Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rude Applesauce

I was just standing there stirring up trouble, when suddenly the rude applesauce spit at me. But let me back up and tell you this story from the beginning…

Espaliered apple trees
Ten or twelve or thirteen years—oh, who cares, it was a LONG time ago—John built a ginormous wood frame with horizontal wires beside the old patio in our backyard. We planted three apple trees: a dwarf Jonafree (that’s a Jonathan that’s supposed to be disease resistant), a mutsu, and a dwarf something else. We pruned the trees and tied their branches to the wires with rings cut from old panty hose. Eventually espalier happened! 

Be warned, if you start an espaliered tree, you are obligated to maintain it. Every week or two (depending on rain) you have to get out there with the Fiskers and prune the damn things. This is especially true of the mutsu—who wasn’t a dwarf and wants to be a real tree and I won’t let it—so it speedily grows long shoots.

After a few years we had apples. Awful apples. One year I tried a non-poisonous bug deterrent—garlic, cayenne pepper and olive oil (I could have been dressing a salad). I’d have to spray again every time it rained, and the oil got sticky in the sprayer, so I gave up and let the bugs eat all the apples that they wanted. Most years the apples were no bigger than a grape and wormy. They fell quickly off the trees to the delight of the bees and squirrels and chipmunks. All was well with nature. Everyone ate apples except us.

Apple tree with APPLES!

This year something happened. Maybe climate change—last years drought and high heat followed by this years rainy June and July—sent the trees into survival mode. We have REAL apples. Big ones. Red ones. They’re still beloved by the insect world, but those little vegans never eat the whole apple. We cut away the bad parts of a good apple, and taste tested what was left. It was delicious.

So this morning John and I picked apples and sat together on the screened porch cutting them up and putting the good parts in a pot of water with some lemon juice. I washed them, then cooked them down (peels too) with a little sugar, cinnamon and a hit of cayenne. Batches went through the food processor, then back into a clean pot.

The directions for canning applesauce said I had to boil the sauce to 212 degrees. Stir and cook, stir and cook. I stopped stirring for a moment and suddenly the whole mass of sauce lifted in the pan, I shouted to John, “Hey, it’s alive, come see.” He was watching football, so ignored me. But seriously, the applesauce was rising up and down like a beating heart. I stirred quickly, resuscitating it, or killing it. That’s when it started spitting at me. Great spurts and blurps shot to the surface. Sauce flew in the air and it was only 175 degrees. At 190 degrees I put a lid on it and every few seconds poked in with the stirring spoon. Still it leap out at me scorching me through double rubber gloves. Applesauce is totally unruly and violent! 

So now it’s all been processed (canned) and the kitchen’s clean. Whew! I have eleven pint jars of applesauce to sit on a shelf in the basement. I’m thinking about buying a pork roast. Hmmm, what do you think? Doesn't that sound like autumn?

So was it worth all the trouble? 
Yep. I’ve conquered the applesauce. 


Spoils of the fight!