Original post at http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/NashvillianPastoral/~3/UrwIEJJYIJo/i-love-you-bushel-and-peck.html
Guys'n'Dolls? Anyone? Okay whatever.
I'll cut straight to the chase. We've been buying bushels of apples for $22.75 from Bulk Natural Foods
. (I will do another post on BNF soon, but let it suffice to say that if you are in middle Tennessee and not taking advantage of this co-op, you are a fool!)
And what does one do with a bushel of apples, especially if one doesn't have a spare refrigerator or other cold cellar in which to store them?
One does what one can.
Which includes: applesauce, pie filling, eating out of hand, dehydrating, cider.
First, a word about varieties. We were able to pick from about fifteen different kinds of apples, and I had no idea what I was doing. I knew that Red Delicious are often mushy, that Granny Smith are too tart for me to eat plain, and that the rest were somewhere in between. For our first bushel, I ordered Cortlands. I got the box, tore it open, pulled a rosy red fruit out to taste, and . . . it . . . mushed between my teeth. Nothing more disappointing than wanting to crunch into an apple and getting mush. But they made stupendous sauce and really good, thick, pectin-y cider. They also had a creamy white flesh that dried really nicely.
Second go-round, I went with Cameos. Got the box, ripped it open, picked one up, said a little prayer . . . and . . . CRUNCH! Perfection. Lovely, firm, crisp, juicy flesh.
For winter storage, I read up on how to keep them in a cooler in the backyard. Apples need to be between 28 and 30 degrees for optimal lifespan, so a cooler in the shade in a Nashville winter is about right. I packed them in layers between newspaper in a regular old Igloo cooler. Make sure all the apples are good, because you know what they say about one bad apple . . . (it spoils the whole bunch, girl).
For sauce, you don't really need a recipe. 4 pounds of apples yields about 1 1/2 quarts of sauce. From my first bushel, I put up 12 half-pints to give out for Christmas presents. I just peeled, cored, and quartered 8 pounds of apples, added in a cup of water, and threw in a star anise and a few big chunks of fresh ginger. I stewed it all until it was quite soft - maybe 2 hours. At that point, the apples had fallen apart and the texture was just slightly chunky. If you wanted it smoother, you could mash it or put it through a food mill. I heated the jars, removed the star anise and ginger chunks, and funneled it into my half-pints. Processed in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Done! I'm getting ready to put up a few more quarts this week for family usage through the winter.
I'm going to make pie filling this week with this recipe: spiced apple pie filling
For cider, we are lucky enough to have friends from church with an old-fashioned cider press! (Hi Elaine!) We went up there a couple of weeks ago for supper and cider pressing. Vicki Jo got to experience a hen house for the first time, and was totally freaked out as she helped collect the eggs. The Cortlands made great cider, but the yield wasn't too high. About a half bushel yielded only a half gallon of cider. We tore through that in about two days! Freshly-pressed cider is not even comparable to storebought pasteurized cider. But I'll drink that too. The Cameos are much juicier, and I suspect they would yield more cider if pressed.
And finally: dehydrating! I don't have a fancy-pants dehydrator, and even if I did, I would have nowhere in my dang house to put it. But I can do one better: a giant convection oven at my place of employ!
I do about ten apples at a time. Peel, core, slice thin, lay out on parchment
(made this mistake once - never again!), put into the oven on lowest temperature and high convection until nice and dry - about 3 or 4 hours.
These are so addictive. Like potato chips but really good for you and packed with fiber and with no nasty oils. I can tear through a gallon size bag by myself in an evening.
So! Apples. There you have it. Buying in bulk is super-economical (I'm paying roughly 55 cents per pound, which is about a third what these varieties cost at the market), and makes you feel really homemaker-ish as you stock your shelves with stuff that you made!
[This post submitted to Real Food Wednesday
12/11/13, Unprocessed Fridays
12/13/13 and Fight Back Friday