“By the middle of November the wild apples have lost some of their brilliancy, and have chiefly fallen…. But still, if you are a skilful gleaner, you may get many a pocket-full even of grafted fruit, long after apples are supposed to be gone out-of-doors. I know a Blue-Pearmain tree, growing within the edge of a swamp, almost as good as wild…. If I am sharp-set, for I do not refuse the Blue-Pearmain, I fill my pockets on each side; and as I retrace my steps in the frosty eve, being perhaps four or five miles from home, I eat one first from this side, and then from that, to keep my balance.” ~ Thoreau, “Wild Apples”
Apples. I love apples, but not the customary red apple that a young lad might give to his teacher. I love ones with crunch and a slight tartness. In my humble opinion, apples are one of Nature’s shining achievements. Most autumns when I was young we would drive north to Thurmont, Maryland and buy bushel baskets full of apples and bottles of cider. It would be sunny with the smell of burning leaves and woodstoves piercing the chilled air. Thurmont is known as the “Gateway to the Mountains” and is near the Pennsylvania state line and very close to Camp David. After living in Colorado for the last nine years, I can no longer call them “mountains.” Especially if you compare them to the view from my upstairs bedroom window, while standing on a box looking over to the right, through the neighbor’s trees—those are mountains! But nevertheless to an East Coaster they are indeed mountains. There are a number of apple orchards in Thurmont dotted throughout the surrounding countryside. And I so loved the drive there and back home again. I have a memory of Uncle Cecil driving us kids there in his red Chevy II convertible. Or was that to Sugarloaf Mountain? Maybe it was both!
My grandmother, when she was alive, would make pies and homemade applesauce, and so did my mother. I believe my mother still does whip up a bowl of homemade sauce today. I loved helping her make the sauce and couldn’t wait to steal a spoonful when she wasn’t looking. The smell of cooking apples wafting throughout the kitchen filled my senses with such awe! I can picture myself sitting at the kitchen table waiting for them to cook so I could roll the wooden mortar around the aluminum cone-shaped sieve that fit over a large bowl. The applesauce had a natural pink color and no extra sugar. Applesauce does not need added sugar if you use the right apples. When I pick up a jar at the store and scan the label, I find some with dyes and added sugar. That is such a violation of Nature! There is never any need to color or add sugar to applesauce, but with commercially grown apples, I guess you would have to add some taste!
So today, while working the Farmer’s Market at Stapleton, I picked up a box of seconds from Ela Family Farms out of Hotchkiss, Colorado. I didn’t have any intentions of buying more fruit or vegetables to put up for the winter, but as I walked past I saw their sign that noted “$20 a box for seconds, great for sauce!” Okay, okay, I bought them! You can’t beat a 20-25 pound box of apples for $20! And as usual, I needed to add another night or two of canning to my leisurely activities list.
After finishing up compost outreach and an afternoon siesta I ran out to buy one of those apple corer gadgets. And boy I am glad I did! What a breeze to core and slice the apples in just a matter of minutes! I only prepared half of the box and filled a large stainless-steel pot about three-quarters full. I added an inch of water from my Eldorado water cooler to the pot and the apples started cooking.
When the apples were soft I put them through the food mill using the largest blade. I like chunky and there are bits of peel in the sauce. If that bothers you, then I guess you won’t be receiving one from me at Christmas! I filled 11 pint jars with sauce and added Ceylon cinnamon to three of them. When I can the rest of the apples this week I will add Ceylon cinnamon to the entire pot and I might use the medium blade with the mill! I just like to shake things up a bit!
So another day of outreach at the Farmer’s Market, another purchase of fresh locally grown certified organic fruit and another night of canning. Thank goodness my canning season is coming to a close, because I’m moving onto backyard chickens after my return from Germany in late October! Yep, another leisurely activity!