Saturday, January 1, 2011

Apples for the Teacher

Hethyr:  "Outta my way, apple!" said my nephew, Roc, to his big brother, Ashyr, as he shoved him out of the way.  Their mom started laughing and asked Ashyr why Roc had called him "apple."  Ashyr starting cracking up, rolled his eyes and said "Think about it, Mom.  What does it sound like?"  Go ahead - say it to yourself...  =)

Now that we're on the subject, we have been overwhelmed - in a good way - with apples (the fruit!) at our house lately.  Our last weekly CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) fruit share arrived on December 7th and our first monthly winter CSA delivery came a week later and both were loaded with apples.  I needed to find a way to use a lot of apples without using up much of our very limited storage space.  I was also limited on time as we were due to head to the mountains for snowshoeing, so I didn't have time to can applesauce.  Hmm...  Then I remembered the electric food dehydrator that I hadn't used since our last big backpacking trip, which was about a year ago.  Dried apple rings were the perfect solution to my... can I really call an overabundance of food a dilemma?  If so, then it's one I'm thrilled to have!  And for an extra treat, I decided to make some Nutmeg Fruit Dip to serve alongside.  Yum!

Apples are what I guess I would call my favorite fruit.  It's not that I love apples so much more than any other fruit (taste-wise, I would probably say that fresh pineapple is my all-time favorite), but apples are the only fruit I never get tired of eating on a very regular basis - say 2 to 3 per day for about 8 months of the year!  Maybe it's that there are literally thousands of varieties, each with its own qualities: color, taste, texture, cooking properties, etc.  Some are good for eating right out of your hand, while others are better for making apple pies.  Some are best eaten right away, while others can be stored for months under proper conditions.  When drying apple rings, feel free to use your favorite or whatever may be in your CSA share that week or month.  Drying fruit causes the flavor to concentrate, so there is really no need to sweeten. These apple rings are sweet deliciousness!

To dehydrate fruit, you can use one of three methods: an electric dehydrator (easiest method), an oven or the sun.  Because sun-drying requires ideal weather conditions, which are rare save for a few climates such as the Mediterranean, I will not discuss that process here.  If you're using an oven, it must be able to maintain a temperature of 135°F to 150°F with the door propped open.  This allows moisture to escape, which is essential to dehydrating.  Although dehydrating is not an exact science (it requires some trial and error), the temperature must be high enough to extract moisture from the food but not high enough to cook it.  By removing moisture, growth of bacteria and other microorganisms is inactivated.  If you have an electric dehydrator, be sure to follow specific manufacturer's instructions for your model.

Whether you're using an electric dehydrator (more cost efficient) or an oven, start by washing the fruit well, coring and cutting into uniform slices, about 1/4-inch thick.  Cutting the slices the same size allows the fruit to dry evenly since each piece contains about the same amount of moisture.  You can peel the apples or leave the skin on.  I prefer to leave the skin on since most of the flavor and nutrients reside there!

Dried Apple Rings

  • Apples, washed, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick (I had room for about 9 to 10 small to medium organic apples in my dehydrator)
  • Lemon juice (optional)
Toss apple slices with a little bit of lemon juice to slow discoloration, if desired.  Pat dry.

Electric Dehydrator:  Line trays with apple slices, making sure to leave space between each so air can circulate and food can dry evenly.  Set temperature at 135°F (be sure to follow manufacturer's instructions for your dehydrator) and set the trays in place.  Set a timer for about 6 hours.  Check food regularly and rotate trays if necessary or desired so food will dry evenly.  Time can vary greatly, so be sure to keep an eye on things and check for doneness when you think the rings might be done (this round of apple drying took me 10 hours).  When the apple rings are done, they will be soft, pliable and leathery and will crisp up some as they cool.  Allow to cool completely, then store in labeled, dated airtight containers.  Dried food can usually be kept for 6 months to 12 months.

Oven:  Preheat oven so that oven temperature is maintained at 135°F with the door propped open.  Line racks or baking sheets with apples, leaving space between each so air can circulate.  If using baking sheets, you'll need to rotate trays and flip fruit occasionally for even drying.  Start checking for doneness around 6 hours.  Time can really vary, so keep an eye on things.  When done, the apple rings will be soft, pliable and leathery and will crisp up as they cool.  Cool completely, then store in labeled, dated airtight containers for 6 to 12 months.

Serve with the following fruit dip or use in your favorite recipes.

Nutmeg Fruit Dip
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
In a metal bowl, beat heavy cream and 2 tablespoons sugar with an electric whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form.

Gently fold in cream cheese, powdered sugar, to taste, and nutmeg.

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Jon:  I read somewhere that the average person consumes 22 pounds of apples per year.  I guess that makes me an overachiever.  It is not that I don’t love apples…and apple rings… and applesauce…and apple pie…and apple dip…and apple cider…and apple jelly…and apples on my salad.  But when my lovely wife sets her alarm for 3am to rotate the dehydrator shelves in her quest to create the perfect apple rings, I can’t help but wonder if it has all gone too far.  What’s next?  Will I be asked to build an apple crib?  Polish apples during the night?  Only time will tell.  The only reason I ever wake up at 3am is because I get 50 times the fiber intake of a normal person.

I suppose that if an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then seven apples a day should pretty much put him out of business.  My advice to you is to make sure to occasionally turn healthy foods into less healthy, tastier foods.  It is important to keep things nice and balanced, to have some yang with your yin.  On that note, slice up an apple and dip it in Nutella.  You’ll be happy you did.  Aside from that, my only other advice is to leave your apples alone at night.  They will wait patiently for you until morning.

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Hethyr:  I leave you today with a picture of the "APPLE" of my eye, Jonny Applehead...


  1. I am definitely going to have to give dehydrating a try. These apple rings look delicious, and the dip sounds heavenly . . . what a yummy way to start out the New Year!

  2. Food dehydrating is surprisingly easy, and I think we share the feeling that our dehydrators are a "forgotten kitchen gem" so to speak. Thank you for suggesting such a simple way to prepare a fun and delicious snack. I plan on holding on to our dehydrator when we move and would LOVE to see more recipes of that sort.

    As for this blog... what a refreshing idea! There are so, so, so many food blogs out there, and this, by far already does and will stand head and shoulders above the rest. It's not just another self-proclaimed foodie posting recipes... it incorporates your whole family, even beyond the two of you, into your extended family, as anything to do with food should. We all play different roles in the "nourishing process" which as you've mentioned here, doesn't just involve preparing and eating the food! It is the most basic yet crucial act that we ALL share... and so it is such a great thing that you are taking that into consideration. Thanks for this... I welcome your new posts on my laptop and into my thoughts and I suspect uncontrolled laughter, as often as you choose to create them!

  3. I love your blog title! The apple picture is great too, how did you do it?

  4. The Ninjalectual - Thank you! I did the apple picture in Adobe Photoshop CS5. =)

  5. Thanks Ginny.. really interesting site. I don't eat meat so recipes sound great. Also, for your daughter's info, Johnny Appleseed (John Chapmann) is buried here in Fort Wayne, IN where I live. I went to the Johnny Appleseed Festival this year for first time and LOTS to eat, see and buy. If they are in the area, they should check it out. May be an internet site relating to the event too... it is a big deal here. His grave is in area where the celebration occurs and has metal railing around it where people leave apples and other things Johnny would have liked. Sonia

  6. Thanks for the information, Sonia - we'll definitely have to check that out if we're ever in the area! =)

  7. Met your mother Ginny today for lunch in Tarpon Sprints. I worked with Ginny while with ACS and I was visiting in FL so stopped by to visit with her. I will have to keep watching your site for your recipes!

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