Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An Apple In The Hand....

Last week my wife and I stayed with a friend and his wife in their house in a little town in the mountains of southern Utah. We had gone to see a play at an outdoor theater and then had driven up to their house, about 30 minutes away. It was well past dark when we got there. The sky was lit up with the Milky Way and billions of stars that we don't see because of all the light pollution we have here in Las Vegas. (It's Vegas, Baby!)

The next morning we noticed that his two apple trees had put on quite a crop of apples this year and they were all red, ripe and delicious. Don't know what kind they are, but they are sweet with enough tart to keep you eating them. So we all started picking them. My friends are extremely generous and insisted that we take a bunch home with us. We filled every bag we could find a big box and even a huge cooler. We almost had to sit on our overnight bags to make sure there was room in the SUV to fit all the apples. We ended up with at least a bathtub full, if not more. And we didn't get but a little over half of the apples on the two trees.
Here's my wife picking apples.

If you look closely, you can spot the Royal
Bluecrested Apple-picker, a rare bird indeed!
On the way back, we stopped at a kitchen store to get some parts for my wife's bread mixer. (We don't have that kind of a store in Las Vegas, but they do in Utah.) While there, we picked up a water-bath canner and a marvelous food strainer and some other things like this gadget that peels, cores and slices apples as you crank the handle. Managed to squeak out of there for a little over $200.

The kids loved the apple slicer and actually got busy eating apples, as long as they could slice them with the gadget. But even with 15 people living in my house, we were never going to take care of that many apples before they went bad. So Saturday morning, we started canning.

And canning.

We set up a camp stove on the patio and fired up a pot of water to sterilize bottles and another pot to cook the apples a bit to soften them. We also set up a pot to cook apples in the kitchen as well as the water-bath canner. Then we installed the strainer on the island.
First, we washed the apples.

We washed bottles and sterilized them, then we packed them full of yummy applesauce that we had run through the strainer. Once full, we put the lids and rings on and processed them through the canner. And repeated. And repeated. And repeated. For eight hours.
Then we cut them up into halves or quarters depending on
what size they were.
We used a lot of the grandkids, too. They would help to crank the strainer, fetch more apples to wash, cut apples, fill the jars, get the bubbles out and things like that. Tough to keep them from licking their fingers all the time. The stuff was just too yummy! (Yes, I said yummy. Deal with it.)
Then we cooked them in boiling water for a few minutes to
soften them up. Not too much, don't want really runny applesauce.
Next we dumped them into the hopper of the strainer. This machine is a miracle.
Crank the handle and applesauce comes out.
We went through every pint jar we had and I went to a couple of stores for more lids. Then I went back to the stores and got more lids and more jars. We didn't realize how many jars that many apples would produce.
Sometimes you have to help move the apples into the grinder chute.
This is the applesauce as it comes through the strainer screen. The size
of the holes determines the coarseness of the applesauce. You could
just eat it by itself (and we did!!). We did all of these apples
without the addition of sugar or cinnamon. You can always add
those later if you want, but you can't take them out if your recipe doesn't
call for them.
The exit chute of the strainer had the skins, the seeds, the stems all mushed up and ready
to feed chickens or put in the compost pile. The good stuff goes into the other bowl.
The water-bath canner holds 8 pint jars at a time. They took 15 minutes to process once
they water got to boiling at the right temperature.
8 hours later, the house smells wonderful and we have more than 100 pints of
delicious slightly tart applesauce ready for the pantry.
You know, looking at the big pile of jars on the table, you would think that it's a lot of applesauce. Well, for most families it might be. But the very next day, we had our kids over for dinner and went through several jars. With 12 kids, assorted spouses and nearly 20 grandkids, we'll be lucky if there is any left come spring. But that's what it's for.

When we boxed it up and put it on the shelves in the pantry, the shelves just sort of swallowed them up and made it look like that day's work wasn't so much. But we know better.

It's wonderful to have food put aside for later. It's wonderful to have projects in which many members of the family can participate. It's satisfying to look on the shelves and know that there is great-tasting applesauce waiting to be eaten. 

But it's even more wonderful to have friends like Rick and Patty who are so generous and kind that they gave us all those wonderful apples. Makes me want to go back up there and help him prune and trim his trees. A simple "thank you" just doesn't seem sufficient.

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