We shop at the local farmer’s market for our apples – a mainstay of our fruit diet in the fall in winter. The stand we frequent sells baskets of “deer and horse” apples in two sizes for $2.00 or $3.50 a basket. Some folks know these apples as “drops” or “seconds” also. Whatever you call them they are one of the best food values out there.
The apples in the baskets are those that weren’t pretty enough, large enough or in good enough shape to make it into the premium priced baskets. The premium baskets cost between $1 and $2 a lb depending on the variety and they are well worth it if you need a very pretty apple.
If you are looking for an eating or baking apple, then turn to the seconds. I paid $2.00 last week for 11 1/2 lbs of apples – or .19/lb. There was only one unusable apple in the bunch which we did throw out for the possums.
So how do we use these apples? Well as soon as you get them home you need to look over the apples for any that are too damaged to use – bruised, bashed or otherwise at the end of their days. Dispose of those and put the rest in a container when they will get some air circulation – a basket is good, a bowl will do. Just don’t leave them in the plastic bag or they will go bad much faster.
Next I pull out the apples that are good enough for lunch boxes. This is usually a surprising number. Most often they have a small mark on them or are not large enough to be sold as a premium apple but they are just fine for lunches and snacking. These get washed and put in our fruit bowl for grabbing on the run.
What is left are apples that may have some bruises or nicks or cuts. These apples should be used in fairly short order, but will usually keep 3-4 days if taken out of the plastic bag. You can do anything with these apples that you would do with regular apples but my favorite is to make baked apples or applesauce. Since you have a mixture of varieties of apples each time you make the recipes they will taste slightly different.
With this batch of apples I made applesauce – 12 cups of applesauce to be exact. All I do for my applesauce is peel and core the apples (Peeling is optional but find out if your supplier sprays their apples at all. If they do I’d highly suggest peeling them to avoid those chemicals getting into your sauce.) and put them in a big pot to cook down. When they are soft we use an immersion blender to get the consistency we want – chunky or smooth. Sometimes we need to add a bit of sugar, sometimes not. It depends on the blend of apples.
I freeze my applesauce in quart bags but you can also can it if you want to. You can also go on to make apple butter with it in a crock pot if that is something your family will like. You’ll get about 3-4 pints of apple butter from 12 cups of applesauce and with apple butter running over $3 a pint most places you’ll have made a very good investment with your $2.
My other favorite thing to do is bake the apples. Again I peel and core them and put them in a 8×8 pyrex dish. I fill the dish with apples, add a handful of dried cranberries and/or raisins and some brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. I bake at 375F until most of the apples are soft. The different varieties will cook differently and you get a nice mix of textures. This is great with vanilla ice cream or milk.
Both the applesauce and baked apple recipes are gluten free so everyone in our family can enjoy them. You can see my recipe for a gluten free apple crisp here.
So next time you see some apples at a deep discount, think twice before passing them by. They are pure gold for our family in the winter.