Each summer, I fill my freezer and pantry shelves with jam and pickles and applesauce and roasted tomatoes and pesto and all the tastes of summer that I think I’ll need to make it through the Seattle winter. And each year, right about this time, I either start wondering where it all went or wondering how we’re ever going to get through it all. This year it’s the latter.
So here we are: the chickens are laying again, green rows are peeking up in the garden, and although even the rhubarb is a few weeks off, all signs indicate that spring will come again. Which means that it’s time to be working through our winter stores.It was in that spirit that I hauled the last of our apple harvest out from the back of the fridge today. Last fall we borrowed two dehydrators from a friend and dried a few gallons of apples that lasted, oh, right until whenever the girls found them. They loved them. So today when the counter was piled high with apples and I started talking sauce, an intense lobbying campaign was launched from around the height of my bellybutton. Who could resist?
Although the dehydrator is surely more energy efficient, it turns out that respectable apple chips are easy to come by if you have an apple, an oven, and a cookie sheet. I’m calling these “chips” because even my oven’s lowest setting (170 F) is quite a bit higher than a dehydrator, and by the time the apples have dried and cooled they crisp up delightfully. If you want to sweeten or dress these up, Alana and Hannah recommend a little lemon and maple syrup with cinnamon, and I trust them implicitly.
While you’re at it, fill as many trays as you can fit in your oven, of course. I could fit about 2 medium apples on each tray and three trays at a time in the oven. Each batch took about 4 hours, so this isn’t exactly a high-volume endeavor. But you’ll end up with enough to delight your children (or yourself!) for the few minutes that they last.
Baked Apple Chips: Heat your oven to its lowest temperature, hopefully between 170 and 200 F. Core an apple and slice it crosswise. I used the medium blade on my cheap mandoline, but your food processor or a steady hand will do the trick just as well. I’d aim for about 1/8″ of an inch or a little thicker. Spread the slices shoulder to shoulder on a baking sheet. (I lined mine with parchment for one batch and used the sheet unlined for another batch and both were fine, but my apples were fairly dry and if yours are juicy you might do better with the parchment paper.)
Bake the apple rings for 2 hours, then remove the trays from the oven and flip the apples. If they are still quite pliable, set the timer for another hour (although they may take quite a bit longer; or they may be ready in less than an hour if they are already quite dry). To tell whether the rings are dry enough for storage, tear one in half and squeeze near the cut edge. If liquid oozes out, it needs more time. When the apples are dry (or nearly so), remove them from the oven. They will crisp up as they cool.
If you can keep these for longer than a day, store them in a sealed container; they’ll soften from crisp to leathery and keep like any dried fruit.