Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Last year, a late Spring frost killed the apple blossoms so we had no apples to speak of.
This year, the trees are bowing low, offering us (and the bears and the deer, judging by the scat I'm finding) their bounty. Ancient trees that in previous years have had scant, spotty fruit are showering the ground with a variety of apples in all texutres, sizes and colours. The further we walk into the bush, the more old trees we find, each bearing its own unique apples: tiny red beauties with crisp, golden flesh, tart green crabs, fist-sized fruit with a blush of pink on one side that are my favourite for fresh-eating.
I sigh in frustration each time I buy a bag of overpriced apples, grown in the USA no less (no offense to American growers, but apples are something we CAN grow in Canada). My children love apples and eat several a day. Apples used to be kind of cheap to buy, so I made lots of crisps and pies. Now I ration them because of the price!
This year, I'm determined to make the most of this bumper crop. I've made a few jars of sauce, and will use these early-September days to make juice, jelly, and pie-filling. Some friends came by yesterday and backed their truck up under one of the trees, shaking the fruit free of their branches to finish off the pigs they're raising. You could say that this year, apples are my farm's zucchini...I'm leaving them on doorsteps and hastily trying to preserve as much as I can!
The other night I called my parents with a fleeting, vague memory of eating tiny apple preserves. I can remember biting soft green apples from their stems, dripping in syrup. I hadn't eaten them in recent memory, but mom assures me that we used to eat them at my Nanny's house. I expect that this was the quickest way for our forebears to save the apple harvest (and ensure a winter's worth of Vitamin C), and to make the most of the abundant crab apples that are not sweet enough for other purposes. So I'll be adding whole crab apple preserves to my to-make list. They're good with pork, or toast, or over a plain piece of cake.
I also hope to save some whole apples and will see how long they'll last in our cool (but damp) basement.
Needless to say, my children got on the school bus this morning with a beautiful, organic, homegrown, heritage apple in their lunchbags. And they didn't cost me a cent!
This fall, I'm going to read up on giving these old trees some love. We'll clear the grass and brush that surround them, and prune them to encourage the future's harvest.