What I learned today

Guess what I did today?  And yes, that is a 7 cubic yard cart behind the lawn tractor nearly full of apples.  From just two trees.  That still have more apples.

Guess what I did today? And yes, that is a 7 cubic yard cart behind the lawn tractor nearly full of apples. From just two trees. That still have more apples.

It’s all about apples.   The prep work for teaching in  Houston is nearly done, and the last of the apple trees are seriously laden.  They won’t last until AFTER going to International Quilt Festival in Houston, so I figured I’d best harvest today.

This tree is so old, and I love the architecture of the tree.  In winter when it is bare, the branches are like sculpture.  In spring the blossoms are a soft pink, and in summer and fall the apples grow and grow.  This year we had these unbelievable clusters, and some of the apples are as large as grocery store apples, not the usual apricot size on most of the 20+ old trees on our property.

This tree is so old, and I love the architecture of the tree. In winter when it is bare, the branches are like sculpture. In spring the blossoms are a soft pink, and in summer and fall the apples grow and grow. This year we had these unbelievable clusters, and some of the apples are as large as grocery store apples, not the usual apricot size on most of the 20+ old trees on our property.

This all started in early 2011 when the owner of this property (which became ours in February 2011) told me the previous summer he had harvested 52 **bushels** of apples and had them made into cider.  Let’s be honest:  I have NO interest in being a farmer, harvesting 52 bushels of anything, let alone turning it all into cider.  But….How could I let all those good apples this year go to the critters and bugs?  I have to do something with them….

I filled this big bucket about halfway with the red apples and twice with the red-green ones.

I filled this big bucket about halfway with the red apples and twice with the red-green ones. 

This year we had a bumper crop of apples and peaches.  We had maybe 30 peaches (the previous two summers our maximum was 3, yep, three) and a gazillion apples and even a tree-full of pears, tho the latter never got above 2 inches long (if that).

Back when rhubarb started growing, fellow Frayed Edges member Kate Cutko made us a rhubarb crumble that was delicious–and really easy:  Ch0p fruit.  Make a crumble topping.  Make a slurry of water, cornstarch and sugar.  Put half of crumble in bottom of baking dish, add fruit, top with remaining crumble, pour sweet slurry on top of everything, and bake.  Then EAT.

I figured I could try that recipe with apples instead, and it worked!   The only problem was that our apples are SMALL–some no larger than an apricot (and not the honking big ones they now grow, but regular apricots), which meant a lot of peeling.  So I boiled ‘em a few minutes until it was easy to peel (turns out the peel is thick, these were clearly apples meant for animal feed a century-plus ago!).  Sliced up fruit, etc.  Both Kate’s and my recipes are at the end of this post.  ENJOY!

Here is what I learned today:

  • You really can shake the apple tree.  Well, sort of.  Our trees are not on dwarf stock like you-pick orchards.  They are 20 or more feet tall, and I’m lucky if I can jump up and snag the lowest branch.  So I grabbed the rake and used it to “grab” a branch and shake as many apples loose as I could.  Then I switched to a different branch.
  • It is possible to shake the old apple tree and not get pelted, for the most part.  However it is advisable to look down in case an apple hits you.  Eyeglasses are expensive.   Fortunately, I thought of this before getting whacked.
  • If you shake an apple tree where it hangs over the crumbling old stone wall, any apples that land on it will split open.  BUMMERS.
  • If you shake an apple tree over bare ground it is much easier to retrieve the apples than if they fall into the thicket under the trees.  Next year I will learn how to use the bushwhacker (a weed whacker on steroids) and will use it to clear under the trees FIRST.  Then I will shake.
If you are going to shake the apple tree, it is better when the apples land on dirt.  Not so good when they land on the rocks.

If you are going to shake the apple tree, it is better when the apples land on dirt. Not so good when they land on the rocks.

  • Our wild turkeys are  thorough, effective groundskeepers. If apples fall, and they can reach them (there were some old windfall apples in the crevices in the falling rock wall), they will eat them.  All of them.  Do not delay in picking up fallen apples.
We have two clans of wild turkeys this year.  One is about nine, the other about 19.  That's a lot of turkey!  The bunch of them moving through the woods is suprisingly pretty noisy.  And I know they like apples because they were rather startled from a tasty meal the other day as I walked pas with Pigwidgeon.

We have two clans of wild turkeys this year. One is about nine, the other about 19. The babies are now nearly full-grown. That’s a lot of turkey! The bunch of them moving through the woods is surprisingly  noisy. And I know they like apples because they were rather startled from a tasty meal the other day as I walked pas with Pigwidgeon.

  • From the deer scat, it appears our deer are also very effective groundskeepers.  We almost never see them other than hoofprints in the driveway (or snow), but they are clearly here.  Recently.  Pooping.  The apples will be VERY WELL WASHED.  Very well.
  • If the turkeys and deer don’t eat the apples, the slugs and bugs will.
  • It’s a good thing we have an old spare fridge in the basement.  And it works.  It’s the kind with the plastic freezer compartment inside.  It is now filled with apples.  The smallest ones are in the built-in egg spots.  Every available space if filled:  the door shelves, the whole thing.  Full.  I will be busy when I get back from Houston!
  • Homemade apple crumble is really good.  Ice cream or just plain heavy cream poured on it is delectable.

After moving to Maine, I learned that a barn is just a two-horse (or even one-horse) garage of yesteryear.  And I learned that every farm had at least two apple trees.  We now live in Hope, one half mile from Appleton (as in AppleTown).  Everywhere in Maine you see in the re-grown forests apple trees, still living on for decades after those who planted them died and the farms disappeared.

And recently from Fedco Garden Supplies, I learned that most of those apples were used for animal feed and cider.  Guess there’s a reason why the previous owner had ‘em made into cider!  Fedco has a totally cool page about old Maine apples here and more information on how to prune and revitalize old trees.   Wonder how much it would cost to have True (Bragg, Eli’s wrestling coach who has a tree business) come prune these two trees?  But only after I take more photos.  That tree needs to be a quilt!

I’m planning on turning some of the apples into applesauce.  The others will become fixin’s for crumble.  I think I’ll slice up and freeze the larger apples.  Then I’ll make a batch of crumble, and just bake up one portion at a time.  However, I can attest that if you make an entire crumble and no one else in the house will eat it (what is WRONG with them?), your crumble will keep up to a week and re-heat very nicely in an oven-proof bowl in the toaster oven.   Good with cream.  YUM! Next time I’ll take pictures before I eat it all.  Ahem. I have no one to blame for my tight pants but me, but at the moment I’d eat a bowl in a nano-second!

Here’s Kate’s recipe (which is Jane’s Recipe):

Janes rhubarb Crumble

1 c brown sugar
1 c oats
1 c flour
1 stick butter

Mix all together and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased 9×11 pan.
Over that, spread 3-4 cups of chopped rhubarb.  Top with remaining crumble mix.

In a small saucepan, mix
1 c water
1 c sugar
1 heaping Tbl. Cornstarch.
Heat until thickened. Pour over rhubarb\crumble.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.
Best served with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

And my variation:

Topping:

  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1 c oats
  • 1 c flour
  • 1 stick butter
  • Cinnamon, cardamom and any other spices you like…I think I used 1 tsp. (heaping?) cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom and a pinch of ground cloves.  Next time I’ll add a bit of ginger and a bit more cardamom, cloves, and maybe some fresh-ground nutmeg.

Mix all topping ingredients together and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of a greased round casserole dish.

Liquids:

  • In a small pyrex measuring cup, mix
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbl. Cornstarch.
  • Heat in Microwave for 1-2 minutes until thick.
  • I think I added a bit of cinnamon and cardamom here, too.

Peel, core and slice apples.  Toss with thickened liquid. Place in pan.  I used a round souffle / casserole dish–probably 3 inches deep, 9 across, and I filled it nearly to the top with apples.

Add remaining topping to (well duh!) the top.

Bake at 375 degrees (sorry, haven’t a clue what this would be in Europe…we bake cakes at 325 to 350 degrees, so just a bit warmer temp).

I forgot/misread Kate’s recipe, so I put the liquids on the apples instead of on the top (I thought the crumble would get soggy).  I think next time I will try it on top as the crumble was powdery from the flour.  Or I’ll pulse the crumble in the mini food processor to get the butter into much smaller pieces.

2 Responses to “What I learned today”

  1. JACQUIE Says:

    That is a lovely lot of apples! I make my applesauce with unpeeled apples and leave it rather lumpy. I’ve also started putting a piece of cinnamon stick in with the apples when I cook them. So many nice things to do with apples …

  2. Jeanne Marklin Says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I think you could put a tarp on the ground and then shake the tree. The tarp would be easier to use then to bend over for all those apples. Or, you could put the bushels under the tree and see if you could shake into them – apple basketball anyone?