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Apples for Minnesota and their culinary uses

Emily Hoover, David Bedford and Doug Foulk

Selecting apples

map of minnesota fruit-hardiness-zones

Minnesota Fruit Hardiness Zones. Generalized map based on the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

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.

Apple Varieties

Table 1. Apple varieties commonly found in Minnesota.
Varieties in bold are University of Minnesota releases and include the year of introduction.

Cultivar Average harvest date Fruit characteristics Uses

(in order of preference)

Storage life


Hardy to zone...
Beacon (1936) Mid- to late August Medium size. Bright red fruit has soft, juicy flesh with slightly tart, aromatic flavor. Fresh eating, cooking 2 to 3 weeks 3b
Centennial (1957) Mid- to late August Large red-orange crab apple is crisp, juicy, and sweet. Fresh eating, sauce 2 to 3 weeks 3a
Chestnut (1949) Early September Large crab apple with russetted skin. Rich, intense, nutty flavor. Fresh eating, sauce 4 to 5 weeks 3a
Cortland Late September to early October Medium size. Sweet-tart, aromatic flavor. Flesh is slow to brown when cut. Fresh eating, cooking, salad 4 to 5 weeks 4a
Fireside (1943)/ Connell Red Mid-October Large fruit has sweet flavor and fine-grained flesh. Connell Red is a redder form of Fireside. Fresh eating, salad, cooking 3 to 4 months 3b
Freedom September Very resistant to scab. Crisp, juicy, sweet. Fresh eating, cooking 3 to 4 months 3b
Frostbite™ (2008) Late September to mid-October Small fruit is intensely sweet, firm, and juicy. Extremely cold hardy. Fresh eating, cider 3 to 4 months 3b
Haralson (1922)/Haralred Late September to early October Medium size, striped red fruit. Firm texture, full-flavored, tart. Haralred is a redder form of Haralson. Fresh eating, cooking (esp. pies) 4 to 5 months 3b
Honeycrisp (1991) Late September Extremely juicy and "explosively crisp". Well-balanced, sweet-tart flavor. Flesh is slow to brown when cut. Fresh eating, salad, cooking 7+ months 3b
Honeygold (1970) Late September Medium size, golden to yellow-green skin. Crisp, juicy, sweet. Fresh eating, cooking 2 to 3 months 4a
Keepsake (1978) Mid-October Small to medium size fruit is hard and crisp with an exotic sweet, spicy flavor. Fresh eating, cooking (after storage) 6 months 3b
Liberty Early October Resistant to scab. Medium size, similar flavor to McIntosh, but firmer. Fresh eating, cooking 3 to 4 weeks 4a
Mantet Early to mid-August Small to medium size. Juicy, sweet-tart. Cooking, fresh eating 2 to 3 weeks 3b
McIntosh Mid-September Medium size, blushed red, sweet-tart flavor. Fresh eating, cooking 3 to 4 weeks 4a
Northwest Greening Late September to early October Large size, green to yellow. Tart flavor. Cooking (esp. pies and sauce) 3 months 4a
Oriole Early to mid-August Medium size, orange-yellow with red stripes. Sweet-tart flavor. Cooking, fresh eating 2 to 3 weeks 3b
Paula Red Late August to early September Medium size. Firm, juicy, sweet-tart. Fresh eating, cooking 2 to 3 weeks 4a
Prairie Spy (1940) Late October Large, firm fruit has mild flavor. Cooking, fresh eating 3 months 4a
Red Baron (1970) Mid-September Medium size, red-yellow fruit has juicy, sweet, mild flavor. Fresh eating 4 to 5 weeks 3b
Regent (1964) Early to mid-October Red striped fruit is crisp, juicy, with well-balanced flavor. Fresh eating, cooking 4 to 5 months 4a
SnowSweet® (2006) Mid-October Large, bronze-red fruit is rich, sweet, and slow to brown when cut. Fresh eating, salad, cooking 2 months 4a
State Fair (1977) Mid- to late August Medium size striped red fruit is crisp, juicy, and moderately tart. Fresh eating, cooking 2 to 4 weeks 3b
SweeTango® (2008) Early September Medium-large fruit is red with a yellow background. Crunchy, juicy, sweet-tart, with a hint of spice. Fresh eating, salad, cooking 3 to 4 months 4b (trees not currently available to home gardeners)
Sweet Sixteen (1977) Mid- to late September Medium to large, rosy red fruit is crisp, juicy, very sweet with spicy, cherry candy flavor. Fresh eating 5 to 8 weeks 3b
Wealthy Early September Medium size, with red stripes. Moderately tart. Fresh eating, cooking 3 to 4 weeks 4a
Zestar!® (1999) Late August to early September Large, with red blush or stripes. Crunchy, juicy, with balanced sweet-tart flavor. Fresh eating, cooking 6 to 8 weeks 3b

SnowSweet® (Wildung cultivar), SweeTango® (Minneiska cultivar), and Zestar!® (Minnewashta) are registered trademarks of the University of Minnesota.

Reviewed 2009 WW-01111

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