7 Ways For More From Your Apple Harvest

Ripe apples

Apple harvest time is always somewhat chaotic here at Pioneer Dad’s. When the apples are ripe, for us it’s during June and July with our Beverly Hills apples, we are canning, dehydrating and cooking with apples every weekend. The harvest nearly consumes our life for a month or so.

Having your own apple tree seems to be both a blessing and a curse. Over the years I’ve developed useful ways to get more out of the apple harvest and provide holiday gifts for our family. Here are seven ideas for you to try.

1. Homemade apple butter

Family and neighbors complain loudly if they fail to receive a jar of this dark and cinnamon flavored delicacy during the holidays. It has become a holiday favorite among family and friends.


16 medium apples
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
5 pint sized canning jars


• Wash the apples, cut into six or eight pieces. Add 2 cups of water to a large stockpot cover and simmer until apples are soft, about 20 to 25 minutes. Press through a sieve or food mill. Measure out 2 quarts of the finished apple pulp.

• Combine apple pulp, sugar, and spices in a large stockpot. Cook until thick enough to coat a wooden spoon.

• Ladle into hot jars leaving ¼ inch headspace and tighten the lids.

• Process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.

• Lift the jars out and set on a dry towel on the counter. Jars that do not seal should be refrigerated and eaten within the next several weeks. Sealed jars will keep for up to two years.

Read more about apple butter.

2. How to make apple cider at home

• Peel and core the apples and cut into quarters. Puree, in a blender or food processor. The finer the pulp, the more juice you’ll be able to extract. Drain and strain the puree to.

If using a juicer, cut the apples in half and toss them into the juicer.

• Spread several layers of cheesecloth over a large funnel in a large jug. Pour through the cheesecloth to remove leftover pulp.

• 1-gallon water containers make good storage containers. Wash the containers thoroughly to prevent cider into vinegar.

• Cider will keep for 7-days if stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator. Pasteurize the cider by heating it to 160 degrees Fahrenheit and it is safe for about 3-weeks.

Read more about apple cider.

3. Preserve apple juice or cider

• Follow the directions above for making apple cider at home.

  • Freeze it, it will keep for a year in the freezer.

• Preserve the cider in quart jars the same way as preserving jams and jellies.

• Sterilize the glass canning jars. Wash jars in hot, soapy water and rinse. Sanitize by boiling them 10 minutes.

• Heat cider to a simmering boil and fill the jars to within ¼-inch of the top rim. Seat the lid and tighten the ring. Place jars in a water canner or deep stockpot. Bring water to boil. Pints or quarts should be processed in boiling water for 5-minutes.

• Remove the jars from the boiling water and cool on a towel in a draft free location.

Read more about preserving apple juice.

4. Easy applesauce for dinner tonight

This is a great way to use up those apples before they over ripen. It’s healthy, preservative free and with one taste it will be hard to settle for commercial applesauce ever again.

Prep time: 5 min.
Cooking time: 5-10 min.
Servings: 2-3


1 lb. apples (about 3 medium apples)
¼ cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice


• Wash, stem, quarter, core and peel the apples.

• Cook apples until soft with ¼ cup water. Cooking time can be from 5 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, about 5 minutes.

• Press the cooked apples and juice through a food mill or sieve.

• Return the apple pulp to the stockpot. Add the sugar and adjust to taste. Bring apples to a boil and stir to prevent sticking. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

• Chill and serve.

Read more about applesauce.

5. Brew hard apple cider

We’ve been brewing hard cider for three years and it just keeps getting better each year.

Yields 5-gallons of cider


5-gallons unfiltered apple juice
10 grams Lavin K1-V1116 or Wyeast 4766 Cider yeast
48-ounces honey
5 camden tablets
Yeast nutrient
Pectic enzyme (clarifier)


5-gallon glass carboy
5-gallon food safe bucket with lid
Bottle brush
3 to 6-feet of 5/16 food-safe tubing
20 750 ml glass wine bottles
Rubber Carboy stopper with air lock
Star San, or Idophor sanitizer (for sterilizing)
Corking machine (rent or buy)
24 corks

• Fill the 5-gallon carboy with 4.75-gallons of cider.

• Kill off the natural yeast with 5-crushed Camden. Wait 24 hours before proceeding. Attach a fermentation lock or air lock to the carboy.

• Add the yeast, two packets or 10 grams. The yeast should start bubbling after 20-minutes. If alive, add it to the cider.

• Add 5-tsp. yeast nutrient to the cider and 48-ounces of honey and mix well.

• Fermentation will take 4 to 6 weeks. After two days, there should be bubbles actively forming. Keep the cider in a dark place to prevent darkening.

• When the bubbles stop, siphon into a sanitized 5-gallon food safe container or 2nd carboy. Kill off any residual yeast by adding another 5-crushed Camden tablets to the cider. Wait 24 hours.

• Add 1 tsp. Pectic enzyme as a clarifier. Siphon into wine bottles and cork. 5-gallons will fill about 18 to 20 750ml wine bottles.

• Store the cider for 2-months then enjoy.

Read more about hard apple cider.

6. Brew carbonated apple cider

Important Pioneer Dad tip: most women seem to prefer the carbonated cider.

Yields 1-gallon of carbonated cider


1-gallon glass jug of unfiltered apple juice
3 grams (3/4 teaspoon) dry ale yeast
54 grams (2-ounces by weight) of honey


2-gallon glass carboy or food safe bucket
9 12-ounce glass beer bottles
#6 rubber stopper with air lock
1 tablespoon unscented bleach
Bottle capper
Bottle caps

Use only high-quality organic apple juice. Avoid any juice saturated with sweeteners, preservatives, or un-pronounceable chemicals.

Brew at 65 to 85-degrees.

Sanitize everything carefully. Contamination and bacteria will cause cider to go bad or turn to vinegar.


• Open the apple juice and pour out 1-cup of juice. Recap the jug and shake for 1-minute to oxygenate the juice.

• Add 3 grams (3/4 teaspoon) of dry yeast to the jug.

• Dilute 2-oz. of bleach, into 1-gallon of water to make a sanitizing solution. Dip the rubber stopper and air lock into the solution, rinse and insert into the glass jug.

• Store the cider in a warm place to ferment. 70-degrees is the desired temperature.

• Fermentation will take 2 to 3 weeks. After two days, there should be bubbles forming.

• When bubbles stop, siphon into a sanitized 2-gallon food safe container or carboy.

• Bring 1-pint of water to a boil and add 54 grams (2-ounces by weight) of honey. Stir well to dissolve. Pour the honey solution into the cider and stir well without splashing.

• Sanitize 9 glass beer bottles and caps. Rinse in warm water. Fill the bottles with cider and honey mixture and cap.

• Store the bottles in a dark place at 75-degrees. Transfer to a refrigerator and age for about 2-weeks.

Read more carbonated apple cider.

7. Dried apple slices

The drying process is simple: wash the apple, slice the apple, place the apple on a tray, place the tray in an oven or dehydrator and when dry remove the apple and store. Not a lot of mystery to this process.

Here’s how to do it in an oven

  • Preheat the oven to 140° to 150° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Combine 4 cups water and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a medium bowl to prevent browning.
  • Cut 2 large apples into ¼-inch slices. Core and soak lemon water for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place apple slices on the baking sheets in a single layer, so not touching.
  • Bake for 1 hour, with the oven door open 2-inches, for moisture to escape. Turn each slice over and return to the oven. Bake 1 more hour for soft dried apples or 2 more hours for crispy apple chips. Turn off the oven and leave the apples in the oven until cooled, 1 to 2 hours.

Store in airtight bags for up to 1 week or refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Makes: about 2-dozen apple slices or chips.

Here’s how to do it in a dehydrator

  • Combine 4 cups water and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a medium bowl to prevent browning.
  • Cut 2 large apples into ¼-inch slices. Core and soak lemon water for 30 minutes. Drain and pat dry. Place apple slices on the baking sheets in a single layer, so not touching.

• Preheat the dehydrator to 145°F. Place apple slices, in a single layer, on the dryer trays. Arrange so the slices are not touching and place into the dehydrator.

After one hour reduce temperature to 135 to 140°F to finish drying the slices. Dry for 6 to 12 hours.

Read more a dried apple slices.

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