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Posts Tagged ‘Apples’

Spring has sprung. For many of us it sprung really really early this year and many areas are several weeks ahead of what is “normal” for this time of year.

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We had some wonderful rains this winter in South Texas and things have been very green. this spring (up until now – we are dry and in need of rain!) We didn’t get enough rain to pull us out of the drought and many areas are still suffering. We warmed up really quickly this spring and things really started growing. I  (Sincerely, Emily) have lots of shades of green in our backyard and everywhere I look.

We plants this apple tree in January 2010. It had four grafts on it and we lost one of the grafts the first year. Three grafts are still growing well.

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Spring in Chicago has been very topsy-turvey. We had May (July?) in March and are now getting March towards the end of April, with a cold 40 degree wind (that’s 4 centigrade, if that’s how you roll) blowing off the lake. But the early warmth means that the garden is bursting, despite the current frosty temps!

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April in Philomath has been mixed. Some days pouring (my days off), and others gorgeous and sunny (my days at work). On the rainy days, i try to spend my time honing my crafts and on the sunny days i venture outside. Sometimes i get flumoxed and end up hiking in the downpour or spinning in the warm sunshine. The magical Trillium blooms in the coastal range make that soggy hike worth every squishy step.

What are the greens that you are seeing right now?

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This last weekend I purchased a bushel of Fuji apples. One of my absolute favorite apples. Ever. My intent was to store them in our cool basement since they’re such good keepers. (For a good list of apple varieties and their qualities visit pickyourown.org)

Instead I’ve been going mad for baked apple goodness. Sunday I made these:

apple dumpling

Apple dumplings that are knock-your-socks-off good. The key to such a good flavor was the boiled cider – also known as apple molasses – that I made. Just a little bit imparts an amazingly intense flavor. Sure you could buy it online and have it shipped, but if you have the opportunity you should try to make it, especially if you can get local apples!

So because I couldn’t get enough of that yumminess, I had to make something more…. but better for me.

Enter Apple Dumpling Oatmeal.

I prepared this last night before bed in 15 minutes, and it was ready to go for me this morning. You could alternatively prepare this in a dutch oven, or on the stove top if you don’t care to leave a crockpot plugged in all night. I’ve given you three options! Just bring your appetite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal. The kind that makes you want to get outside and get something done. That, or help yourself to seconds…

apple dumpling-inspired oatmeal

Apple Dumpling Oatmeal

Makes 6-8 LARGE portions

  • 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1-1/4 cups steel cut oats or thick rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 rounded tsp boiled cider (lick the spoon!)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown, raw, or sucanat), honey, or syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • (if you don’t have access to boiled cider, substitute 1 cup cider for 1 cup water, then get to the store and pick up some cider and boil it!)

Dutch oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile add ingredients to dutch oven on the stove top, bringing them just to a boil. Cover and put in oven. Immediately turn off oven. In the morning you may need to add some liquid in the form of milk or water, and to reheat on the stove just a bit.

Stove top:

Add ingredients to medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. It’s done when your oats are soft and apples are no longer firm.

Crock Pot:

Add ingredients to crock pot and turn on low. Let cook at least 6 hours. Stir gently before serving.

gone

Top with a drizzle of fresh cream(and maybe some maple syrup) and enjoy it while it’s still warm!

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You can find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she’s currently focusing on autumn and homeschooling.

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apple swirl

Having recently prepared apple cider and frozen apple slices, it occurred to me that I should give brewing cider vinegar a whirl. After all, I’ve brewed plenty of wine and soda pop and both could unintentionally turn into vinegar… why not do it on purpose?

Cider vinegar has been touted for its health benefits. Years ago, I recall my great-uncle consuming it every day to help with his cancer therapy. My father-in-law takes a capful each morning to help with his IBS. It’s claimed that cider vinegar can help with everything from acne to yeast infections. It helps make hair shiny, it can be used as a cleanser, and it adds a great tang to salads.

So I looked into multiple recipes. Some called for adding sugar, others yeast. Wanting to keep my vinegar as organic, natural, and healthful as possible, I avoided those recipes and combined two recipes to suit my needs. The originals can be found at wikibooks.org and at Ultimate Money Blog. So you may ask why did I change the recipes? For simplicity and for eating “nose to tail” so to speak. I’ve had so many apple scraps that are happily going to my compost pile (and in turn into my chickens’ bellies as they scavenge) but I’d rather make a better use of them for immediate consumption. Also, Autumn apples have plenty of sugar to spare. Finally, I want to capture a “wild yeast” instead of using a winemaking or bread baking yeast in order to keep it as beneficial as possible. So this is what I came up with:

apple scraps

 

Apple Cider Vinegar

  • Apple scraps: peels, cores and flesh – cleaned and removed of dirt and bruised areas.
  • Chlorine-free water to cover fruit, preferably filtered or boiled.
  • Food-grade plastic, stainless steel, or glass containers. Vinegar can corrode some metals.
  • Campden tablet (optional)
  1. Put fruit scraps into your containers and just cover with water. Add a campden tablet if desired to kill any bacteria or yeast that could interfere with your desired wild yeast. Leave plenty of air space to encourage circulation and give room for bubbling. Cover with some cheesecloth or another fine cloth to keep fruit flies out, yet allow fresh oxygen (and wild yeast!) to enter. Keep your container out of sunlight and in room temperature (about 65F to 70F).
  2. Encourage the fruit to break down and fermentation to work its magic by mixing the solution every day for two weeks. After two weeks, remove the fruit scraps.
  3. Allow fermentation to continue. Once the bubbling slows down siphon the solution into a clean container, avoiding the sediment and foam. This may need to happen the day after you remove the fruit scraps depending on how quickly the process is working for your individual solution. Don’t do it the same day as removing the fruit scraps will stir up any sediment – give it a day to settle.
  4. Let this second container do its work for another 2-3 months. It should develop a white film on top – the vinegar mother. You want to keep this mother so you can continue to brew vinegar year round! You can now remove up to two-thirds of your vinegar for use. Refresh your mother with fresh, clear cider and you will have another batch of vinegar ready in about two to three months.

Please note that unless you can verify the acid levels (5% acetic acid) you should not use this vinegar for preservation, especially in canning. Canning goods requires a specific acid level in order to keep out harmful bacteria and keep food fresh.

Over the next couple of months I’ll update my progress with my first batch of vinegar. Have you ever made vinegar before whether intentionally or not?

You can also find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about living in rural Tennessee.

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fall foods

This year we’re making an extra effort to put up as much local food as possible while it’s at its peak ripeness. In most parts of the country, apples are in big demand. Orchards are packed and picked and farm stands are offering their very best. While my intention for apples was primarily to freeze, I couldn’t pass by a great deal on “juice apples” that a nearby farm stand had – $12 for a bushel. Juice apples are basically slightly bruised or barely overripe fruit. It’s best to combine several varieties of fruit to balance out sweetness, brightness, and tartness.

Once I got the apples home, I had to put my brain to work debating the best way to make cider without a juicer. Simple was key for me. My first experiment was fun… and messy.

First I lined the interior of a large box (conveniently the lid from one of my bushels) with aluminum foil. Next I set my heavy-duty cutting board inside (a piece of plywood would also work) and covered it with aluminum also. Once everything was juice-proof, I made a curtain of sorts out of wax paper and cut a slit down the middle.

lined box for apple cider

lined box for apple juice

Now for the fun part. I used my meat tenderizer to smash the apples to bits! I found it beneficial to turn up the foil at the bottom edge so that any juice didn’t pour out over the floor. This would be a great project to get kids involved, or to take out any frustrations.

whack-an-apple

apple mash

I finished up by squeezing the apple pulp, by hand, with some good cheesecloth into a container and quickly gulped it down. It had to be the best cider I’ve ever had.

Of course having a second bushel of apples to deal with meant I didn’t have much time or energy to play “Whack-an-Apple”, so I figured out the cheaters version of making cider.

grater

Quarter apples and send through the grater attachment on your food processor. When you get through all of your apples, allow them to sit in large bowls overnight in your refrigerator. The next day wring the grated apples through cheesecloth and strain the final product if needed. Letting the apples rest overnight allows more juices to naturally release from the fruit, making your job that much easier.

The best part is that you can freeze any cider that you can’t immediately consume for later use! How about some warm cider on Christmas Eve? If the cider wasn’t so good as it was, I would even consider making some apple jack! (hic)

What’s your favorite thing to make with apples?

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Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing This Life where she blargs about her adventures with her Hubby, the Kid, and their life in rural Tennessee.

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Apples just about the perfect fruit!

I was raised in Eastern Washington where apples are grown in abundance.  In fact you can hardly stand anywhere in my hometown and not see an orchard.

We also grow cherries, peaches, pears, apricots, nectarines, and plums…but apples are king.

As I was eating an apple this morning from my hometown I started thinking about just how much I love this particular fruit.

Apple2

First of all they are beautiful growing on the tree.  From the time they are in bloom up until they are harvested of their fruit apple trees are just plain pretty.

Applewagon2

I know of no other fruit tree here in the Northwest that produces with quite such abandon as does the apple….ok except the wild blackberry which I admit grow with even more vigor than our beloved apples!

And then there is the variety…sweet yellows, crisp reds, tart greens…white, yellow, green and even pink flesh…just a stunning assortment of colors and flavors.

Applesauce4

If their good looks and good fresh eatin’ weren’t enough to make you love apples there is the never ending things you can make with them.  Fresh apple cider from the press, applesauce, apple crisp, apple butter and of course the all American apple pie!  Canned, frozen, dehydrated…

Applesauce5

I don’t know how it can get much better than that…

Well except I forgot to mention that they are also great for playing with!

Appleline

Yep, apples…just about the perfect fruit!

I would highly encourage anyone with the climate to accomodate them to give growing apples a try…you will be so glad you did!

So do you have a perfect fruit?

(besides your crazy uncle Mort…he doesn’t count!)

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I made and canned applesauce this fall but my stored apples are starting to get a little soft so I am making fresh batches of sauce experimenting with a few new recipes….

Applesauce5

I have been making applesauce for way longer than I’m ever going to admit here!  In all those years I have tried many different variations and ingredients.  Let’s see, there has been cinnamon and cloves added.  Vanilla has often joined the party.  Lemon for kick, brown sugar, white sugar, and honey have all lent their sweetness.  I even made applesauce once when I first got married that had the surprise ingredient of red hot candies , made the whole batch pink and spicy!  Other fruits have co-mingled, apricots were tangy, peaches sweet, cranberries were lovely.  Still I’m always searching for something better…yes I am a fickle sauce maker.  Here is the latest recipe in a long line of recipes in search of the perfect applesauce,

You’ll need:  Apples , a lemon or two, cinnamon sticks,  whole cloves, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, water

I used:     15# of apples

2 lemons

4 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

1 tsp salt

3 cups water

Applesauce4

Peel, core and cut apples into large chunks…any kind you apples you like

Put them in a big pot, add enough water to keep the suckers from sticking…this will vary depending on how juicy your apples are

Add a few pieces of lemon peel…I used 10 pieces that I removed from the lemons  in long strips with a veggie peeler

Squeeze the lemon over the pot adding the lemon juice…try not to add the seeds!

Put in a cinnamon sticks  (powdered cinnamon in a can works too but I couldn’t tell you how much since I always use cinnamon sticks…you’ll have to guess!)

Add Salt

Applesauce3

Stir once in a while so the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom…burnt bottoms are no fun!

Cook until soft.  Remove lemon peels and cinnamon sticks and cloves.

Eat warm or cold,  can it,  freeze it,  take off your shoes and dance in it…whatever turns your crank!

Taste Test: This is one kick arse applesauce!   The first thing I thought of when I tasted this is “this is one intensely cheery applesauce”  the lemons give it such a bright kicking taste that it is truly sprightly!  I know part of the reason for the intensity is the apples I used.  They were straight from the orchard and there were 5 different kinds and none of them especially sweet and certainly not bland…no Red Delicious are allowed in my orchard, lol!  I like apples with a snappy taste.

Applesauce7

It is intense to the point I’m not quite sure I would sit down to eat a big bowl of it unless it was tempered with say yogurt or better yet vanilla ice cream.  Next time I might put in fewer lemon peel strips and see if it mellows  at all.  I will definitely make it again.  I will can it in pints as opposed to quarts like most of my applesauce since a little of this goes a long delicious way!

Applesauce6

Breakfast this morning, fresh applesauce, organic vanilla yogurt and a slice of homemade pumpkin bread…yummy!

If you have any wonderful applesauce recipes let me know because I have lots of apple left!

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My Dilemma…

I have a problem, a dilemma…a cunundrum

Let me explain…

My mother works two jobs, one in our town in Western Washington.  One over the mountains in my home town of Yakima.  Yakima grows apples.

My mom works for the biggest apple grower in Yakima Valley.  She also happens to be best friends with said apple orchardist…thus the reason for her schlepping over the pass every other week to work.

My mom and her boss/friend/apple grower are both in their 70′s, they are both very nice ladies.  They both like to pick apples for me.

They pick apples, by hand, from various favorite trees in the orchards.  Two little old ladies out picking apples for my family because they love us.

Here is where it gets dicey…

I know what they put on the apples in those orchards…to say they are not organic is an understatement.

Now my mom knows we eat as organically as possible, but she would never tell her friend that I don’t want her apples because they are sprayed…that would hurt her friend.

My mom also knows that I’m frugal…a tightwad if you ask my teenagers.

So I have a bountiful amount of free apples coming in, freshly picked from my mom and friend but I also have the dilemma of should I eat them…should I let my family eat them?

What if I washed them really well and peeled them?

Can I use the peelings in the compost?

I know that these almost 80-year-old orchardists will never ever consider going organic so getting them to try is not even an option…it would be like trying to convince my mom to get a tattoo…not gonna happen!

So there you have it…

Frugality vs. Organic

The final showdown.

Any words of wisdom you can throw my way???

 

BTW, I have had this dilemma for almost 10 years… nothing like being on the fence so long your hiney is starting to hurt!

 

applewagon

Organic apples from our orchard…not even close to enough for all the applesauce we go through!

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Homemade Cider!

When I was still living at home, we had a family friend that had a big farm with a great barn, a perfect orchard and an old fashioned cider press. We’d wander back into the orchard, fight our way past the yellow jackets and the post-digestion horse food to gather buckets full of apples to press.

I don’t have a barn or a big farm, but by granny, I can have a cool cider press. I ciphered and pondered and cogitated but then just decided to get down to building. A few splinters later and I had a working cider press.

Come along and see how we make awesome apple cider on our home grown cider press. I talk a little about the details of construction over at My Home Among The Hills if you are interested.

We start with a variety of windfall apples. The best cider is made from a hodge-podge of apples…a little sweet, a little tart, it makes for a rich flavor. If you don’t have apples of your own, you might consider checking at the farmers’ market for deer apples. At our farmers’ market, we can get a huge (50# maybe) bag of slightly past prime apples for $10

We have a special sledge hammer that I bought new and coated with food grade paint. We manually mash the apples in a food grade bucket by dropping the hammer on it. We use an 8 pound hammer because I felt bad watching my daughter try to lift a 16 pound hammer. Anyhow, the more you mash up the apples, the more juice you can press from the pommace (that’s the name of the crushed up apple mess). There are fancier (and probably more effective) ways to grind apples, but not many that are cheaper or more fun!

We press the pommace in a stainless pot which has holes drilled throughout. I take my…uh…very best bottle jack and let it apply 6 tons of pure, apple smashing power! The juice drains as if it can’t wait for me to drink it…and drink it we do! We usually drink a few glasses straight off the press, but I prefer it cold so we save most for later. I understand that fresh cider will last a week or so if kept cold but we’ve never tested that. It never lasts that long!

So, if you’ve ever dreamed of making cider, if your heart longs to smash apples, if you need to become one with your favorite bottle jack, I encourage you to make your own cider press and let the cider flow!

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