Storing apples for winter use is relatively easy, but having the appropriate space is vital. I have a refrigerator in the garage that is used almost exclusively for vegetable/fruit storage. In the summer it becomes a flower cooler as I store flowers in preparation for upcoming flower shows. A cold room works well but the problem with cold rooms is that they are rarely cold enough in September when the apple harvest is taking place.
The ideal temperature for storing apples is just above freezing. If they are stored in a location that is much warmer than that they will ripen quickly and start to spoil. The storage location should also have very high humidity — ideally as close to 90 per cent as you can get it. This is easy to achieve in a refrigerator but much more difficult to maintain in a cold storage room or garage.
The first important step in storing apples is taken when you choose the variety. In catalogues the varieties are described well, including whether they are good storage apples or not. Generally, early apples do not store as well as late apples, so if you can obtain ones that mature in September you will have more success than ones that are ready in August. The well-known varieties “Goodland” and “Norland” are excellent storage apples while “Heyer 12” and “Norkent,” which ripen in late August, are not recommended for long-term storage. The second important step is to choose apples that are just slightly underripe. Fully ripe or overripe fruit will not store well and will soon begin to spoil.
Only perfect fruit should be stored. Reject any that have blemishes, bruises, cuts or soft spots on them. Never store apples that have fallen from the tree as they are probably overripe and they will likely be bruised from landing on the ground, causing the apple to spoil in storage quite quickly. Look over the apples one at a time and set aside any flawed ones; they need not be wasted but can be used for other purposes such as for making applesauce.
Keep the old saying, “One rotten apple spoils the barrel” in mind because when it comes to apples in storage that is very true. Therefore, it is vital to store only apples in perfect condition. Some people recommend that apples be wrapped individually in newspaper or tissue paper to keep them from touching as a protection if one happens to rot. The wrapped apples are placed in layers in cardboard boxes and placed in the refrigerator. I have never wrapped mine but am diligent about storing only perfect apples and checking them regularly to catch any spoilage before it can spread. A word of caution: Never store apples and carrots in the same place. The carrots will become very bitter tasting. I learned this the hard way!
Besides cold temperatures and high humidity, apples in storage require good air circulation. The cardboard boxes I use have lots of holes in them to facilitate air movement. I also leave a bit of space between the boxes and between the sides of the boxes and the sides of the refrigerator. If the apples touch the wall of the fridge they also might be damaged by freezing. By mid-winter you may find that a fair bit of spoilage is occurring and that the apples are not as crisp and are becoming soft and overripe. At this point, you could process these into applesauce or use them in some other way.
If you have apples in storage, don’t forget to check them. If you don’t have any, perhaps you will try your luck at storing some next year. There is a certain satisfaction in biting into a fresh, crisp apple that you picked in the fall, as you look out the window at a snowy landscape.