July is not the time of year that I like to can, but the summer apples are ripe and dropping off the tree, so I had to face the music and just do it.
My children were weaned onto homemade applesauce, as was I, and my mother before me. Summer apples are small mushy yellow apples that grow on an old fashioned tree. They get ripe anywhere from the 4th of July to the 15th. After that, they dry up, or fall off the tree. You don't see these trees much anymore because everyone thinks they are "bad" apples and have chopped their trees out.
When we moved here to this town 21 years ago, we noticed a tree in a vacant lot across the street from us that had summer apples. I asked the neighbors whose tree this was, and everyone replied the owner lived out of state and had been gone for years. "Help yourself", they would say, "but", they added, "those are bad apples." Every person on the block told me the same thing. So I picked the apples and we canned applesauce. The tree is very old, and the tallest branches are much too high to reach, so we leave the top-most apples for the robins, who love them. Many drop to the ground because of the bird pecks, and even those, if you pick them up soon enough after they drop are very good for applesauce.
I remember as a child, I used to have to gather the apples from the ground every day, and bring them into my mother, who would core them and cut out all the worm holes, then make the most delicious applesauce. I had never tasted store-bought applesauce, and when I did, I couldn't believe they called it by the same name, the difference was so vast.
After I got married, I was usually able to scrounge around and find one of these wonderful trees that the owners were thrilled to let me have if I picked. So the job of picking and canning applesauce in July became a tradition. After my husband tasted my applesauce, he was very willing to help pick apples and help can.
I finally met the owner of that tree one day when he was in town to check the empty house that stands near the tree. I asked him about that tree, and his answer was exactly the same as all the neighbors. "Help yourself, but those are bad apples."
The miracles of this tree are several. First, this tree NEVER gets any water. Yet its blossoms in the spring are a most magnificent sight. Second, the apples NEVER have a single worm. This is a vast improvement on the ones I grew up with.
Some years the harvest is at least 3-4 trash barrels full. This year it was just a half of one trash barrel full. But I couldn't reach the top-most part of the tree, and this year I didn't have a single helper. S-3 is busy painting the house for a wage and Sailor is busy fixing a car for S-3 to drive away this fall to school. Neither of them were much interested when I looked at the weather today (cloudy and a bit cooler) and said, "today would be a really good day to harvest those apples and make applesauce."
So, the little red hen proceeded to pick the apples and can them into applesauce. She warned S-3, or rather hinted (when he brought her a ladder) that anyone who helped would get to eat the applesauce. He smiled a sweet smile and sort of laughed, and promised to come back and help. I was wondering if he knew the picking would only take less than an hour, especially with some help.
The neighbor man drove by and immediately pulled over. He thought this 50-something woman was crazy to be up here on a ladder, so he stood there and held the ladder for about 15 minutes while I brought down more apples than I had in the last 20 minutes by myself. I promised him a jar. He kept asking, "is that about all?" I assured him, and then after he drove away, I stayed maybe 20 more minutes getting all I could possibly reach. If someone had held the ladder, I might have gotten more, but such is life. The robins are very happy.
I did feel like the little red hen though.
The procedure goes like this:
Wash apples, preferably outside with the hose. Fill previously cleaned trash can up with water. Apples float, but so do the leaves and branches. Scoop apples out into bowl and bring inside. Place apples into a tall pan (I have an 8 quart and a 12 quart) with water and bring to a boil. These are such mushy apples, it just takes bringing them to a boil to make them soft enough to squish into applesauce.
Scoop apples out with a Tupperware sieve, letting the water drain out, and place into Squeezo strainer. This has a large funnel that sends the apples, with the help of a wooden mallet and a hand crank, to an auger which is covered by a fine screen. The screen has an opening at the other end, where all the peelings and seeds are squeezed out into a container, and the applesauce is squeezed through the screen and drips down a chute into a bowl. This is the best invention, and I invested in this machine early in my marriage. It was $70 back then. My mother had a bowl-like strainer with a crank on the top that she ground round and round to make her applesauce. I bought her a Squeezo machine for Christmas long ago. She still uses it.
With 12 cups of freshly squeezed applesauce, I mix:
3 cups of sugar or Splenda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
I ladle these into quart jars, place a softened lid on top, and process for 20 minutes.
I ran out of sugar and Splenda after the first batch, but because I had no help to run to the store and get this for me, and everything was going full speed (both burners going), I just skipped the sugar in the rest. I guess it can be added later, that way I can add Splenda and enjoy it on my diet.
So I think bringing me the ladder probably merits S-3, oh say, maybe one or two jars. . . The rest is mine, I say, MINE. :evil laugh:
And Sailor's as well. He was working on a car for S-3, after all, and took the day off to finish it, and he did offer to help when I was almost finished. But S-3 took a break from painting and played a computer game. . . He is a good kid, and he is back out there painting again now. . .
I may soften up and give him a few more. He will, after all, probably come "shopping" at home (in our cellar full of food storage) once in a while, and by then, the "Little Red Hen Syndrome" will probably have worn off. . . I am a softy. . .