Keeping apples fresh all winter is easier than you might think. While most store best at around 34 degrees, a cool basement is sufficient to get nearly the same results without the effort of refrigeration or building a separate root cellar.
Simply wrap each apple individually in newspaper and place into boxes, with space between each apple. Check in on them periodically for discolored paper, indicating that an apple is spoiling. Every once in a while, unwrap a few to see how they’re doing.
I’ve successfully stored Newton Pippin Apples, one of the very best keepers, for 14 months using this method. Just a box, some newspaper and a basement. No special tools necessary.
Many varieties don’t really come into their own taste wise until they’ve been stored for at least a few months, but once they do they’re well worth the wait.
Storage apples are key to ensuring a year-round supply of homegrown fruit. Our goal is to provide all of our own food for a full year at some point, so we’ve been working on adding more storage apples to our orchard, along with early summer bearing apples so that we have a fresh supply just as our stores run out.
Though we store ours in simple cardboard boxes, they’re not the best apple storage container. I seriously covet this 9 drawer apple storage rack because it would allow us to store enough apples for the whole winter. They also make a shorter 6 drawer apple storage rack and depending on how we reorganize our basement root cellar we might end up with two of those instead.
Our basement is serviceable for storage, but we’re planning a root cellar so we have enough space for all our winter stores. At that point, the basement will have more space for our canned goods, including our canned apple pie filling and canned apple cider. If you don’t have any cool space for fresh apples, canned apple goods are a great option and store for at least 18 months.
Best Winter Storage Apples
To have a supply of apples all winter long, you have to select the very best storage apple varieties. Storing apples for winter is more about choosing the right variety than it is about technique. Here are the best winter storage apples that I’ve found to date. I hope to add to this list over time as I find new long keeping apple varieties.
Originally discovered in Arkansas, this apple has a very dark color that gives it its name. The texture is crisp, juicy and slightly acidic, making it great for fresh eating. The apples themselves are very hard right off the tree, which is another clue that they need a bit of time before eating.
One of my very favorite apple varieties and we’ve successfully stored them for 8 months at a time in our basement. Ashmead’s Kernel is an extremely flavorful apple, with a flavor that changes over time. When it’s first harvested the flavor is quite tart, but that mellows gradually in storage.
An old New England variety from the 1700’s. This exceptionally juicy and crisp apple has a good sweet-tart balance. It’s a multi-purpose apple, that can be eaten fresh or cooked into pies or sauce.
This heirloom apple is a bit hard to find. It has a reddish color that’s so dark it’s almost purple, thus the black in the name. It’s a hard apple, with a lot of juice and an intense flavor. It’s ideal for eating out of hand to enjoy its unique strong flavor.
This is an apple that is readily found in grocery stores today. It’s an aromatic apple with a firm texture. Braeburn can be used for fresh eating, sauce and baking. It’s known to store as long as 12 months in ideal conditions.
Many of the russets store well, as they tend to have thicker skin and harder texture that stands up well in storage. This heirloom is harvested very late in the year, which gives it a head start on storing well into winter. It’s either eaten fresh or juiced for sweet cider.
Cox’s Orange Pippin
An old English apple that is the parent to some of the best apples on the market today. It has an intense flavor and a crisp juiciness that’s good for eating out of hand and baking into pies. We’ve planted this one in our orchard recently and I can’t wait for our first homegrown Orange Pippins.
This Japanese apple is named Mutsu in Japan and Crispin in Europe and America. It’s a pale yellow apple with cream colored flesh. The texture is firm and crunch, and it tastes tangy sweet. Best eaten fresh or in pies. Has a very long storage life.
This firm sweet apple is known to keep well. It’s described as ever so slightly tart, with a spicy aroma. Enterprise apples ripen in October and will keep up to 6 months.
Though it has a strange name you’ve likely not heard, it’s grown in heirloom orchards in the northeast and we were able to try it during our heirloom apple tasting we do each fall. Esopus Spitzenburg has a complex flavor with both spice and tangy notes.
I was a bit biased against Fuji because it’s bred from Red Delicious, which I can’t stand. None the less, it’s actually quite good and stores very well. Fuji has a honey-like flavor and it’s blended into applesauce commercially.
This apple has some serious russeting on the outside, a tough skin and looks a bit like a yellow/gold potato. It’s also delicious. The hard/crunchy texture bites back, and the flavor is best described as “rich and aromatic.” It’s well known as a cider apple, but we often eat them fresh. Keeps for months, and then can be pressed for a fresh sweet cider just as they begin to spoil.
Another apple that doesn’t achieve full flavor until it’s been stored for a few months. Described as a dessert apple that’s great for baking or fresh eating.
A relatively new apple, developed in Idaho in the 1940’s. Described as having an aromatic but tangy-tart flavor. Great keeper.
This apple is a cross between Jonathan and Delicious. The flavor is tart and aromatic, and it’s good eaten fresh. Stores well.
Developed in New York in the 1700’s, Newton Pippin is hands down the best storage apple. We’ve stored Newton Pippins for 14 months and were still able to make fine pies. They honestly taste pretty horrible fresh off the tree, a bit like styrofoam. After at least 3 months in storage, their full flavor develops, and they taste somewhat like a granny smith with a very firm texture. Other’s describe it as having a complex, faintly citrus flavor.
The original Newton Pippin was a yellowish green color, but a chance mutation on one branch of a tree (known as a sport) produced a second variety called Yellow Pippin. That variety also stores very well, but it’s yellow instead of green. This is one of my favorites for pies.
One of my farmers’ market favorites, it’s easy to find Northern Spy apples. The skin bruises to easily for most supermarkets to accept it, but it’s commonly grown on farms and homesteads in the Northeast. It has a smooth, fine-grained flesh and aromatic flavor. It’s great fresh or baked into midwinter pies. If handled well, and not bruised, Northern Spy will store until spring.
Another relatively new apple that you can actually find in the supermarket, Pink Lady is a great storage apple. It has a crisp texture and a tropical flavor. Great for fresh eating and baking.
Originally from Rome township in Ohio, this “Rome Apple” is older than the other Rome apple varieties which took its name later. A large round apple with yellow/green skin and hints of red. Crunchy, tangy and acidic, the Rome apple is best as a baking apple. Stored too long they become mealy and lose their flavor, you’ll know the difference if you’ve left these too long.
Also known as Red Rome, this large round apple is great as a baked apple but only fair for eating out of hand. It ripens between September and early November, and then stores until June. There’s another apple called Rome that gets mealy when stored too long. That variety is a yellow-green color. Make sure you pick red skinned Rome beauty if you’re storing them.
Tydeman’s Late Orange
Bred from Cox Orange Pippin, this variety was developed in England in the 1920’s. It’s also called Tydeman’s Late Cox because of its parentage. This variety won’t achieve full flavor until Christmas time, after several months in storage. The main downside is this apple has a somewhat biennial tendency and may only bear good sized crops every other year.
One of the very best storage apples, reputed to store until June. There are a few varieties that are now labeled Winesap, and the best storage variety is the old time heirloom. Be careful where you get your trees so you get the right variety. It’s a small apple with bright red skin that’s almost purple. The name comes from its rich wine-like flavor. Great for fresh eating, pies, sauce and cider.
If you’ve successfully stored an apple variety for 6 months or more, I’d love to hear about it. Which varieties have worked for you? Leave a note in the comments below.