03 October 2009

Putting Up Fruit

Since I'm more mobile these days, I'm trying to make the best use of my time off work. This weekend, I'm putting up apples and pears.

We are fortunate to have an orchard - well, I say "orchard", it's really just three apple and two pear trees that came with the property. I just like saying “I'll be in the orchard”. I suspect one of the apple trees is a golden delicious but I'm not sure about the other two. We call them "the one with the reddish-green really tart apples" and "the one by the horse pasture”. (I'm not sure what their Latin names are.) I suspect the pear trees are Bartletts.

All the trees produce pretty well but they need serious pruning and thinning: the fruit is plentiful but tends to be small. We'll probably need to have a tree surgeon come out and do the job. (Nurse! A number ten chainsaw, stat!) They have gotten too tall for even my six-foot-three-inch fiance to reach on our tallest ladder.

We are getting toward the end of the season but I think I can still get close to a bushel of apples and probably three bushels of pears. I hate to pass up free food so I have a busy few days ahead of me.

I don't mind some fruit falling to the ground - the slow decay gives that lovely fall-in-the-orchard scent. And the deer get a little buffet and stay away from our garden (such as it is). And the horses next door get a few. And the cows on the other side have learned to come running when anyone walks by. And Henry, our yellow lab, thinks they are quite a treat - I'm sure he'll be confused when the season is over and they are all gone, poor boy!

I have all the equipment (and skills) to can pretty well but the quickest and best route for fruit, I think, is to freeze it. I don't eat a lot of jams and jellies (and JD is diabetic and has to be mindful of his sugar intake) so making pints and pints of preserves isn't going to work for us. I decided to peel, core and toss them in freezer bags. In their unadulterated state, I can decide later on what make with them. (Does this mean I have commitment issues? I can't decide!)

I'm not usually a fan of task-specific kitchen gadgets but I have to say I'm pretty taken with this apple peeler/corer/slicer. 

It makes quick work of an apple and also seems to be able to peel pears if they are not too ripe (and soft).  Here's how it works:

1. Spike the apple:

2. Crank the handle and it starts peeling:

3.  Keep cranking 'til it goes all the way through the corer:

4.  Voila! Ready-to-use apple!

The peeler blade arm could use a little adjustment. It has a spring that holds it against the apple and, as it is, takes a pretty thick layer of peel and apple flesh with it. If the spring was looser, the blade would run more lightly over the apple and take a shallower bite (ha) out of it. But what it lacks in economy, it certainly makes up for in efficiency. And when I have four bushels of fruit in front of me, I'm willing to sacrifice a bit!

I cram them all into a bunch of vacuum seal bags and, well, vacuum-seal them. We have a good-sized chest freezer so that will be their home until I get 'round to using them. I've just recently started using the ones from last year to make fruit leather so the vacuum-sealing works well for long-term storage.

I don't worry about the apples turning brown since I figure anything I make with these will involve cooking them which would turn them brown in any case.

So I'm off to pick apples. If you need me, I'll be in the orchard....

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