How To Use Up That Dang Apple-Picking Haul

You came home from the orchard with a car full of apples. What do you do with them all?

In my house, Apple Picking Day is sacred. My husband and I have both spent most our our adult lives in the food service industry, and 10 years of that was owning our own small family business. Holidays were always about work. They were never anything for us to celebrate—they were seasons that we wanted to survive. Apple Picking Day, though, is an entirely different story. It's a holiday with no specific date, meaning we could work it in whenever our schedule allowed.

Every Apple Picking Day, we come home with an entire trunk full of apples. Truthfully, I don't eat all that many apples. You get caught up in the spirit of Apple Picking Day, and next thing you know you've spent close to $100. But it's imperative to find a way to use up every single apple before they start to rot, otherwise it could potentially spoil all the good feelings we have toward Apple Picking Day.

I simply cannot bake enough pies to make a dent in my apple stash. If you're serious about using up every bit of your apple haul, you need to diversify your strategy. Make items that can be frozen, so as to extend apple season into the cold winter ahead. Bake desserts that require a fraction of the effort that pies do. Work apples into your savory dishes. What follows are some of my best ideas, and I hope you share a few of your own.

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Applesauce is one of those things that I used to eat all the time when I was a kid, and pretty much forgot about as an adult. This was a very stupid thing for me to do, and I regret every applesauce-less year of my life. The stuff you buy in the store has nothing on warm, homemade applesauce, which is incredibly easy to make— just follow my apple butter recipe, but only cook it for 20 minutes.


Apple Butter

This is a criminally underrated condiment, not to mention an underused one. You can mix it into oatmeal, yogurt, and smoothies. You can spread it on graham crackers to make them taste like apple pie (especially when you top them with whipped cream). Use it as a topper for pork tenderloin or peanut butter sandwiches. Eat it with slices of fancy cheese. My recipe for apple butter is easy, intensely flavorful, and freezes well so that you can have the perfect condiment on hand all year long.


Apple Cider

It's surprisingly easy to make your own apple cider, and the way I like to do it is quite wonderful: Fill a slow cooker with quartered and cored apples, add a small nub of fresh ginger and some cinnamon sticks, cover with water, set on low before bedtime, wake up to a house that smells like hot mulled cider. Remove the ginger and cinnamon, mash the apples up good and well, and pour through a fine mesh strainer straight into a mug, or in a large pot to cool completely before bottling for the fridge.


Apple Liqueur

I have a friend who makes a liqueur every fall by filling large canning jars with thinly sliced apples, then covering them in a mixture of brandy and vodka. After aging the mixture for a month, she strains everything through a cheesecloth, adds some simple syrup, pours it into bottles, and lets them mature until she gives them away as Christmas gifts. Isn't it about time to start a new holiday tradition?


Bacon-Fried Apples

There are so many ways to trick this basic "recipe" out. First, fry up a few thick slices of bacon in a non-stick or cast-iron skillet, leaving the remaining fat in the pan rather than draining it. Next, core and quarter your apples, then fry them cut-side-down in the bacon fat with a bit of salt. I've drizzled these with maple syrup and pecans, or you can cover them with cheeses like crumbled Cashel Blue or shaved aged Gouda. You can use them to top a salad, enjoy them as a side dish, or eat them on their own as a snack. It's pretty easy to knock back half a dozen apples when they're dressed up this nice.