(Originally posted August 19, 2009)
August 28, 2009Oh Applesauce!
One of the big projects around our house starting in late summer and going through fall is making applesauce for our annual apple butter get-together. When my grandparents used to host the apple butter festivities, everyone would show up a day or two ahead of time and we would peal and core apples the first day and then cook the apple butter the next. As times changed the workforce began to dwindle and the rush to get the necessary applesauce together the day before changed from happy work more toward frantic activity, Jan and I got the idea that it would sure be easier if we canned applesauce ahead of time. At first we were just doing our share of the 20+ gallons the family needed, but that steadily grew to most, and then all of the sauce as we took over the responsibility for the get-together.
What started off as a way to better manage the work going into the project turned into a wonderful treat in many ways. To begin with the whole pealing and coring apples work had always been part of the fun and mystique of apple butter experience. Working on the apples at home extended the experience and helped build the excitement up ahead of time. I would always get into that Zen-like trance of doing pleasant hand-work and let my mind drift up to my grandparents hillside.
By spreading the applesauce process out first over several weeks and now a few months, we have also greatly expanded the varieties of apples that are going into our apple butter. The family mantra with our apple butter recipe has always been at least seven kinds of apples. We took this very seriously and have had as many as 30 varieties in a batch.
One of the best parts of the canned approach has been the added bonus of the extra sauce that just won’t quite fit into the last jar but isn’t enough to justify starting a new one. The first year or two we were very diligent and worked to get as much of the sauce we made into jars as possible. We have always been big fans of applesauce though and once you have had homemade, the store-bought stuff just doesn’t do the job any more. We started having a more and more liberal approach to what wouldn’t fit into a jar until we finally just gave up and started putting up quarts of sauce for us along with the half gallons for the apple butter pot.
The last great benefit has been that we have gotten to know so many wonderful apples. When we used to buy applesauce in the store you would always have your favorite brand, but in general, applesauce was applesauce. When you take out all of the commercial sweeteners and preservatives and just have apples and a lit bit of water the taste of the individual apples really comes out. The taste palate variations are amazing. It is also fun to see the different colors from various types of apples, the different amounts of fiber, the changes in consistency between varieties and the veritable bouquet of different aromas.
If you have never made your own at home before, do yourself a favor, head down to the local orchard, get some apples and make up a batch.
Posted by raymond.wickline at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBacks (0)
August 21, 2009Our special potato children There is a story with the picture of the potato below. For the last two years we have grown Caribe potatoes. The have been one of our prettiest potatoes, and they are heavenly mashed. This year we increased our potato crop significantly, and worried about most of them. One of the few we had confidence in was the Caribes. With all of that being said, we had quite a surprise when we started digging them up this month. From what we can figure out there were two major factors that contributed to their unique look: we added nearly the recommendation of organic fertilizer and we had an overabundance of rain right after planting. Our guess is that they were overwhelmed by the favorable conditions and just started growing so fast that the outside of the potatoes couldn’t keep up and they split. The good news is that this happened early in their growing cycle and all of the splits healed up well. The insides are still as wonderful as ever too.
So now our special children need homes. Please try to look past the cover and appreciate the book within! Adoptions can be arranged at a discount, so don’t be shy!
Posted by raymond.wickline at 01:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (0)
August 19, 2009As the seasons turnOne of the great things about moving out to the farm has been the opportunity it provides to become more in tune with the natural world around us. As a native Floridian, I am still greatly fascinated by the seasons (we only had two in the sunshine state, hot and hotterJ). It has been a treat to start get to know the progression of the year in our little corner of western/central Maryland.
Late summer in particular has some really fascinating signs that I am beginning to really get in touch with. One of the big ones is what I like to call our late summer armada. Around the start of August, various swallows seem to be finishing with their child rearing duties for the season and start to turn their minds to fattening up for the fall migration. When we head out to mow the fields, we are always accompanied by an air wing of at least a dozen barn and tree swallows with the occasional purple martin thrown in for good measure. The entire time we are out mowing, the circle around the tractor, zip back and forth in front of us and even come so close that you end up ducking out of their way to avoid a collision. It is a really great show.
At the same time that this starts one of my other favorite summer shows is coming to a close. By early August most of the lightning bugs are gone for the year. I will spend the next 3 seasons missing their faerie light illumination. Their place in the insect kingdom is taken by the cicadas who really start tuning up their daytime song.
Late summer is also the time for our attention to turn to apples. With apple butter coming at the end of October, if we don’t start canning applesauce now the battle will be well and truly lost. Our usual start comes with the Summer Rambos and Ginger Golds. This year we were very pleased that it started nearly a month early with the first Transparents from our very own orchard. It won’t be to many more years before we can starting putting up gallons of Transparent, Carolina Red June and Pristine to take some of the pressure off of the early August harvest.
Now is also the time for the last big push to plant veggies for this year. Certainly we will be planting garlic and onions in another month, but those treasures will hibernate through the winter before we see them again in the spring. Now is the time for turnip, radish, late spinach and collard green. These will see us through the winter to come.
Well, enough time on the computer, there are chores that need done, fall we be on us before we know it.
May the blessings of the season be upon you.
Blue Faerie Farm