Overnight Oven Dried Apples
As you know, we had a plethora of apples this year. I am always looking for some new way to process them or use them up before they start to go bad. This year, I decided to try drying them and it was a lot easier than I thought it would be–so easy that I thought I would share with you what I did.
Firstly, let’s talk equipment. It is important to have the right pans and racks for this, both to make it easier on you and for faster drying. I used three rimmed, half sheet pans, lined with foil, with a fitted rack inside each one. The foil catches all the drips, the racks allow air to flow more freely around the apples and the rimmed pans help hold it all together so nothing is sliding around. Here’s the setup:
Next, you’ll need to prepare your dipping syrup. The dipping syrup helps to keep the apples from browning.
In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of honey in 1.5 cups of hot water. Add the juice of one lemon and stir. Wait for this to cool before you proceed.
You’ll need to preheat your oven to 170 degrees. Most sources I checked suggested 140 degrees, but my oven wouldn’t go that low (so annoying! Why would the oven manufacturers even bother to program a lowest temp for an oven?). You can try 140 if you like, but it will probably take longer.
Now, prepare your apples. If you want to peel them, do this first. Then, core and slice them into 1/4 inch slices. This whole process is made easier if you have an apple peeler corer slicer, like the one I show here. If you use this tool, you’ll have to cross cut the apples on one side to separate the slices, since they come off as one big spiral apple. For the first three batches we did, I pulled back the peeler attachment to leave the skins on the apple (more fiber for us later). Then we did a couple of skinless batches.
Take one apple’s slices and toss them gently in the dipping syrup and let stand for about a minute.
Then, lift them out of the syrup, one at a time, letting the excess syrup drip back into the bowl.
Place the slices on the racks. It’s ok if they touch. In fact, we crammed as many as we could on each rack without creating any overlapping layers.
Put all your racks in the oven. We could fit 2-3 apples per rack. I wouldn’t recommend more than three racks at a time in your oven unless you have a convection oven that will let you turn on the fan at such a low temperature. If you do want to use the convection feature, I would do it at the lower temperature of 140 degrees instead of 170. We have a convection oven, but again, the way the manufacturers programmed the thing, we could not use it at this low a temperature. Also, if you convect, you’ll have to monitor them more closely since they will dry faster. You may want to do it during the day the first time, so you will have an idea of how your oven behaves and how long it takes.
Also, a note about rack placement: The first time I did this, I spaced all my oven racks on consecutive levels. The middle pan took a couple of hours longer. The next time, I placed one pan on the lowest level, the next pan on the next level and then I skipped a level to put the last pan on the topmost level of the oven. You may have more settings for your oven racks than I do. I would just suggest that if you are doing a third pan, make sure there is more space above the middle pan than the other two. The middle pan was done at about the same time when I started doing this.
The apples take about 12-14 hours to dry. I suggest putting them in the oven about 12 hours before you get up in the morning. We prepped right before the boys’ bedtime at 8pm and I checked on them once before I went to bed a few hours later. Then, when I got up in the morning at around 7:30, I checked on them again. Most of the time, at least two of the racks were dry and I took them out. Then, I left the remaining one in the oven for another hour or two. If there are some apples that are dry and others are not, then you may want to remove the ones that are dry and leave the rest in the oven. To test whether they are dry enough, wait until a slice is cool, and then squeeze it in your hand. If you do not feel any moisture, it is dry. It should still be flexible, but not damp at all. Here’s what they look like coming out of the oven. They were touching before, so they do shrink quite a lot.
If you keep your leftover syrup in the fridge, you should be able to use it for a total of 4 batches. Also, I did not wash the racks and pans in between batches since I used them on consecutive nights and set them aside in a low traffic area of the kitchen during the day. I am very lazy that way, but by all means, wash away, if you prefer.
Lastly, after they have cooled for half an hour, cram as many apples as you can in a quart sized jar. I really squished them in and only had a few slices leftover from each batch that I could not get in the jar. Or you could put them in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. I do like the look of the jar, though. Any apples that don’t fit can be eaten right away-Yum!
Whew! That’s it, I think. If you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes for you. Have fun!