Last weekend, a paper shopping bag full of apples made its way into my kitchen. My daughter had been visiting friends who live on a farm, and their apple trees are bearing early and bountifully this year.
‘Wow!’ I thought, a little weak in the knees, ‘will ya' look at all those apples!’ The apples stared back at me.
“They’re not eating apples,” my daughter warned me. “They’re cooking apples.”
All those years before I retired, it was a whole lot easier to buy my apple products ready-made at the grocery store than go through all the work of processing them myself.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know how to deal with a huge bagful of apples. My childhood is filled with memories of apples—we had about a million apple trees in our back yard (or maybe four). Anyway, I can remember helping my mother peel, slice, mush, can, pickle, and freeze apples for weeks at the end of summer and into the fall. I can still peel an entire apple without breaking the peel (hold your applause).
I looked balefully at that bagful of apples for several days. Tom looked balefully at me looking balefully at those apples. I don’t even know what “balefully” means, but I know that looking baleful didn’t get the apples taken care of.
Finally, yesterday, I dug into the back of the cupboard and found what I was looking for: my mother’s old cone-shaped stand sieve with the wooden pestle. The applesauce machine. I didn’t even have to look up the recipe—apples, water, cinnamon, and a little sugar.
Applesauce. Any idiot could do it. It was like riding a bike; you never forget how. First I cored and quartered half of the apples. Do expect a blister on your knife finger; this is not labor for the faint-hearted. Then I put the quartered apples into my biggest kettle with about a half-cup water per eight apples.
Add sugar or Splenda (optional) and cinnamon (also optional) to taste. Cook until the apples get mushy, dump them into the conical sieve, grind away with the pestle, and presto change-o! Applesauce.
Then I repeated the whole process for the second half of the apples. If I’d had a bigger kettle, I would have done them all at once.
And do you know what? I had fun. It was relaxing doing one of those no-brain childhood chores with my mother’s old apple sieve and pestle. And the blister from coring all those apples didn’t even hurt. It was more like a Girl Scout badge of domestic achievement.