Saturday, March 19, 2011

Enjoying Last Year's Apples

When we moved to our property last July, we were happy to see the heavily-laden apple tree, full of fruit. For a while we thought it must be a Granny Smith variety because the apples stayed green so long. We even ate some green, and the tart taste made us think that even more. But they did start to turn red, so we decided they are a late-ripening type. I would love to know what they are! ( the apple picture I used at the beginning is just one I found on the internet, not one from my tree ) To end up, the apples were a beautiful red with some yellow undertones. They were large for the most part, and not too many were lost to wasps and as far as we know, the tree was not sprayed at all...we had a VERY bountiful harvest. I made a lot of applesauce, filled several zip-lock freezer bags for pie-making, and made lots of APPLEJUICE! which was a first-time effort that was very rewarding! I borrowed a steamer from my sister-in-law at the beginning, but it took so many hours to extract the juice that way that we decided to buy a juicer to do the rest. The steamer  produced BEAUTIFUL, perfectly clear juice, but keeping the stove on so long...we just decided a centrifugal-type juicer would be a better way to keep up. After comparison shopping we settled on a Breville Juice Fountain Elite.

By the way, we also experimented with making vegetable juice, carrot juice etc., enjoying the pulp-free juice and giving the pulp to our horse and pigs! This machine is very easy to use and sure saved time last summer when we were putting up all the apple juice. I also saved most of the pulp, especially from the green vegetables, in the freezer to use in soups and stews, and some of the apple pulp I put into my applesauce, to see how we liked it that way.

We are not new to apple trees...when we lived in western Oklahoma we planted two special types, an Arkansas Black and a Spitzenberg. We were very happy with both of them when they became mature. We liked the Spitzenberg best actually; it had huge, beautiful, and delicious fruit. It is a type that Thomas Jefferson grew at Monticello! The Arkansas Black was also a good tree for us- it's skin is very dark and you can see how the type got it's name. But this tree here in our new yard is a very prolific producer! This spring will be our first time to see it in bloom- hopefully I will be able to get a good picture to post here. There is a mature silver maple tree growing actually too close to our apple tree, making the apple tree grow lopsided. But lopsided trees seem to be the norm in Oklahoma, where the wind blows so often as to make the trees grow crooked! Really, some places you can tell which way the prevailing winds come from by seeing the way the trees stand when the occasional day comes that is NOT windy.

But to get to the point...this last week has been our Spring Break from school. I am trying to get with my little girl to teach her some cooking, so last night we made an apple pie! I just had to pull a bag from the freezer to defrost the apples that were already cut up and prepared with the sugar, flour and spices before freezing last summer. So Easy!! We mixed the pie dough ingredients in the food processor, and she watched me roll out the bottom crust. Nothing to dumping the bag of prepared pie filling into it! Then I let her roll out the top crust, not being too particular about the finished product. So it wasn't a thing of beauty when we were complete, but it was a thing of DELISH!

Now, I must say that I have never been an apple pie fan, really not even a fruit pie of any kind fan, so last fall when I was "drowning in apples" I did not prepare too many freezer bags of apple pie mix. But this pie last night was SO GOOD, that (I must confess) I had TWO PIECES! yes, at one sitting! (yes, I did have them with cream, but...) So this year, when apple harvest arrives, I plan to put up many more bags for pies than I did last year. Here's a little tip an old neighbor gave us years ago- to prevent your apples from browning as you are cutting them up, have a large (like a gallon) container of water to put them in and add a tablespoon of salt to the water. As you slice up your apples, drop them into the salted water; then when you have enough to fill a freezer bag, dip them out with a straining device like a slotted spoon or french fry basket/spoon and fill the bags with the amount needed for one pie, adding the dry ingredients called for in your recipe. The apples will not turn dark and the salt cannot be tasted! I had to try this to believe it, but it really works. I know some ladies use the canning method to put up pie filling, but freezing is so much faster and easier. We have a chest-type freezer and also an upright, so I have plenty of space to do this.

Looking forward to SPRING! when I can post a picture of our own tree! This picture that follows is one I found on the web...

Remember this scene from 'Anne of Green Gables'? Enjoy!

--The "Avenue," so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle. Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendor above. Even when they had passed out and were driving down the long slope to Newbridge she never moved or spoke. Still with rapt face she gazed...  When three more miles had dropped away behind them the child had not spoken. She could keep silence, it was evident, as energetically as she could talk. "I guess you're feeling pretty tired and hungry," Matthew ventured to say at last, accounting for her long visitation of dumbness with the only reason he could think of. "But we haven't very far to go now--only another mile." She came out of her reverie with a deep sigh and looked at him with the dreamy gaze of a soul that had been wondering afar, star-led. "Oh, Mr. Cuthbert," she whispered, "that place we came through--that white place--what was it?" "Well now, you must mean the Avenue," said Matthew after a few moments' profound reflection. "It is a kind of pretty place." "Pretty? Oh, PRETTY doesn't seem the right word to use. Nor beautiful, either. They don't go far enough. Oh, it was wonderful--wonderful. It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here"--she put one hand on her breast--"it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache. Did you ever have an ache like that, Mr. Cuthbert?" "Well now, I just can't recollect that I ever had." "I have it lots of time--whenever I see anything royally beautiful. But they shouldn't call that lovely place the Avenue. There is no meaning in a name like that. They should call it--let me see--the White Way of Delight. Isn't that a nice imaginative name? "--
from 'Anne of Green Gables' by Lucy Maud Montgomery

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