LAKE MACBRIDE— 2013 has been the best year for local apples since I planted trees. Every tree bore fruit, and around the county, everyone with an apple tree had a good harvest if they wanted to pick them. Yesterday I bought half a bushel of Gold Rush apples from the orchard, the last maturing fruit of the season. Because I work at the orchard during the peak season, I got a discount.
As winter approaches, the work has turned to making chunky applesauce a quart at a time with the ripest fruit. It’s delicious, if you know what I mean. The main uses for the bumper apple crop have been as follows:
Apple butter has become a staple for the last few years. I made a batch with the earliest apples, then a big batch of fallen apple butter from fruit knocked down by a storm. I also made apple butter from Dolgo Crab and Cortland apples purchased at the orchard. There was also a batch made from a mixture of 9 different varieties picked at the orchard. With what apple butter was leftover from last year, there is more than a two-year supply in the pantry.
The Sept. 19 storm brought a disappointing end to much of the large apple crop. In addition to apple butter, I made applesauce and apple crisp with fallen apples, and sent a lot of them with a friend who keeps livestock. She returned the favor with fresh eggs from their chicken house. A neighbor had borrowed a cider press and he and his children made about four gallons of apple cider from my fallen fruit. The fruit was all used, but it was a rush to get it done before they spoiled.
As summer turned to fall, I learned about longer keeping varieties, particularly the Winecrisp and Gold Rush apples. We don’t have the refrigeration capacity to keep them cool, but they are stacked in crates in the coolest part of the house and I’m hoping for crispy apples into winter. Since they are around, it’s likely they will all be eaten before going bad.
As December approaches, it will soon be time to prune. I took some photos of my Golden Delicious tree to the orchard where the chief apple officer gave me some pointers on how to salvage the tree. The expectation is that 2014 will be a bust year for home apples, but my four remaining trees have been little pruned, so I have some work to do.
My apple work will go on for a while, but it’s time for closure on a great season. Little by little, gaining an understanding of apples and apple culture has become a part of who I am. I am only just beginning to understand my apple life.