ever made apple jelly from the skins and cores of the apples? Granted it does require the addition of sugar and pectin, obviously, but I've made apple jelly from just the cores and peelings from apples and it turned out delicious.

    Just peal and core apples, add them to a pot, add just enough water to cover and boil for awhile. I don't remember how long (it's been awhile). Then you send the liquid through cheesecloth, squeeze it thoroughly, let it drain awhile (hanging on a cupboard handle with a bowl underneath) and you're left with "apple juice". All it needs is sugar and pectin and you have apple jelly.

    Some varieties of apple skin will color the "juice" pink which adds so much to the look of the finished jelly.

    If you made jelly with your left overs you'd end up with no waste at all!

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    1. Hi Linda,
      that's a great use for peels and cores! I make crabapple jelly, with the whole fruit (since they're about 1-inch in diameter). That jelly doesn't need extra pectin, and it has such a pretty pink color to it from the skin.

      I could have also tried making vinegar with the cores (I don't peel these for apple chips). Another time!

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  7. I love raw apples, but I'm not a cooked apple or an applesauce person. I dry apples from time to time for pies and other things that I store in the freezer. Next time, I need to dry them for snacks.

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    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think I would like a pie made with dried apples, especially if they were still firm when baked.

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    2. The texture of the apples remains good. Not mushy. Also, I think the dehydrating, even though they are rehydrated, enhances the flavor.

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  8. Sometimes when I'm not in the mood to eat a crisp apple, I quickly cook apple slices in the microwave. I love the apple that way, tender and more flavorful, not completely applesauce or chewy like dehydrated apple slices. I love the way your dehydrated apple slices look....so yummy with the cinnamon sugar "baked" in. I wonder if the sugar coating will help protect the dehydrated apple slices from premature molding.

    YHF

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    1. Hi YHF,
      A quick dessert-like snack that my girls and I like, is microwaving a cut up apple in a mug, sprinkle in a bit of cinnamon and sugar. Then top with a crushed graham cracker. It's like a cross between apple pie and apple crisp, but with far fewer calories/fat, and super quick to make.

      Hmmm, I don't know if a teaspoon of sugar/apple would be enough to prevent molding of the dried chips. I may freeze the bulk of these, though. Then I can crisp them up, as needed when they come out of the freezer.

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