One of the most satisfying things about leaving behind a megalopolis of ~23 million for a rural island of ~11 thousand is being so much closer to the land where the food we eat is grown. We had a great time recently scavenging for free apples and seeing how many different uses to which we could put our little red and green treasures.
Childhood friend L and I started off hitting up our friends and acquaintances with apple trees. We took a couple afternoons, in the company of Baby A to do some very inefficient, albeit enjoyable, apple picking. Implements such as rakes, shovels, and pruning clippers were employed. Deer poo was stepped in. A writhing, wriggling infant was lugged cross-country.
L’s mom and dad are the proud owners of a cider press they built from a kit many years ago. We rounded up a few extra hands one crisp, clear Sunday afternoon and had ourselves a pressing party. This was, of course, the first time my Better Half had participated in a cider pressing. He quickly became an expert apple crusher.
L’s mom had the bright idea to make applesauce from the crushed pulp of the squeezed apples. We tried a couple different ways. First, we boiled the pulp with an inch or two of hot water and ran the resulting soggy mess through a food mill. It wasn’t half bad! Baby A’s been eating this unsweetened wonder mixed with organic oatmeal and loving it.
The second way we made applesauce was to run the pulp, uncooked, through my mom’s Champion juicer. Side note – that machine is a beast. Mom bought it 10 or 15 years ago from a woman who was living in an old school bus. It is a solid, piece of equipment and I know she’s never regretted the purchase. It doesn’t even compare to the two juicers the Better Half got me in China. The resulting applesauce (sauce, not juice, because most of the moisture in the apples had of course already been pressed out) was naturally sweeter and more intense than the watered-down cooked version, but still pretty juicy. I cooked some of this down and spiced it up to make Apple Butter, which has been great on toast and waffles.
There were also some tasty Applesauce Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting that resulted from that applesauce, and plenty more tucked away in the freezer for use throughout the Winter.
The cider itself has been amazing to drink with breakfast, and the other night I boiled several cups of it with homemade mulling spices (cinnamon, crushed nutmeg, star anise, allspice berries, whole cloves, and orange peel from my Grandma’s trees in central California). It was ah-ma-zing.
Next up: I’m going to try and modify a recipe for Apple Cider Pie. Yes, that’s cider pie. No actual apples involved. I’ve made it once before and it doesn’t quite fill up the pie crust, so I’m going to try to make it a tart with a shortbread crust. Stay tuned.