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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Lifestyle Stories

Wax on apples helps them stay crisp, juicy — and it’s perfectly safe to eat


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Q: It seems that apples have a lot of wax on them these days. Are they putting wax on them, or are these different varieties? How do I get it off?

Answer: You’re right that many apples are being waxed now. Apples naturally have wax on them as they grow. But the washing procedures used to remove dust, bacteria and chemicals after they’re harvested takes off a lot of the natural wax. That allows water to evaporate out of them faster, and bacteria to enter more easily. Unwaxed apples will soften and get punky much more quickly than waxed apples.

When you consider how far apples are shipped to market, and how long they are stored so we can eat them year-round, you might see why they need help hanging onto their moisture. So yes, more growers are now adding wax to replace the apple wax that was removed. That way you can have a good crisp, juicy apple even if you don’t live next to an orchard.

There’s no need to remove it, and getting it off would be very difficult. The wax that is used is organic wax, completely edible and approved as a food additive by the FDA. There are two main kinds used. Carnauba wax comes from the leaves of carnauba palms that grow in northern Brazil. The dried leaves are beaten to release the wax that covers them. The wax is then melted, cleaned and purified.

Sometimes edible shellac is used. It is a wax that is excreted by a small insect that lives in India and Thailand. It’s scraped off the tree trunks, then melted and filtered. But when you consider that one pound of either wax is enough to coat 160,000 apples, you know you’re not getting very much!

Q: I’m planning to make a breakfast casserole that includes apples and cranberries, bread, milk, cream cheese and some other spices. It’s baked like a bread pudding. I want to make some in advance, then freeze them to use for breakfasts later during the holidays. But I’m afraid the apples will all sink to the bottom of the dish. Do you think they will be OK after I freeze and then thaw them?

Anwer: A recipe like that should be fine, as long as you bake it first. Once it’s baked, the bread, milk and cheese will be firm enough to hold the apples and cranberries in place. The apples will be softened already by the baking, so freezing them is not going to turn them to mush. The important thing is to bake them first.

You can line your baking dish with foil, leaving a good overlap on the sides. Bake the casseroles in the lined dish. Let them cool slightly on the counter, then chill them in the refrigerator. When they’re chilled, freeze them. Once they’re solidly frozen, use the overlaps of foil to remove them from their pans. Wrap the extra foil over them, and seal them in large freezer bags. Keep them frozen until you’re ready to use them. Unwrap them, remove the foil, and place them back in the baking dish. Thaw them in the refrigerator, then reheat in the oven or microwave. They should be in great shape.

Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at mkeith@ufl.edu.

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