Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.


Making dried apple rings with a dehydrator

apple chips in mason jar

Working from home a lot I have a bit of a snacking issue.

When work gets difficult, when a design isn't working or when I have a daunting email to write, I pace about the house and often mindlessly snack.

I decided to come up with a solution just as our apple trees produced a bumper crop.

I love fruit - it is my most usual snack food - but the speed I eat it at is the problem.

I can easily get way over my five a day by lunchtime.

So I decided to invest in a dehydrator and see whether I could transform our apple harvest into a much nicer form of dried apple rings than you can find in the shops.

apple trees Snapdragon Studio

Our apple trees are pretty feral. I planted a selection of old varieties when we moved here 15 years ago.

I carefully selected them by pollination dates and sentimentality - we have Stirling Castle, Katie, and five others I can't even remember, though their names were vitally important at the time.

We planted them in the area around where the workshop is now, staked and mulched. Within a week they had been grazed to stumps by deer who merrily munched through the deer guards on the trunks.

apple slices in colander

Then, a couple of years ago I spotted bright red and green apples in the rough ground that links the workshop to the woodland and realised that the apple trees had simply grown on, warped and twisted by the attention of deer, but that they were happily fruiting away.

Most of the apples are half way between cookers and eaters - probably originally eaters but sharper than modern eating apples tend to be. To make the apple chips I gathered smallish windfalls.

apple slices being cut

I didn't bother peeling or coring them, just sliced them 1mm thick on my mandoline cutter (I just have a very cheap plastic one - nothing fancy but incredibly useful).

I love the flowery centres that the slices have.

apple slices in honey water

Then - to stop them discolouring - I put them into a bowl of water with a tablespoon of honey in it. You can also use lemon in the water but my apples are really sour so I went with the honey. They were just in there for the time it took me to slice up all the apples.

apple slices in dehydrator

Then I layered them up in my dehydrator - arranged so that the slices don't touch at all. My dehydrator is by Andrew James and I like its big rectangular trays - it does make a noise though so I have it in the spare bedroom rather than the kitchen.

I put the dehydrator on at 70 degrees for 5 hours - As the slices are very thin they don't take a long time to dry out.

apple slices drying

Once the apple rings are crispy, take them off the racks and store in an airtight box or jar.

apple slices

I got about 40-50 apple rings per apple, so hopefully that will slow down my snacking a bit. The apple rings should store fine for a month or so - it depends on how dry they are.

If you don't have a dehydrator you can bake the slices on wire grids in as cool an oven as you can manage. If you happen to have a 4 door Aga the warming oven is ideal - otherwise just put the oven on as low a setting as possible and keep an eye on them. They are unlikely to take as long and will be more 'cooked' but will still be very tasty. Baking them in an oven is easier if you cut the slices thicker to begin with - 2mm rather than 1.

how to make apple rings

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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
What are you looking forward to doing today?

About Snapdragon

At Snapdragon we gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

Learn more about why here