Monday, October 14, 2013

Apples and Gifts

It's October, harvest season. And the harvest has been bountiful. The "tribe" of women I hang with has been purchasing and processing local foods. We buy in bulk to get better prices. We work together to make teaching and learning about canning, drying and planting more fun. We share our tools, knowledge, products, and our spirits.

Some of our "tribe" posing in our community garden plot.
Back in August we made a wonderful purchase of about 160 lbs of peaches. You can read about how we turned them into canned peaches, peach pickles, peach butter, peach jelly and peach salsa here. We set aside one of each item to return as a gift to the farmers at Nicewicz Family Farm who were so generous with us. Last Thursday two of us returned to bring farmer Tommy our gift and to purchase apples for our next round of food preparation and storage.

Tommy (one of 4 brothers who run the farm) and I with our gift.
Not only did we purchase their honey crisp apple seconds (which they otherwise don't sell) for a very good price, but they offered their beautiful bosc pear seconds too. We bought 4 boxes and they threw in an additional box of smaller pears that are more work to process. We came home with 16 20-pound boxes to be divided among 5 or 6 women. 

The work of dividing, sharing and processing began. Below is my car filled with fruit and my friend's dehydrator which I was borrowing for a couple days. The paper bags contain garlic heads that we bought in bulk. I'll deliver them before the first frost so we can plant them in our gardens. Behind that are some bales of salt hay for my fall garden prep.

Once home, the first job was to sort out the best apples to store in the basement for school lunches and out-of-hand eating around the house.  I hope they will last a month or two. My family will have devoured them by then.

Then the processing began. Washing, peeling, slicing, arranging on trays and drying. On my own, it took between 1 1/2 to 2 hours to fill the machine. Then six hours to process about 18 apples into about 12 cups of dried apples. When I set up our own family assembly line with Doug peeling, me slicing and the kids arranging the pieces on the dehydrator trays, a whole batch took about half an hour.

Filling the dehydrator with thinly sliced apples.
After 5-6 hours, the apples and dried and shrunken.

Now don't think that during the downtime I was just relaxing. Certainly not! The apples were waiting. While hanging out in the warm, fragrant kitchen, I got another batch of apple butter into the crock pot. You can read about that process here. And I baked a couple of French Apple Cakes from a great recipe on David Lebovitz's blog.

Both the dehydrator and crock fit on this out-of-the-way table.
Beautiful dried apples and their source.

Two French Apple Cakes. One went with me to a pot luck, the other stayed home.
 It's been a busy couple days, but all the apples are processed or stored. On to the pears....


Kaat at MamaStories said...

You put away all of the apples already?!
(I am so behind.)
Lovely to hear that the family assembly line shortened processing time to half an hour.
I will try the apple butter, and am curious as to what you will do with the pears.

Meryl said...

French apple cake is my favorite! Methinks we may have to have some for dessert tonight.

rhonda jean said...

This is such a great post, Andrea. You're in with a good group of women.

Andrea said...

Thanks Rhonda Jean,
I see lots of people are visiting my blog today thanks to you. I hope we can all find new ways to make our communities more food resilient and our local farmers more secure.

My Simple Life said...

you have been very busy. love french-apple cake.
like your blog!!!
wishing you a nice day,
blessings regina