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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Fruit > Apples for Minnesota and their culinary uses

Apples for Minnesota and their culinary uses

Emily Hoover, Extension Horticulturist, Department of Horticultural Science
David Bedford, Horticultural Scientist, Department of Horticultural Science
Doug Foulk, Extension Educator, Ramsey County

Selecting apples


Fruit Hardiness Zones: These zones are based on, but are not identical to,the USDA plant hardiness zones.

When selecting apples, look for fruit that is well colored for its variety. Red overcolor is not as important as the background color, which is the best visual indicator of ripeness. The background color (the area not covered by red pigment on red varieties) should be greenish yellow, indicating that the apple was picked at full maturity. Apples with a dark green background color may have been picked before they were fully ripe, and will not be as flavorful, although they may last longer in storage. Yellow apples have no red pigment covering their background color, so maturity is easier to judge.

Apples with punctures or bruises should be avoided or used first, since they will not store as well. Surface blemishes that do not penetrate the skin, such as russetting, have very little influence on fruit quality or storage life. Although apples are fairly durable fruits, take care to avoid bruising them.

Storing apples

Apple storage life is primarily influenced by temperature and humidity. Apples will last the longest in storage, and retain best quality, when kept close to 32°F. Although garages, basements, and root cellars may provide adequate storage conditions, the best place to store apples is usually in a refrigerator. Warmer temperatures always shorten the storage life of apples. Apples stored near 32°F will last about 8 to 10 times longer than apples stored at room temperature.

Humidity helps reduce the shriveling of apples in storage. If the storage environment is low in humidity, as most refrigerators are, the fruit should be stored in a perforated plastic bag or a covered container.

Although apples may be displayed in a fruit bowl at room temperature for a short period, such conditions will dramatically reduce their usable life.

Nutritive value of apples

Apples can play an important role in home cookery and nutrition. An average apple contains about 90 calories, and small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. Pectin and fiber aid intestinal activity.

Apples are thirst quenching because they contain about 85% water. They are a perfect snack food because their natural sugars provide quick energy, while the bulky pulp makes the eater feel full.

How many apples?

One pound of apples = 2 large, 3 medium, or 4 to 5 small; about 3 cups peeled and cut-up fruit. Two pounds of apples = enough for one nine-inch pie.

One bushel of apples = 40 pounds or about 100 to 120 medium fruits. Enough for 20 nine-inch pies, 15 to 20 quarts of applesauce or slices.

Canning, freezing, and drying apples

Always use good quality fruit. If you are using apples from your own tree, don't can, freeze, or dry fallen apples or unsound fruit. If you are purchasing local apples, consult Table 1 to select the best varieties for pie or sauce.


To can applesauce—wash, peel, core, and slice the apples. Add 1/2 cup water to the slices in a large pot, and heat quickly, stirring to prevent burning, until tender. Press through a sieve or a food mill, or skip this step if you prefer a chunkier sauce. If desired, add 1/8 cup sugar per quart of applesauce. Reheat to boiling, and pack hot sauce in hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/2" headspace. Process in a boiling water bath, pints for 20 minutes, quarts for 25 minutes.

To can apples for pie—peel, core, and cut into slices. To prevent darkening, drop apple slices into one of the following anti-browning solutions.

  1. 1 gallon water, six 500-milligram tablets vitamin C (3,000 mg/gal).
  2. A commercially prepared ascorbic or citric acid product.

Do not soak the cut apples for more than 15 minutes. Drain, then boil the apples for 5 minutes in a light or medium sugar syrup. Canned apples will keep without sugar, although the addition of sugar or sugar syrup results in a product with better flavor, color, and texture. Use 1 pint syrup per 5 pounds sliced apples. Pack the hot apple slices in hot, sterilized jars. Cover with hot syrup or hot water, leaving 1/2" headspace. Process pints or quarts for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath.

To prepare light sugar syrup, combine 2 cups of sugar and 4 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Skim if necessary. Makes five cups of syrup.

To use canned apples in pie, drain them, then mix with sugar, spices, and thickener as desired.

Freezing apples

Freezing tends to soften the flesh of apples, so use firm-fleshed varieties suitable for pie (see Table 1). Freeze the apples promptly after harvest. The longer apples have been stored before freezing, the more quickly they tend to darken after thawing. Frozen apples may be stored one year or even longer at 0°F.

There are three methods for freezing apples.

  1. Peel, core, and cut into slices. A commercially available ascorbic acid powder to prevent browning may be used. Fill container with slices, seal, label, date, and freeze.
  2. Peel, core and slice apples. Soak in weak brine (1/2 cup salt in 1 gallon water) for 15 minutes. Drain and pack into containers. Cover with light sugar syrup (see above) with 1/2 teaspoon crystalline ascorbic acid dissolved in it. The ascorbic acid will help keep the apples from darkening. Seal, label, date, and freeze.
  3. If apples are in perfect condition, and if you have room in your freezer, they may be frozen whole. Wash, but do not peel. Pack 6 to 8 apples in a plastic bag. Label, date, and freeze.

To use frozen apple slices in pie, partially thaw and drain. Mix with sugar, spices, and thickener. Use a thickener even if you do not thicken apple pie filling made from fresh slices. Frozen apples release more juice than fresh ones, and you must compensate for the extra liquid.

When ready to use whole-frozen fruit, do not thaw completely. Run cold water over each apple and peel while still frozen. Use immediately for pie or other cooked desserts. Whole-frozen apples will darken quickly if you allow them to thaw.

To freeze applesauce, prepare according to your favorite recipe. Cool and pack in containers, leaving 3/4" headspace. Seal, label, date, and freeze.

Drying apples

Wash, peel (if desired), core, and cut into 1/8" to 1/4" slices. Soak in one of the anti-browning solutions described above. Use a food dehydrator, following the manufacturer's directions. Oven drying is difficult to control, and often results in a poor quality product, so it is not recommended. Store the dried slices in a sealed container.

Table 1. Minnesota Apple Varieties
Variety Average Harvest Dates Fruit Characteristics Uses
(in order of preference)
Storage Life Hardiness Zones
Mantet early to mid-August Small to medium size. Juicy, sweet to tart. Cooking, fresh eating. August 3b, 4a,
Oriole early to mid-August Medium size, orange-yellow striped with red. Sweet to tart. Cooking, fresh eating. August 3b, 4a,
Beacon mid-August Medium size. Sweet, aromatic flavor. Fresh eating, cooking. August 3b, 4a,
State Fair mid-August Medium size, striped red. Crisp, juicy, moderately tart. Fresh eating, cooking. August-early September 3b, 4a,
Zestar!TM late August to early September Medium to large, red stripe or blush. Well-balanced flavor. Flesh is light, crisp, and juicy. Outstanding well-balanced flavor. Fresh eating, cooking. August-
3b*, 4a,
Paulared late August to early September Medium size. Firm, juicy, sweet to tart. Fresh eating, cooking. August-September 4a, 4b
Wealthy early September Medium size, striped red. Moderately tart. Cooking, fresh eating. September 4a, 4b
Chestnut Crab early to mid-September Large crabapple with russetted skin. Rich, intense flavor. Fresh eating. September 3a, 3b,
4a, 4b
Red Baron mid-September Medium size, red-yellow. Juicy, sweet, mild-flavored. Fresh eating. September-October 3b, 4a,
McIntosh mid-September Medium size, blushed red. Sweet to tart flavor. Fresh eating, cooking. September-October 4a, 4b
Sweet Sixteen mid- to late September Medium to large size, stripes and solid wash of rosy red. Crisp, juicy, very sweet. Unusual "cherry candy" flavor. Fresh eating. September-October 3b, 4a,
HoneycrispTM late September Medium to large size, red with dappled yellow background. Extremely crisp and juicy—explosively crisp! Well-balanced flavor. Flesh is slow to turn brown when cut. Fresh eating, cooking, salad. September-April Maintains crispness and flavor for six to seven months after harvest. 3b, 4a,
Cortland late September to early October Medium size. Sweet to tart, aromatic flavor. Flesh is slow to turn brown when cut. Fresh eating, cooking, salad. September-November 4a, 4b
Northwestern (Greening) late September to early October Large size, green to yellow. Tart flavor. Cooking. October-January 4a, 4b
late September to early October Medium size, striped red. Firm texture, tart flavor. 'Haralred' is a redder form of 'Haralson'. Fresh eating, cooking. October-February 3b, 4a,
Prairie Spy early October Medium size, striped red. Mild flavor, firm texture. Cooking, fresh eating. October-January 4a, 4b
Honeygold early October Medium size, golden to yellow-green. Crisp, juicy, and sweet. Fresh eating, cooking. October-December 4a, 4b
Regent early to mid-October Red-striped. Crisp and juicy, with well-balanced flavor. Fresh eating, cooking. October-February 4a, 4b
Golden Delicious mid-October Medium size, yellow. Sweet flavor. Fresh eating, cooking. October-February 4b
Connell Red
mid-October Large. Low-acid, sweet flavor. 'Connell Red' is a redder form of 'Fireside'. Fresh eating, salad, baking. October-February 3b, 4a,
Keepsake mid-October Small to medium size with irregular shape. Red with scattered dots. Flesh is very hard and crisp. Sweet, unusual flavor. Fresh eating, cooking (after storage). October-April 3b, 4a,
Red Delicious mid-October Medium to large size, striped to solid red. Low acid, sweet flavor. Fresh eating. Not recommended for cooking. October-February 4b

Apple varieties recommended for zone 3b may be hardy in protected sites in zone 3a.
*For trial in zone 3b.

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