Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Storing Has Begun

Part of our family's annual Rosh HaShanah tradition is to go apple picking. Yes, I realize this activity is not in agreement with Jewish law/halacha. We go to appreciate God's Creation. We go to spend time as a family. And of course, we go to enjoy the apples and other fruits. I imagine this tradition will change as our kids get older. I envision the annual apple picking to happen around but not necessarily on Rosh HaShanah or at least such that we attend services AND get our apples too.

Justifications aside, let me share a bit of our experience from this year and explain the title of this post.

As in past years, we returned to Shelburne Farm in Stow, MA. We like Shelburne because of its size, the friendly farmers and staff, and the minimal pesticide usage. Oh, and the cider doughnuts are amazing. :) This year we decided to pick peaches as well as apples. Nom nom nom!

A peck of peaches, to be more precise:

We filled the box more than this picture shows, but you get an idea of what a peck looks like.

We also picked a half-bushel of apples - Cortlands and McIntoshes. I didn't take a picture of OUR bag, but this image will give you an idea of quantity.

SO what to do with so much fruit and only 4 people? I hear Bubba in my crisp, apple sauce, apple pie, apple in butternut squash soup. And those peaches? Peach cobbler, peach sauce, peach crisp... ooh what about apple peach crisp?

Yes, I made apple peach crisp and it was truly awesome. Here's a recipe for those who want to have divinely good food.

Apple-Peach Crisp (modified from Better Homes and Garden cookbook)
10 cups of sliced, peeled, cored/pitted apples and peaches
2-4 Tbsp. white sugar (I tend to use only 2)
1 c. regular rolled oats
1 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (OPTIONAL! I skip it because my kids aren't fans)
1/2 c. butter

Place fruit in 13x9 baking dish. Sprinkle and stir in white sugar.

For topping, in a medium bowl combine the oats, brown sugar, flour and spices. Cut in butter till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. I start this by "dicing" the butter, and I found a butter knife to work well for the task. Sprinkle topping over filling.

Bake crisp in a 375 oven for 30-35 minutes or till fruit is tender and topping is golden. Serve warm (perhaps with ice cream).

As much as we all could live on fruit crisp, it isn't the best option for processing so much fruit. The next thing we have been doing with the fruit is making sauce because it is wicked easy, gets through a lot of fruit, keeps well, and is delicious! Our first attempt of apple-peach sauce ended up being more like apple-peach juice since we didn't account for the amount of liquid in the peaches. That is, peaches are REALLY juicy and when they boil, they add lots of liquid to the sauce which ends up making "soup" or "goo" or "juice," depending on who names it. I'll let you figure out who named the concoction what in our house.

The second round of sauce making has gone much better. Here is what we did for proportions -- check out the simple ingredients!

Apple-Peach Sauce
5 peaches - peeled, pitted, and halved.
About 20 apples (we didn't count; we just filled our large pasta pot). We leave peels on because we're lazy and maybe there is extra healthy stuff in the skin.
2 cups of water - we probably could do yet less.

Put all in pot. Bring to boil and let fruit soften. Mash with a potato masher, immersion blender (my kitchen tool of choice), or food processor in batches. Enjoy!

We have about 7 quarts of this sauce - 4 from the soupy batch; 3 from the saucy batch. Caleb enjoys drinking the soupy kind at breakfast. Aaron likes the sauce straight from the pot, nice and warm. I like putting the apple-peach goo in my steel cut oatmeal. Ellie remains undecided about the goo, but she is intrigued. And it makes the house smell great!

To finish off the peaches before they became compost, we blanched about 10 peaches, which made removing their skins ridiculously easy. We sliced or halved them and put them in freezer bags. I'm excited about having sweet peaches in February.

Also on the storing front, I made a batch of grape jelly thanks to the generosity of our neighbors who have a grapevine that actually gives them grapes. This is in contrast to our grapevine which we ignore and thus get no noticeable fruit (or maybe the various critters get to it first?). I don't have a good system for storing jelly and jam since I have yet to make a cooked jelly/jam. I put the majority of the grape jelly in a quart container from take out soup, some in a 3 cup Rubbermaid container, and the last bit in an actual jam jar from the farmers' market.

Coming up in food storage - corn! Aaron made a delicious corn chowder tonight, so we will remove corn from cob and freeze it. I'm sure we'll store some corn on the cob as well since that worked well for us. Last year we stored green beans, but we blanched them a bit too long and purchased a bit more than we needed. This year, we'll purchase fewer pounds and see if we can get the blanch time right. I'd also like to store some bell peppers for things like chili and enchiladas, so I need to read a bit from our preserving book to see if I can just freeze them up too.

My bed beckons, but perhaps my next post will talk a bit about why we go to the effort of storing food from the summer instead of buying the same kind of food from a regular grocery store.

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