Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Red Apples for a Gray Day

 It’s drizzly and cloudy outside, and I can see the hens scratching and pecking industriously, in spite of the cool, gray weather. It feels like fall, and I watch them forage busily as I carry in a box of apples, my own work ahead of me.

Maybe it’s the anticipation of rows of quart jars filled with cinnamon-specked sauce to be opened in the bluster of winter. Or maybe it’s some genetic memory of preserving the harvest. Whatever the reason, being in possession of a nice box of crisp new apples makes me smile.

Akane apples
These apples are “Akane” apples, a newer, early season variety that originated in Japan and is a cross between Jonathans and an English variety called Worcester Pearmain. It’s an apple that shines up to a high gloss, a beautiful pink-red color with bright green brushstrokes giving it a jaunty look. It’s one of some 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States. With bright white flesh, these are a nice balance of sweet and tart, well-suited to applesauce and apple butter and pie, but sweet enough to eat out of hand. They were grown just up the road, in the shadow of the Rockies.

I have a glimmer of memory that my great grandmother made rosy applesauce. For years, I thought she’d colored her applesauce with red cinnamon imperials. She did make deep red apple rings with cinnamon hearts, but it was only after I made applesauce with red-skinned apples that I realized where her applesauce had gotten its pink color. The skin itself lends an appetizing blush.
With the whisper of her memory at my elbow, I pour the apples into a sink full of cold water. I make applesauce, using an apple peeler to core, peel, and slice them. Then I set the peels and cores aside. Once I’m done with the applesauce, I boil the peels and cores in about 6 cups of water, extracting a pink juice that works perfectly for jelly.*

The scent of apples rise, and I put up about 8 quarts of cinnamon-sugar laced applesauce, and about 8 half-pints of jelly. The world had troubles boiling up when my great grandmother stood in her own kitchen making applesauce. And the world rages onward beyond my kitchen walls. But for the moment, there is peace in this harvest ritual, and it scents my kitchen with comfort.

*Boil peels and cores from 30 or so apples in 6 cups of water; strain through jelly bag or cheesecloth then, add enough water to make 7 cups. Stir in one box of powdered pectin, boil; add 8 cups sugar, 1 T. cinnamon; boil hard 2 minutes and fill clean jars leaving 1/4 –inch headspace. Process in a water bath canner as directed for your altitude.

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