Work it right, and you can bake a Michigan-apple strudel for your holiday breakfast. For the complete how-to on how to emulate a pioneer fruit cellar, we checked in with Richard Friske of Friske Orchards in Atwood, and Betsy King of King Orchards in Central Lake. Here’s how to store apples all winter long.

How to Store Northern Michigan Apples

  • To ensure successful winter storage, start with apples that keep well. Late-ripening varieties (those harvested in October) usually do best and include Red Delicious, Ida Red, Winesap, Crispin, Stayman, Rome, Northern Spy, and Turvley. One exception to only storing late-ripening apples is the Honeycrisp, an early-season apple that will keep crunch and juiciness when stored properly.
  • Separate the apples by size. Eat large apples first—they don’t store as well as smaller fruit.
  • Cold and humidity are your friends. The ideal storage temperature is 32°F with 90-percent relative humidity. The more constant these conditions, the better. Excess humidity will encourage decay, and lack of humidity will make for shriveling.
  • Have an extra fridge? Use it! However, since the air inside refrigerators is very dry, pack the apples in perforated plastic bags to keep the humidity high and allow some air circulation.
  • You can also store apples in a cool basement, garage or cellar. Apples are likely to suffer freeze damage if the temperature dips below 30° and will ripen quickly if the temperature rises above 40° so do your best to match these conditions. If apples freeze, they turn into one big, mushy bruise.
  • If keeping apples in a garage or outbuilding, store in clean wooden or cardboard boxes. You want the ventilation they provide. Keep the cardboard boxes open—closing them traps the natural ethylene gas that’s released as apples ripen, encouraging more ripening.
  • Only perfect fruit should be put into storage. Apples with even small bruises cannot be stored. Check each apple for cut skin, soft spots or bruises.
  • Think ripe. Apples picked too green are prone to storage disorders such as scald and bitter pit; if picked beyond maturity, they quickly become overripe. Store fruit immediately after it’s picked.
  • Keep different apple varieties apart. They ripen at different rates. Also, never store apples next to potatoes. As they age, potatoes release a gas that makes apples ripen faster.
  • Place apples where you’ll remember them. Keeping them accessible means you’re more likely to eat the apples before they get overripe. And do as farmer Betsy King does, if life gives you soft apples—make applesauce.
  • Expect your apples to last up to five months in storage (depending on variety and storage conditions).

Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski