You may have noticed that Pearl does most of the preserving in our family. Most of the cooking, too, on account of the fact that, no matter how hard I try, most things I cook turn out being kind of bland and most things she cooks turn out to be freaking delicious. But we're kind of OK with this distribution of labour, and believe that people should pursue what they're good at - most of the time. Self-extension outside of one's comfort zone is also something we value. It was with this in mind that I have embarked, in the last few days, on my first preserving adventure.
OK, OK. It's not technically my first. I did have a fling with a batch of disastrous (ie. mouldy) mulberry jam, which I made without a recipe. That's just the way I roll.
This time round, I did use an approximation of a recipe, which I found in our oft-used book, Preserving the Harvest by Carol Costenbader (Pearl calls her the botulism scaremongerer) It's getting quite the work-out these days, as we frantically try to preserve the ridiculous amount of cheap, organic fruit and veg we pick up at the markets and, in the case of these apples, on the side of our road, not far from the famous plum tree that was the absolute highlight of our summer.
The day we went to first check on our cows (who have moved on now, by the way, having trampled and chomped the grass to a useful level) we were pretty excited to spot the tree, kind of laden with HUGE green-with-reddish-blush apples. When I say HUGE, I mean seriously huge (capitals v italics? Which is more emphatic??), like, difficult for an adult to eat a whole one.
As we discovered with the plums, there's some kind of special feeling you get from finding free food growing on the side of the road, especially when it's delicious and freakishly free of pests. Both the plums and the apples seem to have been untouched by the usual suspects, namely fruit fly and birds, and we cannot for the life of us work out why, given that both trees are entirely unattended.
We picked as many as we could happily reach and transport, then headed home to decide how best to preserve. The Apple Pie Filling recipe in Preserving the Harvest was an immediately obvious choice for me, since I believe that a) the best way to eat fruit is in a dessert, and b) dessert is the most important meal of the day and so deserves to have the most delicious ingredients.
I had (perhaps problematically) assumed that Pearl would, as usual take on the task of preserving. But after a couple of weeks of the apples sitting there on the bench, with Pearlie attending to other important tasks such as her TAFE assignments, South East Food Project meetings and general daily kid-wrangling and house-maintaining, I decided to take matters into my own hands one day while I was home with Oscar. We peeled and chopped, then tried to make sense of what "6 quarts fresh tart apples" would look like. In the end we decided it was probably a lot like a big saucepan full, so that's what we cooked up.
And they tasted pretty good!! Today I hot-packed them into their Vacola jars, then set them to boil in the Vacola pot for the recommended 25 minutes.
So far, there is a good suction on the lids (though I'm always nervous about removing the clips) which hopefully means no mould.
The remaining few apples in the first pic are going into another batch of tomato sauce, and the giant zucchini was today transformed into a zucchini pickle. The shelves are heaving! And we're looking forward to a winter of cheese and pickle sandwiches up on the land if the rain stops in time for us to get the footing dug in time for our little strawbale-building workshop... But that will be the topic of Tuesday's post, I'm sure.