You Brady Bunch Fans will get the title, no one else probably will!
Today was a snow day here at Casa de Peaceable Kingdom. It snowed about 5 inches or so, then turned to freezing rain, of which we were blessed with about 1 1/2 inches of that and now it's raining buckets. It's really never good to get rain in January in New Hampshire. One, because all it does is ice over and make the world a skating rink, and another reason is because we have a pesky leak in our basement that tends to grace us when the water coming in is about 32 degrees even. No fun, so we'll see what happens tomorrow...
Anyways, on to today's big adventure. You can see from the photo that today was applesauce day. When the boys are both home all day, it sometimes takes some ingenuity on my part to keep it from falling into a big ol' bickerfest. So, our local orchard starts to run a sale on apples this time of year. They want to sell off what they've got in storage before it rots. That works out great for me since I get to have 1 peck bags for a bargain. If you buy 3 pecks, you get 1 peck free. A peck bag will usually net us about 3 quarts of applesauce. So, today, we processed 2 pecks. It's a lot of work, but I will tell you, once you try the homemade stuff, you just can't go back to the watery stuff in the jars at the store. The boys LOVE my homemade applesauce (which I have knicknamed "Two Brother's Applesauce" since they enjoy it so much).
This process starts with the boys getting to stand on chairs at the sink, up to their eyeballs in apples floating in the water. They take a cloth and wash each apple, then place them on a cookie tray to drain. This is a LOT of apples, 4 pecks, and so this kept them busy for almost an hour. I spent that time sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a cup of Nutcracker Sweet tea and browsing my High Mowing Seed catalog. Ahhh, I take my moments where I get them, and they had a fun time washing all those apples. Little Red quit a bit before Maestro in this process, but they did manage to wash all 4 pecks by hand.
After cleaning up the HUGE water mess at the sink, I took the squeeky clean apples and started to peel them. I do have one of those apple peelie machines, but they take off so much of the apple meat that I stopped using it. Bummed me out, too, because it's a nifty little machine and would save me some time. Plus, it makes the apples in one long curly strip and that's just plain fun. The boys would love to help with that if it didn't waste so much of the actual apple! After peeling by hand with the dullest knife in the world (I liken it to peeling and dicing all these apples with a butter knife), I diced them and got them cooking in the big pot. I liked to use Golden Delicious along with MacIntosh and Cortland apples mixed. The GD's add such a nice touch of sweetness that I don't need to add additional sugar. Dump in a bit of nutmeg, a bit of cinnamon, some water and simmer away until the apple pieces fall apart. I don't make any of that mamby pamby silky smooth stuff. My men like some chunks in their sauce, and so I only cook them down enough to make it part smooth but quite lumpy. Truly so yummy!
After cooking it down and boiling the quart jars to sterilize, I hot pack (which means put it in the jars straight from the pot, guaranteed to burn at least one layer of your finger's skin off), then dunk them into a big pot full of boiling water. Let them do their thing for 20 minutes, then take them out. Then they are placed on the cooling rack. At this point in the process, you get the best reward.
I will busy myself cleaning up the mess that's invariably left over and wait for that sound all canners smile over. That soft "POP" that let's you know that your work did in fact seal. If you don't hear the pop, you have to reprocess the ones that don't. The pop happens, then you check the cover for that flat, unyeilding cover. So great. And an even better reward then that is watching the boys in my house (and this includes Music Man, this is the only kind of applesauce he'll eat) enjoying the fruits of my hard labor. It goes back to nourishing my family with my own hands and toil. I really do get a great sense of satisfaction to be able to grab a jar off the shelves and pop it open and scoop it on french toast, or add it to pancake batter, or scoop it in a dish, heat it up and put some vanilla ice cream on top. When you taste all these wonderful dishes with your own handmade applesauce, it gives the flavor of apples a whole new meaning. Here's my favorite way to enjoy a fast dessert of apples. You can use either chunky applesauce or just apples cut in chunks, microwaved for about 2 minutes with a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg added. Oh, try it, you won't be disappointed!!
Take applesauce and heat in microwave until warmed (but not too hot), crumble 1/2 cinnamon sugar topped graham cracker into pieces (not too fine, you want to taste the chunks), top with whipped cream and enjoy. My boys ask for this treat often, so we needed a new batch of applesauce. So worth the effort it takes to make it.
Try a little homemade goodness of your own, it's really pretty easy and a great way to pass a snow day with your children.
Popping lids for you, ~Peacemom