The excessive heat we had earlier in the summer appears to have accelerated the harvest. This weekend, we went to pick apples, and they were literally falling off the trees. Usually, the best picking isn’t until October. I also went out this morning and pulled up the last six tomato plants out of the front yard. I don’t usually do that till nearly Halloween, but this year, the plants didn’t do nearly as well as far as producing went. The plants themselves; however, were amazing. I’ve grown tomatoes every year for nearly 20 years and I have NEVER seen root systems like these. If we were in a more temperate climate, I’m betting these would have been perennials! It was hard to pull them up, but the temp dipped down to 38 night before last, so they wouldn’t have lasted much longer anyway. I found a few more ripe goodies in their depths and enough green ones to make some friend green tomatoes, so even with the erratic harvest I can’t complain. G is outside right now pulling more vines, getting the beds ready for winter, etc. We’ve decided that next year, our long garden by the street will be a meadow. We’ve bought a mixture of native grass and wildflower seeds. Once all the veggies come out, I’ll rototill and we’ll plant the seeds and next year, hopefully, we’ll get a beautiful grassy/flowery area that will need very little water and NO mowing. It’ll be good to let the ground rest and just be lovely.
So, now the question becomes, what to do with the lovely fruit we picked? Last night and this morning, we made some of G’s most famous and wonderful applesauce. Now, I never was much of an applesauce person. The texture was too mushy, even when I was a kid. Later, I found a brand of chunky applesauce that I liked better, but still, eh, not a huge fan. Then G made some from our apples shortly after we got together. Oh. My. God. Of course, she had a secret ingredient which I will share. This is SO easy, I promise you will never buy applesauce again. First, just take some apples. These are a mixture of McIntosh, Jonathan and Golden Delicious that we picked:
Last night, while watching TV, we cut and quartered them and put them in a big roasting pan we have. It measures approximately 13 x 17 x 4 inches, but use what you have. No need to peel the apples. When the pan is mounded full of cut apples, put them in the oven at about 350, cover with the top or foil and cook for about an hour. Pull out, stir and check for moisture. The dry season ensured that these apples weren’t very juicy but the flavor–INTENSE! Add a little water to keep them from sticking, but not much. Turn the heat down to 325 and keep cooking. Your house will begin to smell like heaven. If you want to SELL your house, do this when you have an open house. After 2-3 hours, the apples will start to break down. You can mash them up with a potato masher, just check about every hour and keep cooking. Once the apples are broken down into a chunky sauce-type texture, add the secret ingredient–cinnamon red-hot candies! For our batch we used two 6-ounce boxes plus 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. PERFECT. Didn’t need more sweet, didn’t need more cinnamon. The apple flavor comes through perfectly and the red hots give the sauce a lovely pink color. We started late and had to go to bed, so just let them sit in the oven overnight. If you’re worried, you can refrigerate them, but we’ve never had any problem. Or start earlier. 😉
This morning, we turned the oven back on and got the apples heated through. Then G pulled out her secret weapon:
This is a food mill (if you didn’t know). It has hooks on the bottom what will fit right over the side of the pan, and she just scoops the apples into it and mills them through, cooked peels and all. She had maybe a cup of peel left by the time she got everything worked through. You could also continue to use the potato masher or probably a food processor, but make sure you don’t process to mush. You want some texture:
Then, just ladle into containers and freeze. You could process in a water bath, I guess, but freezing is easier. This is SO GOOD in the cold winter when you want a taste of something to remind you that yes, spring WILL come again.
Even if you’ve never canned or preserved a thing in your life, you can do this. I can’t encourage you strongly enough. Give it a shot. I promise you won’t regret it.
Next up, something a little different. Stay tuned!