Friday, September 25, 2009

Is it really Fall? (or The Tale of Applesaucing...)

I've never canned applesauce before, though I have made it in small, what we can eat in a week, batches several times. But a week or so ago, when my Mom asked if I wanted some apples from my Gram's trees up in northern Wisconsin, I couldn't say no.

I don't know if I'm just tired from summer work, or tired because I know that fall really is here, but when I got two full Trig's grocery bags full of beautiful apples last weekend, my first impulse was admittedly not the full-out excitement of my past canning forays this summer. I was actually dreading it. Oh, I knew that the end result would probably change my mind, but I think it was just the starting.

When we got back from our visit last Sunday night with a car packed to the gills, I found room to stash most of the apples in the fridge, and left one bag on the cool basement floor - planning to do them first thing on Monday morning. Well, Monday morning, I ended up taking a walk and catching up on housekeeping and laundry. I really was putting off the start of the applesaucing. Tuesday came: another long walk and procrastination. Wednesday: library day, and then late in the afternoon, a call from my Mom who was on her way to visit for the night.

She wanted to help me get started early on Thursday morning, but I talked her into going to Loop Yarn Shop (so I could get more knitting advice, but more on that later...) and for lunch at Beans and Barley (where my son spent most of the time dropping crayons on the floor under the table and sitting under there to pick them up. Maybe I'm tired from days with a 3 year old.) When we got back from lunch, though I felt tired, I set up the Victorio Strainer my Mom lent me, and cleared my little canning area by the stove that is usually home to my oversized flour storage jars. Then, my Mom just began slicing the apples.

There were two varieties, and I know from birth actually how good these apples are, though I don't know the varietals. My Gram used to press cider, and make sauce, and I'm sure a good many pies. I saved out enough stock for a couple of pies myself. As you can see, the cut apples are saturated with the rosy color of their skins, which also imbues the sauce the most rosy, romantic color.

These little ones are only about 1 1/2 - 2 inches big, but are so tart and easy to prepare for sauce. You only need to cut them in half and nick out the blossom end.

My Mom lit the fire under me to get started, and though I did grab a 25 minute nap (which I almost never do) after downing a cup of deep, black joe, I was inspired once more. Even more so after my first bubbling pot of apples went down the Victorio! What a marvel of engineering! I know that an attachment can be had for my Kitchen Aid, but this well-built hand crank model was so fun to use. After the pretty pink sauce was making its way down the pike, I was hooked.

The Victorio also has the amazing benefit of being super easy to clean. In fact, the hardest thing about it, was following the schematic to set it up. I actually had a piece on backwards - and had my Mom not popped in, I may have had a huge mess to report. But I'm nearly certain I made the mistake because my heart wasn't in it as I began.

All in all, I was quite neat about the whole boiling, bubbling ordeal, and am now rewarded with 16 beautiful pints of applesauce. My Mom did offer to take one bag back to her farm to process, and I did let her. I think 30 or more pints would have been a bit excessive for my 3 person nuclear unit... especially when only 2 of us will eat it.

I'm sure it will all be immensely enjoyed - and I have a renewed reason to make Dorie Greenspan's Oatmeal Breakfast Bread, one of my favorites. You can find the recipe in her amazing book, or from fellow Daring Baker, Cast Sugar here. It's definitely worthy of the homemade stuff.

Thanks, Mom!

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