During Apple Season, my dehydrator is in constant use, processing apples into chips. Apple chips can be used for making all kinds of things, like apple pie and apple muffins, but the family favorite is Apple Chips. For every one bag I do get to put away, the kids eat two or three. They are the favorite school lunch snack, and I know that they do not get thrown away. The kids will fight over a last bag, and hide out in a bedroom to not have to share. I used to make applesauce and apple jelly, but the kids think that any apple not made into an Apple Chip is just a wasted apple.
When getting apples I look for orchards or farmers at the Farmer's Market that do not use pesticides on the trees. Many orchards still use pesticides, and the apples feel very waxy, or have an oily sheen. They look too perfect, like store bought apples. The problem here is that when processing apples, even if you remove the skins or wash in hot soapy water, pesticides can become concentrated. Apples are on the Dirty Dozen, so for me, it is worth looking for pesticide free. More farmers are using a soap spray to protect their fruit trees. This is basically a dish soap and water spay that keeps the bugs down and washes off easily. I would rather deal with a bug spot that is easily cut off before processing than dealing with pesticides.
Apples do need an acidic bath so that they do not turn brown on the dehydrator. If you use lemon juice, it is usually half lemon juice to half water. You can also use Ascorbic Acid, which is Vitamin C, and water. Ascorbic Acid can sometimes be found in grocery stores, but if you can not find it in the produce aisle, just look in the vitamin aisle. I buy the 500mg Vitamin C tablets - store brand, and it is just ascorbic acid, but much less expensive. I usually wait for a buy one get one free, which is quite often on the store brands, and save even more. Get the tablets, and for 2 cups of water, crush and add 22 tablets - for 4 cups of water, crush and add 44 tablets. Once your bath is ready, you can start preparing the apples.
Apples and Bath Water
When preparing apples, it may be a good idea to just prepare a few at a time, until you know how many fit on the trays and how many you need to process. If you process too many, they will go to waste because they can only sit in the bath for 10 minutes, and they will turn to mush in the fridge waiting for their turn in the dehydrator.
I prefer to skin the apples, but this is a preference. If you are wanting to use them for things like an apple pie, you may want to keep the skins on. For chips, the skins are not the best. Try them both ways and decide what you like the best. If you peel them, it is best to core and slice directly into the bath. If you do not peel them, you can core a few and them slice them all at once. I use an apple corer and a mandolin slicer to get them about 1/8 inch thick, and slice them right into the bath. Once half the apples are done, I let them all sit for about 10 minutes, and then remove them to a colander to drain.
Apples in Bath and on Trays
I then do the second half of the apples, and while they are in their bath for 10 minutes, I put the first batch on the trays. Once the second batch is bathed, drained, and put on trays, and before the trays are put on the actual dehydrator, I add a little something special for the kids. In a spice shaker, I combine equal parts table sugar and powdered cinnamon, and then sprinkle the apple slices lightly with the mixture. Do not over coat the Apple Chips, because the idea is to keep them somewhat healthy, and just a small bit of cinnamon goes a long way.
Apple Slices with a light sprinkle of Cinnamon and Sugar
Once the slices are sprinkled, I put the trays on the dehydrator and set the temperature to 135°F. The apples are a little quicker to dry than other fruits, and I start checking them about 6 - 8 hours after starting the dehydrator.
Yummy Apple Chips
Apple Chips are finished when the apple has no moisture, and when it has a leathery texture. You can remove them at this point, and they will be slightly chewy. This is a good point to stop if you are planning on using them for other recipes. My family prefers the chips to be more crunchy, and not chewy, so I leave them on until they are crispy. The crispier they are, the longer they will last in storage, that is if they even make it to storage. I lose about half the chips as soon as they are removed from the trays!
For storage, I keep them in zip-close sandwich bags, one serving size in each bag. These snacks travel well, and can go anywhere the kids do. For longer term storage, place them in airtight containers, or, if you are planning on using them in recipes, pre-measure what you will need into a vacuum seal bag and seal it in the vacuum sealer. Keep all bags and containers in a cool, dry place until needed. I will be posting a little later on one of my favorite Dried Apple Pie recipes from my days at Firestone Farm, so stay tuned!