Last year there was a dearth of apples throughout the land due to a warm early spring, and one night of cold temperatures. Any apples on the trees were closely guarded for use in a few pans of applesauce.
This year is the complete opposite! Apples are abundant. Any tree that has tried to hide amongst other trees in the grove can not conceal its identity any longer. For here, there and everywhere apples are turning red, green and yellow, or yellow with red streaks depending on the variety planted.
Years back we had fun looking through the catalogs reading about this apple variety and that one. My farmer had his likes and I had mine. We both wanted to try unknown varieties that had mouth watering descriptions. So we started planting apple trees to begin with an early harvest in July continuing all the way through October.
Apples are a very healthy food and so versatile, so we thought we should plant lots. As we waited for these trees to arrive at bearing age, our impatient appetites told us one can never have enough apple trees, so we planted another row.
Then, during one year of drought when apples trees looked as though they were the only crop we’d have, we planted even more. This year when every apple tree in the county is producing, we still are grateful to have apples, remembering years of scarcity.
The recipe file is searched for ways to use apples. If an apple day keeps the doctor away, then bring on the apple cakes, brownies, caramel apples, and all the salads that include apples and candy bars. Apples are even good just fresh off the tree!
Trees that are ready for harvest don’t want to wait long when the heat is turned up. Box after box of apples find their way to the house, turning my kitchen into an applery. Where we commence to cooking up kettles of applesauce, baking and freezing apple pies, canning and selling apples at the farmer’s market.
The cider press gets a workout when the supply of boxes is full. Each batch has its own flavor. It helps to have boys who don’t mind building up those arm muscles!
The Dolga crabapple seems to always ripen around Labor Day. So that Monday is reserved for canning. The girls picked only a bushel or two of apples that morning. It didn’t produce the eighty quarts like it did in 2007—hurray, no complaints here!
The Dolga, such a hard little red, almost black apple. It’s aromatic fragrance is a delight. A distinct perfume scent of its own, that commands that sense of smell to say what’s this!
Those apples were small this year, but as always big on flavor. A flavor that is puckery tart, not sweet. Most of the apples were canned with stem intact, only the blossom flower removed. The sugar syrup turns a pinkish red during the canning process, leaving a jar of tempting fruit for dessert when the trees stand bare and empty.
The remaining apples are placed in the steam juicer which extracts the red liquid. It gives the kitchen an intoxicating smell. The girls spent an afternoon making one of the best, prettiest jellies ever. The flavor and fragrance brings back the taste of summer anytime a jar is open. It’s tart flavor wakes up any taste buds on those cold, cloudy wintry days.
Hope is renewed that winter is just for a season.
Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf
Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.
To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected].