The house painting project has taken so much time, there’s been no time for blogging.
However, I did pick apples today. My apples are falling! I would have loved to have left them on the tree a little longer, but between wind, squirrels, raccoons, and birds, they had to be picked. I have the tree about 2/3rds of the way stripped and will finish tomorrow with my grandson’s help. I have nicknamed him Farm Boy, because he does love to garden. And I love to have his help.
If you are picking apples now, when they are still not quite ripe, here are some tricks and tips I’ve learned.
* Twist the apple clockwise (or to the right) to get it to release either from the stem or from the branch. Twisting rather than pulling does far less damage to your tree.
*Sort the apples as you pick them. I pick into a two gallon bucket (because that’s all I can lift when it’s full) and after I’ve filled the bucket, I sort them into separate boxes: a box for any wormy apples, any that have hit the ground, any that have been bird-pecked, and any oddly-shaped apples that won’t go through the peeler cleanly; and a box for “perfect apples,” those that are not bruised or wormy or bird-damaged. This is important because the old adage that one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel really is true. When I sort as I pick, I know which apples need to be processed first, and which ones can sit for a while and sweeten up a bit more. The pic below is of the damaged apples. These won’t sit long. I’ll be turning them into apple butter next week.
*Store the apples that are going to sit for a while in no more than two layers, with plenty of newspaper in between layers to absorb moisture and cushion the fruit. Don’t stack boxes of apples on top of each other unless you can do it without bruising them.
*Store the apples in the coolest place you can find where mice, squirrels, etc., will not damage them. This can be difficult sometimes. Right now, the only place I have to store my apples is our pump house, and since the temps are heating up again, they will not hold long. Cooler is better, if possible.
I process my bruised, damaged apples first because they will go bad much faster than the perfect apples. I make applesauce and apple butter with those apples. For my apple butter recipe, click on the link above.
With the perfect apples, I usually make pie filling and dehydrated apples with cinnamon for the grandkids (and even my kids still ask for them!), but this year, it’ll just be dehydrated apples. I have plenty of pie filling left from last year, both canned and frozen. (For the recipe for canned apple pie filling, see below.)
For dehydrated apples, we use a hand-cranked peeler/slicer/corer machine (Dennis always helps me with this part). After slicing the rings in half, I drop the apples into acidulated water (lemon juice or Fruit Fresh added to water) to prevent browning, and I place them on the dehydrator trays and sprinkle them with cinnamon. You can’t keep them from turning brown, and the cinnamon helps disguise the brownness and gives them wonderful flavor. My kids have always loved these, and now my grandkids do too. Just the other day, my daughter was at my house, foraging in the pantry, and came across a bag of my dried apples. She ate half the bag and wanted to take the other half home with her!
And don’t throw out the peels and cores–make apple scrap vinegar or apple pectin stock with them. Click on the link for the how-to.
I usually make up gallon bags of pie filling for the freezer. I just use the apple pie recipe out of the Betty Crocker cookbook, and mix up the filling in a bowl (apples, flour or cornstarch—and you can use brown rice flour for this if you are gluten-free, sugar, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, cinnamon and whatever other spices you like).
But last year, a friend, Suzanne Lepowski, shared a canned apple pie filling recipe with me which I altered because I don’t can with cornstarch or Clear Jel (unsafe with the former and too expensive with the latter), and it worked perfectly. One quart jar isn’t enough for a 9-inch pie, but works fine with an 8-inch pie. If you want to make 9-inch pies, can both quarts and pints. One of each will fill a 9- or 10-inch pie pan. All you have to do is add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch, or ¼ cup flour, or brown rice flour if you’re gluten-free, to the contents of the jar, and then put it in your unbaked pastry shell. The apples are tender, and the pie is delicious. Thanks, Suzanne!
Canned apple pie filling (no thickener)
6 pounds apples (About 20-25 medium apples: amounts to about 5 qts. cored, peeled, sliced. This will make about 3 quart jars of pie filling.)
Ball Fruit Fresh (or several tablespoons of lemon juice)
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (and I add 1/2 teaspoon allspice because I like it in my pie filling)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Wash, peel, core, and slice apples. Add apples to water with Fruit Fresh according to directions on Fruit Fresh jar, or add several tablespoons of lemon juice to a large bowl of water. Combine sugar and spices in large pan. Rinse and drain apples. Stir apples into sugar and spice mixture. Let stand until juices begin to flow, about 30 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Cook for 5 minutes.
Ladle into hot, sterilized quart or pint jars, leaving 1 inch head space, place lid and cap, and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, adjusting for altitude according to altitude chart.
I hope you are able to leave your apples on the tree long enough to let them be kissed by frost. It makes them sweeter. But if, like me, you are working with apples now, I hope you enjoy these recipes. We do.