Friday, September 27, 2013

In the Orchard: Apple-hunting and apple-saucing

In case you didn't know, my DH and I live in a cottage on an old estate that also has a wild and unruly antique orchard on it. The trees are scattered across roughly an acre and they twist and gnarl with at least 50 years of untended growth. In Michigan, our apples are producing a bumper crop state-wide and so my poor old trees are heavy with fruit and feeling some serious stress. Every time we get a strong wind you can hear the branches creaking and cracking under the weight of this massive crop, and these trees are primarily late autumn storing apples, so they will continue to hold onto their apples at least until we get a hard freeze!

This is the first year I've seriously picked the apples in our orchard. In the past for some reason I believed they were too buggy for human consumption, but upon closer inspection this year I've found that many of them are flawless, and even those that aren't won't kill me to consume.

So yesterday I set out to pick a few bushels of apples for various projects. The picking was great! I have no idea what these trees are, though I suspect they are a few different varieties. I have a book that helps identify apples, but I'll have to do some serious investigation to figure these guys out. All I know is, they're delicious! The tree that I picked most of my haul from has small apples that have a bit of spice, a lot of tannin, a sweet start and a tart finish, and a crisp white flesh, streaked with pink. The high tannin content (that puckery tchk-tchk taste - try to pronounce that, you'll get what I mean) makes me think these would be amazing for a hard cider. I have a bushel of them sitting out front right now mellowing in the sun so that I can attempt to press them later this week.

In the meantime, I decided to make some applesauce from some of the apples from a different tree. This tree produced incredibly sweet apples with a much thinner skin. They were much more suited to fresh eating, and the wasps thought so too! I only got stung once yesterday, which was a minor miracle, but it still hurt! I'm just glad it was one of those yellow jackets and not the bald faced hornets I saw buzzing around!

I finally had a chance to use my antique apple slicer (the blades are cast into the base - what a neat find!) and whipped up my first ever batch of applesauce. It was still slightly tart, so I used a dollop of local honey in it to sweeten it. If you've never made applesauce before, I highly recommend it. 

You simply slice and core your apples, toss them in a pot (skin and all) with an inch of water on the bottom, cover and let steam/boil for 20-30 minutes and when you're finished you run them through a food processor or food mill. (I tossed a pinch of cinnamon into mine at this point.) I then canned a few jars of mine, which entailed sterilizing jars and filling them to 1/4" of the top, then sealing and hot-water-bathing them for 30 minutes. 

The finished result was a gorgeous, bright pink apple sauce that had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Apples all vary, though, so make sure you taste test yours before adding sweeteners or canning.


What is your favorite way to use a bumper crop of apples?

1 comment:

  1. We don't have a bumper crop yet - our trees are only a year in our ground - but my MiL peels, slices them into wedges, tosses them with some cinnamon, sugar (white, I think) and puts them in freezer bags until winter when she has them in pie, over oatmeal, warmed with ice cream.

    We have a mystery tree on our property that makes me want to know the name of your apple identifying book?