by Sandy Swegel
While I continue to have a good supply of huge zucchini from the four zucchini plants my neighbor is growing, the bounty and surplus this year is from apples. Talk about a windfall. Day after day there are dozens of apples that fall on the ground and they are starting to taste pretty good. The first small immature apples aren’t really good for much besides the compost pile. And the apples on the tree shouldn’t be picked until they’ve been sweetened by Fall frosts. But the ones that nature is lobbing (wind, gravity, squirrels) on the ground every day are a true gift from above…if you process them every day.
The problem with a windfall is that the apples aren’t perfect, so you can’t just put them on the counter or in the refrigerator to use later. These apples have split open when they hit the hard ground. Or greedy squirrels ate one or two little mouthfuls before throwing them to the ground. Wasps are feeding on the juicy parts. Or, ickiest, codling worms ate through part of the apple leaving their brown crusty frass. Occasionally, there’s even still a codling worm in the apple.
One bad apple does spoil the batch. One rotting place on an apple will soon spread to even perfect apples…so you have to keep processing the apples.
Here’s what I do: I hold a formal apple triage whenever I have time. Perfect apples without splits or bad spots get spread on a counter in the cool basement or in the refrigerator. With a little humidity (a root cellar and a box of wet sand are traditional) the apples will last through late winter.
Not perfect but pretty good apples can be:
1. Eaten on the spot. Yum.
2. Have the bad spots cut out and made into sauce, cobbler or juice.
3. Pressed into cider. Some people in town here had a big apple pressing last year where everyone brought apples and they pressed them all together. That’s when I learned part of the rich flavor of apple cider comes from all the bad parts and cyanide seeds and occasional worms being pressed together with all the good apples. The final cider is strained so there’s no chance of getting anything visible in your cider…
When I’m in a hurry and just want the apples not to go bad, I make the world’s simplest cider in small batches in my mighty Vitamixer.
I wash the apples. I quarter them and remove the disgusting and rotten parts. I start with one cup of water in the Vitamix and fill the rest of the Vitamix to the top with apple parts. I pulverize the whole container…having to use the plunger to keep the process started. Then, the secret to this quickie cider is to pour the entire blender-full through a sprouting bag into a bowl. Actually, I’m too cheap to use the sprouting bag and I buy the five-gallon paint straining bag from the hardware store. Then with clean hands, you squeeze the bag, not too unlike milking a cow, until all the juice flows out. Repeat. The pulp goes to the chickens or earthworms. The juice is good to drink or freeze or even let ferment if you want some old-fashioned hard cider.
Now if only I could develop a taste for zucchini juice, I’d have both abundances of food taken care of.