They also wanted to do the hay ride, walk through the hay maze, feed the chickens, and paint some pumpkins, but I was too tired and too cheap to pay for it all. Luckily they had GeeGee there to take the sting away from my constant and resounding NO!s. Of course, it also helps that they washed all those "no"s down with apple cider and mounds of ice cream. Because that's how GeeGee rolls.
We managed to straggle up the hill to let the children have at the trees, but I took the truck up the hill and drove everyone back down. Because did I mention it was so hot? So. hot.
(And I know you folks in the South are just laughing at me and thinking: Hot? She wouldn't know hot if it burned her face off! But remember that I have lived in parts south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and I purposely moved back to the Northeast for that cooling off period we call Fall and Winter. The part we seem to be missing this year.)
So now I have a giant Home Despot bucket full of apples sitting in the garage, and I am faced with the mission of turning them into something else. As much as we love apples, we will never be able to eat them all before one bad one spoils the bunch. I managed to wrest the family's secret applesauce recipe from my father, which is not so much a secret as lost. We have all the important cooking steps accounted for, but the secret combination of apple varieties that my father discovered has been lost to the ages it seems. But that's all right for me: I only let the kids pick one kind of apple before I called it quits and threw them all back into the truck.
My Dad's Recipe for Applesauce
(adapted from The Ball Blue Book Guide to Canning and Freezing, copyright 1983)
- Get fresh apples
- Wash apples, peel if desired, core and slice. (Dad does not desire to peel. Peeling is for sissies. He cooks the apples with the skins and strains them out at the end. This makes the applesauce a rosy pink color, which just looks so pretty on the table)
- To each quart (950 mL) of apples, add 1/3 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid (found in most grocery stores, in the home canning section)
- Cook apples over medium-low heat until tender (watch them! they burn like me at the beach. Don't walk away from them thinking that it will be no problem to make applesauce and read blogs at the same time. Hypothetical situation, of course)
- The book says to puree the apples. Pureeing is also for sissies. The apples are so tender that Dad just uses a ladle to push them through a fine strainer and it works just as well. Plus, straining them catches any stray seeds and the peels that you left on, because peeling is for . . . well, see Step #2)
- Now, while the apples are hot, you add the sugar. Dad typically uses a smidgen more than 1/4 cup of sugar for each quart of apples. (we're getting very technical here, my friends) It depends on the sweetness of the apples with which you started. Start with 1/4 a cup and then add more if you like. Because - and say it with me now - You can always add more, but you can never take it out.
- Don't freak if you find out that you have more applesauce than you can eat in one sitting (at least in good health and in good conscience). You want to have enough so that you can save some to perk up a dreary mid-winter meal. This is how we save it in our family: we freeze it.
- Let the applesauce cool for a while. (It will take some time, so this is really the perfect time for blog reading. Not during the cooking.)
- We like to use the heavy duty quart size freezer bags. Dad takes a wide mouth canning funnel, gathers the freezer bag around the funnel with one hand, and ladles the applesauce into the bag with the other. (This is even easier when you have someone to do all the holding so you can do all the ladling. Tell them there's free applesauce in it for them.)
- He fills it pretty full, but not all the way up to the zipper part, and then sort of tries to flatten it out a little so that he can squeeze out the excess air before he seals it. (Again with the technicality.)
- Dad likes to lay them out flat on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they are frozen, he takes them and either stacks them in the freezer or makes a row (like a row of books). They are pretty flat, so whichever way works best for your freezer.
- Don't forget to label them! -- if your freezer is anything like mine, you may not be able to identify them come late February.
And that's it. It's time consuming, but pretty simple, and I'm telling you that it's worth the effort. Oh, and two more tips: The applesauce does take a little while to defrost, so be sure to keep a bag in your fridge for instant gratification. And don't add any spices (like cinnamon. or cinnamon and sugar, for some. ahem.) until you are ready to eat the applesauce. The spices lose a little something in the freezing process.
Now it's your turn to share! Any favorite apple recipes that we might enjoy?
**PS: This is for Tara, who lives near my parents, and anyone else who might be in that area and interested. This is the orchard we go to, and they have all kinds of fruit for summer and fall picking. They used to be our little secret, until hoards of people discovered what a sweet place it is. Their prices have gone up in recent years, and they have expanded lots of features (see: hay maze & tractor rides), but we still go there. And in June, their Early Gold strawberries will change your life. I'm not even kidding.