Saturday, September 15, 2012

FALLing behind

Note to self: The farther North you travel, the earlier autumn happens. I thought I had that sorted out after last year, but it went and caught me by surprise again last weekend. Friday was a gorgeous and sunny summer day. Saturday it rained for the entire 24 hours. And on Sunday morning when I woke up, it was Fall. Just like that. Which made for an outstanding day of apple picking at Mountain Orchards.

Once again we went picking with E's friends C & C and their new brother C. (Once you start a pattern, you can't very well break it for the third one without adding to the the list of how the third kid misses out.) This time there were more than 3 apples remaining, and we were able to fill our own bags instead of buying the pre-picked bags and feeling like we should have just gone to the grocery store. I gave E her own 10lb bag and took one for myself, which means that we walked out of there with 20lbs of apples for our little family of 3. Totally reasonable, right? You can't do that at the grocery store without looking ridiculous. What may be more ridiculous is plunking those apples down in the middle of the kitchen and simply walking around them for the first two days while trying to wrap my head around how I could process 20lbs of anything into something that we could consume in its entirety without running out of the house screaming frantically: NOOOO! MOOOOOORE! AAAAAAAAAPPLES!!!

When I did eventually address them, I started by cramming almost half of them into the produce drawer of the fridge, just to make the job more visually feasible. Then I tossed the other half into a giant colander for a little rinse,

and decided to tackle them a dozen at a time. Manageable chunks, that's what's important.

The first two dozen apples were peeled and chopped and piled in the slow cooker with some cinnamon and cloves. Let me tell you, as someone who has been making applesauce for a few years now by cooking a half dozen or so at a time for about 20 minutes on the stovetop, slow cooking them is where it's at. Depth of flavour people - it means something. Wow. 4 hours later my house smelled outrageously delicious and the applesauce was too.

Now normally, all the peels and cores go into the compost, but being that the peels are so good for you I always have trouble throwing them away. Usually I munch on them until my intestines start to cramp up, but this time I did a little googling and discovered that the peels are actually high in pectin, meaning that you can make jelly from the peels and cores without having to add pectin. What luck! I've never made jam or jellies before, but this seemed too good to be true…

…and it was. As convincing as that might look up there, we ended up with what I optimistically refer to as apple syrup. Wouldn't set. For all you jam and jelly novices looking to break into the practice, let me offer these words of advice: Make sure to use a thermometer you can trust. My thermometer was very expensive and worked very well for a while, until it didn't. And now that it doesn't, and I know it can't be trusted, I still cling to the hope that it will be good enough to prevent me from having to buy another one…which may be well and good for my yogurt making (not exactly an exact science), for candy and jam-making, it just won't cut the mustard. I'm going to give it one more go by adding some powdered pectin and reboiling, but I may just have to admit defeat on this one. Besides, I'm sure there are a myriad of uses for apple syrup, no?

So I was up to 2 dozen apples on that first day of processing, and once I had forced each of us to eat one (did you know they can be eaten raw?!) and threw a couple more into Nigella's apple bacon mashed potatoes, I decided that 29 apples in one day was enough for any girl.

To be continued...

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