My parents planted apple trees 30 years ago when they moved into their home. Macoun, Crispin, and Northern Spy apples. And if you’re wondering, that’s the best time to have planted a fruit orchard… 30 years ago.
I was as old as my own daughter when they bought the house, and I though have exactly one photo of their yard sans landscaping, there are hundreds of it in various state of evolution. The ever-changing state of that homestead might be the biggest reason I enjoy taking lots of photos of my own homes. I have a lot of memories playing in the backyard alongside those trees; they were never sturdy enough to climb when I was in my formative spider monkey years, but we used the then-small fruits as alts to tennis balls when playing with our dogs, and dodged low-hanging branches while riding our bikes and running the bases on our makeshift diamond.
My Dad was raised on a working apple farm, so this mission of his was fairly intentional, to cultivate the perfect orchard that would be in full effect by the time my sister and I were adults returning to enjoy it with our own families. Well done, parents, and thanks for the 100+ lbs. of apples.
We visited a few weekends ago. This is the third year that we harvested fruit. For longer, my parents have been able to harvest a bushel or two for themselves to eat and make desserts for special occasions, but without spraying (these trees are pesticide-free) the apple harvest has continued to improve and this year is the best yet. Besides the age of the trees themselves, I don’t know enough about all of the other factors that contribute to a stellar growing season (rain, warmth, pollination conditions) but I’ll hope for now that these mature apple trees are around and serving us for many decades to come.
In all honesty, we could have filled 140 boxes of apples, not just the 4 that we lugged home in our laps and underfoot. The plan? Applesauce for ages.
This year we’ll make as much as we can. We’ll probably have homemade sauce until Spring, even if the girls eat it several times a week.
The quick recipe?
- ~20 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped. For the love of efficiency, buy yourself one of these apple peelers (shown above).
- 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup of sugar (optional – I test more and less sugar with each batch, the apples themselves are quite sweet but I think it helps the juices extract from the fruit)
- Put all of it right on the stove in a covered stock pot over medium heat for 20 minutes. Stir. The apples will begin to break down, it will become quite liquidy. Cover with the heat on low for an additional 20-30 minutes. After this point, the apples should break down easily when you poke them. A simple potato masher will do the trick, a hand blender if your family is more particular about lumps – work it until you have the consistency that you want. Let the applesauce cool, and store in the refrigerator.
- If you have excess like me with my 20 batches, freeze it in manageable quart-size freezer bags, working to squeeze out the air in the bag while you seal it. Lay them flat in the freezer, and store them for 3-months (typical freezer) or for a year (deep freezer) and use on-demand.