Monday, October 17, 2011

An Apple A Day...

This post really could be titled “An Apple a Day For an Army,” because we currently have more apples than I know what to do with.  In working with Travis’s grandma, his mom, and sister, I am learning the tricks and tips to apple harvesting.  And what to do with boxes and boxes of apples.

There are three apple trees on the farm.  All the same variety, and what that variety is we have no idea.  All we know is that these are baking apples.  They are too tart for eating raw unless they are the ones that have just fallen from the top of the tree and have had days and days to ripen.

In a typical year, one would harvest these apples weeks into October so that they have had a frost followed by many days with cool nights to ripen.  However, this year, we had a hard frost in mid-September, which threw off the entire ripening process.  Also, this year only one of the trees bore fruit (the other two did last year).

Therefore, apple picking occurred in September and not October.  The apples were not as big or red as one would have liked, but we had to get them off the tree before the critters did.

Uh-em!  What do you think you are doing in my apple tree?!  This squirrel stayed perfectly still for at least 5 minutes while I walked around taking photos.  He did not move until I walked away from the tree to get the apple picker.  He knew his possible fate…

I have never picked apples before, even at an apple orchard – you know, the kind you would pay top dollar to go pick apples.  All apples that I had consumed were from the grocery store – you know, the kind that are perfectly plump without any bruising or worm holes.

Apples from our apples trees look okay, they are just not going to win any beauty awards.  And like I said before, they are not going to win any taste tests either.

They are however FREE!

So with the help of Travis’s 91-year-old grandma (his dad’s mom), my sister-in-law (age omitted), and 7-year-old niece, we got to work on that apple tree.

Did you know that old boxes that housed (sealed) jugs of chemical for farming are the preferred storage for apples?  It’s true.  They come with handles and everything.

Please wash all produce thoroughly regardless of origin.

After we had picked every last apple that we could reach, we put the boxes in the basement for a future apple peeling/coring/slicing/chopping session.  That session was this weekend, a month after the initial apple picking.

We set up shop in the garage and began the process.  My niece manned the peeler/corer/slicer while my sister-in-law chopped up the apples and put them into a saltwater bath.  I, being the rookie, pretty much just watched and took pictures.

Steps to operating an apple peeler/corer/slicer (this one is from Pampered Chef):

1) Find an apple that is not bruised and put it on the spikes.

2)  Turn handle so that apple spins against the peeler.

3)  Continue to turn handle as apple is pushed through the corer/slicer.

4)  Keep turning that handle until you can’t turn it any longer.

5)  Remove peel/cored apple and admire your work.

Easy as (apple) pie.

You’re the apple of my eye.

Okay, I’ll stop now.

After the apples were peeled/cored my sister-in-law cut of any bad parts like bruises, then cut apart the sliced apples, and put them in a saltwater bath.  These apples had some hail damage, so there was quite a bit of waste.  We are all about quality control here (please refer back to picture of apples in chemical boxes).

I had the job of taking the apples out of the saltwater bag and putting them in freezer bags, which took all of 10 minutes, as we had 10 quart-size bags of apples ready to be made into applesauce, apple butter, apple cinnamon pancakes, apple crisp, apple pie – you name it!

We put all of bags in the freezer but one, in which I with the help of Travis’s grandma made into applesauce.  I know right?!  Please don’t fall out of your chair.  Not that making applesauce is really difficult…

Just put the apples in a big pot with water, sugar, and if you prefer, some cinnamon.

Let it come to a boil and turn down the heat to let it simmer for a real long time.

Enjoy the scent of apples & cinnamon and let the pot cool completely down.  At this point we could have got out the potato masher, but Charlie & I actually prefer chunkier applesauce.

CHUNK!  CHUNK!  Whenever I hear or say the word “chunk” or “chunky” a smile comes to my face as that was my nickname for Charlie in the womb and as an infant, and I don’t think that there is any question why…

Anyways, these apples do not fall apart when cooked, so it is easier to not waste your time mashing when they just don’t want to mash.  In the end we had a jar of cooked cinnamon apples.

I even had some on top of vanilla ice cream tonight!  Because I needed an excuse to eat some ice cream.

If you have any other recommendations for what do with the rest of these apples, please send them my way.

How do you like them apples?!


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