Work it right, and you can bake a Michigan-apple strudel for your holiday breakfast. For the complete how-to on how to emulate a pioneer fruit cellar we checked in with Richard Friske, owner of Friske Orchards in Atwood, and Betsy King of King Orchards in Central Lake.
Separate the apples by size. Eat large apples first—they don’t store as well as smaller fruit.
Cold and humidity are your friends. The ideal storage temperature is 32°F with 90-percent relative humidity. The more constant these conditions, the better. Excess humidity will encourage decay, and lack of humidity will make for shriveling.
Have an extra fridge? Use it! However, since the air inside refrigerators is very dry, pack the apples in perforated plastic bags to keep the humidity high and allow some air circulation.
An unheated garage, cellar, shed or basement will work great, too. Make sure the temp inside is between 32°F and 40°F! If apples freeze, they turn into one big, mushy bruise.
If keeping apples in a garage or outbuilding, store in clean wooden or cardboard boxes. You want the ventilation they provide. Keep the cardboard boxes open—closing them traps the natural ethylene gas that’s released as apples ripen, encouraging more ripening.
Later-maturing varieties are keepers. Midseason varieties can store for up to five weeks; late season (harvested in October) apples store for several months and even taste better after time in storage! Some great keepers: Ida Red, Rome, Northern Spy, Crispin. One exception to this is the Honeycrisp, an early-season apple that will keep crunch and juiciness.
Only perfect fruit should be put into storage. Apples with even small bruises cannot be stored. Check each apple for cut skin, soft spots or bruises.
Think ripe. Apples picked too green are prone to storage disorders such as scald and bitter pit; if picked beyond maturity, they quickly become overripe. Store fruit immediately after it’s picked.
Keep different apples varieties apart. They ripen at different rates. Also, never store apples next to potatoes. As they age, potatoes release a gas that makes apples ripen faster.
Place apples where you’ll remember them. Keeping them accessible means you’re more likely to eat the apples before they get overripe. And do as farmer Betsy King does, if life gives you soft apples—make applesauce.