August and September were very busy with various festivals and shows where I had the opportunity to show and sell my work. I love doing shows, but it leaves little time for much else, so I promised myself that, after the last show in early October, I would take a couple weeks to focus on things outside the studio. One of these things was harvesting and processing the apples from our backyard apple tree.
Our First Apple Harvest!
Since Dan and I moved into our house nearly seven years ago, we have been trying to rejuvenate the apple tree and the cherry tree in our backyard. Efforts with the cherry tree have so far been . . . fruitless (bad pun), as the ants and aphids have had the upper hand. The apple tree has fared much better. After some years of pruning in early spring to promote tree growth, and this year, pruning in late spring to promote fruit growth, our tree produced a sizeable crop of apples! We are so excited! We haven't quite figured out what kind of apples they are: so far our best guesses are Spy or Royal Gala. What we do know is that they're delicious.
Many of the apples are good enough for eating fresh from the tree. Others, not so much: they're on the ground, partially rotted, or still on the tree after being sampled on by squirrels, worms and birds. As my mother taught me, nothing so good should go to waste, so I decided to make applesauce with the more unglamourous members of our apple crop. Applesauce is a versatile commodity: Dan can take it to work as a snack, I can use it in baking and cooking, and we can eat it with meals.
I thought I'd explain the process I used to make applesauce so that you can do the same with fall apples you find at the farmers market or in your own backyard.
Here's what I used and what you'll need to make applesauce:
After picking my apples, I dumped them in a sink full of water. (This picture shows about a quarter of what I actually started with.) Then I removed the nasty bits, stems and pits, and cut the apples into quarters. You don't have to be too careful about coring the apples because you'll pass everything through a strainer in the end. Many people leave the pits in, but I didn't because I'm picky like that.
You can fill your pot with apples all the way to the top because they will cook down. I added about an inch of water to the pan, and threw in half a cinnamon stick, a squeeze of lemon juice and a slice of lemon peel. The cinnamon adds a little spice and sweetness, and the lemon juice preserves the colour of the apples and adds a little tang.
Next, I put a lid on the apples, brought them to a boil, and then turned down the heat to let them simmer for about 45 minutes (the time will vary depending on your stove and what variety of apples you use). And let me tell you, the house smelled amazing: talk about aromatherapy.
As the apples cook, you'll want to stir them once in a while so all the apples get a chance to soften up. Here are my apples midway through cooking, after a good stir.
Tada! Beautiful sweet, tangy, pink homemade applesauce.
I let the applesauce cool thoroughly and then spooned it into jars. After cooking two pans full of apples, I ended up with 20 cups of applesauce. Not bad. The jars I used to store the sauce have a capacity of one cup: this will make things easier when I need the applesauce for baking, plus one cup is a decent serving size for one or two people. All my applesauce is now in the freezer, ready for its various wonderful uses.
Depending on the apple variety - or combination of varieties - you use to make applesauce, you might want to add sugar before serving it. My backyard apples - whatever they are - are sweet enough to stand on their own.
I grew up making applesauce with my family. My parents would get all of us kids around the table to help with all the steps. I never imagined I'd be doing the same thing so many years later. There's something very beautiful about seeing the entire process, from bud to blossom to fruit and all that fruit can provide.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
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