Every September, I think back to a time years ago when I took the kids to an orchard to pick our own apples. Some friends of mine knew how to can and preserve them, and were willing to teach me.
Channeling my inner Martha Stewart sounded like a good idea.
I picked a beautiful September day; we got in our 15-year-old, beat up mini-van that made more noise than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and headed to Bob White Acres. The kids each grabbed a bushel, and off we went. The first took no time to fill, but after their second bushel, the kids began to get tired. Aubrie had hers about half full, while Elyse had two or three apples in her basket.
Boy put his bushel on his head, found a stick which he waved wildly, and began running around breathing heavily, screaming, “Luke, I’m your father!”
With visions of apple goodness dancing in my head, I pressed on and dragged the kids from grove to grove.
We got home and Matt got a look at our van full of apples. He figured we’d get a few bushels; he had no idea I was going to turn into Martha Stewart - on crack. But I’ve done worse, so he just started carrying the massive quantities of apples and deposited them on the deck.
Being an apple picking novice, I hadn’t thought far enough ahead to keep the different varieties separated. I can cook, but no one has ever accused me of being a baker. I knew that Granny Smith apples were tart, but thought that all red apples were sweet.
Turns out, red apples can be tart and green apples can be sweet. I also learned that some apples make terrific pies, but don’t make the best applesauce; and some apples are better for eating because they don’t soften after cooking. I stood on my deck, glaring at the mountain of apples and not having an idea of which was which. Since I’m not known for patience, I decided to press on. What’s the worst that could happen?
Unfortunately, I have a gift for finding out what the worst is.
I started out by making one of my kids' favorites – applesauce. I peeled, chopped, cooked and mashed. But I couldn’t quite get all the apples mashed, and instead of being sweet, the sauce had an unpleasant tangy sourness to it. I kept adding sugar to the batch, but soon, I had an overly sweet, crunchy mess that had enough sugar in it to rot the kids’ teeth in one sitting. Into the trash it went.
Next I tried apple cider; that, too, didn’t turn out. It was too sweet, too sour or too thick. Not wanting to throw in the towel, I stored it in the pantry until I had the patience to strain it a little better or add more sugar. Months later, I stumbled upon it and took a giant swig.
And that’s when I found out where vinegar comes from.
I had better success with pies, because with the right amount of sugar, cinnamon and raisins, just about anything can be tasty. But in the end, we ended up eating a lot of apples; a LOT of apples. By spring time, I’d had my fill of apples and wouldn’t have cared if I saw or ate another one again.
It’s been many years; enough that I can now look back on the great apple picking debacle and laugh. I’ve learned the differences between them, and have even begun eating them again. But now, if I want applesauce, I go to the grocery store and pick it straight from their shelves.
To quote ol’ Martha, that’s a good thing.
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