|Thursday, October 28, 2004 |
Oh ... the apple of my eye ...
Jason Cox | Leader File Photos | Shots from harvest at Reisinger's Apple Country in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Staff and wire reports
So far, Anne Kregness has made and canned 24 quarts of applesauce. She's got five bags of apple slices in her freezer along with several half-gallon jugs of cider.
She's baked apple cakes, apple pies and apple crisp, all using fruit from trees on her small farm north of Duluth, Minn.
And she's just getting started.
Kregness, who runs the food preservation effort of the Duluth Community Gardening Program, likes to can 52 quarts of applesauce each fall, one for each week of the year, using whatever apples she has on hand. She also cans apple butter and freezes bags of apple slices that she'll later use for pies, cakes and apple crisp.
"I'm sure I'll do more of everything as well as try to store some," she said last week as her apple harvest was under way.
It's been a good year for apples and folks are making the most of the bountiful harvest.
"Apples are extraordinary this year," said Bob Olen, horticulture educator for the University of Minnesota St. Louis County Extension Service.
This is true all over the country. Apple orchards in the Finger Lakes region of New York are experiencing another banner year, with an abundant and high-quality crop. There are about 30 apple orchards in Steuben, Schuyler, Chemung and surrounding counties benefitting from the impressive harvest.
Karen Reisinger, co-owner of Reisinger's Apple Country in Watkins Glen, N.Y. said she gets creative, coming up with all sorts of ways to use the nearly 3,000 bushels of apples harvested at the farm.
She makes a wide variety of products, including apple butter - "it's spicy and sort of like a thick applesauce" and can be put on bread, she said; cider apple jelly; apple dump-lings - "made with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter and baked like pie ... and eaten like pie," Reisinger said; and oatmeal apple cookies. Cider is also pressed at the farm.
She said Idared and Cort-land apples are selling well among those who like to bake. And Gala and Empire apples are tops among children due to their smaller, more manageable size.
Reisinger noted that as the month of October winds down, so does the apple picking. However, that doesn't mean people have to say good-bye to apples all together. If stored properly, in the refrigerator or a cold spot like the garage or basement, apples can stay fresh and crunchy for months, according to Reisinger.
Dan Hurley, owner of Bradley Farms in Elmira, recommends bagging the apples up though, if they are being stored along with any green vegetables. He said apples naturally emit a gas that will wilt greens.
He said he prefers to eat apples "right out of hand," but applesauce runs a close second.
"It's so easy to make and it's good for you," Hurley said.
He said it's great for people who have a whole lot of apples and not a lot of time. Just make some up, freeze it and thaw as needed.
This year's larger crop - about 26.5 million bushels was the New York Apple Association's early estimate - was thanks to nearly ideal growing weather. A bright, warm spring accounted for a long, early pollination period, and the apples were also given a boost from the abundance of rain, as water helps "bulk up" the size of the fruit.
The most popular varieties in New York are McIntosh, which account for 19 percent of all apples grown in the state; and Empire, which account for 11 percent.
Other major varieties include Red Delicious, Red Rome, Cortland and Idared.
About 50 percent of apples are used for processed foods such as apple sauce, apple slices, juice and cider. The other half are sold fresh.
Apples are the third most popular fruit sold in grocery store produce sections - ranking just behind bananas and grapes, according to the NYAA.
And although the crop matured late this year in the Western part of the country, many of the trees hold an abundance of apples. Some Northland residents, like Sonja Ulvi of New Duluth, Minn., report bigger than usual apples.
Ulvi's 10-year-old Wolf River apple tree, which only produced one or two apples in previous years, is bursting with apples as big as grapefruit.
"Everybody that comes over and looks at them can't believe apples grow that big," she said.
The tart apples are only good for baking, she said, and only four or five of this size are needed to make a pie.
"I just pulled a pie out of my oven," she said last week. "That's about the twelfth pie I've made. I bake them and freeze them."
The good apple harvest is being attributed to the capacity set two years ago, when forest tent caterpillars consumed so many leaves that the apple trees weren't able to set blossoms for the next year. Last year, trees had good foliage with a good growing season, Olen said.
"That allowed trees to set blossoms for this year," he explained. "It's a three-year sequence."
This summer's cool temperatures also helped keep pests, such as the apple maggot, at bay.
Kregness is just thrilled that her trees survived the caterpillar invasion and are producing again.
"It's such a multipurpose fruit, such a universal fruit," she said of apples, noting their many uses. "And they're good storers, not like other fruits that are so perishable."
When Anne Kregness of rural Duluth, Minn. makes applesauce, she uses this recipe from the University Of Minnesota Extension Service.
Select apples that are sweet, juicy and crisp. For a tart flavor, add 1 to 2 pounds of tart apples to each 3 pounds of sweeter apples.
An average of 21 pounds of apples is needed for a canner load of 7 quarts; about 13 1/2 pounds is needed for 9-pint canner load.
Wash, peel and core apples. Slice. If desired, drop into water containing ascorbic acid, available in drugstores, to prevent browning and then drain. Place slices in an 8- to 10-quart pot.
Add 1/2 cup water. Stirring occasionally to prevent burning, heat quickly until tender (5-20 minutes, depending on maturity and variety). Unless seeking chunky sauce, press through a strainer or food mill.
If desired, add 1/8 cup sugar per quart of sauce. Taste and add more, if desired, but sauce may be made without sugar.
Reheat sauce to boiling. Fill jars with the hot applesauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims. Fasten lids and place in a boiling water bath: 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.
Yield: 7 quarts or 9 pints
For apple butter, Kregness uses this recipe from the University of Minnesota Extension Service. Good choices for apple butter include Jonathan, Winesap, Stayman, Golden Delicious and McIntosh apples.
8 pounds apples
2 cups cider
2 cups vinegar
2 1/4 cups white sugar
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Wash apples and remove stems. Quarter and core apples. Cook slowly in cider and vinegar until soft. Press fruit though a colander, food mill or strainer. Cook fruit pulp with sugar and spices, stirring frequently.
To test for doneness, remove a spoonful and hold it away from steam for 2 minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. Another way to test for doneness is to spoon a small quantity onto a plate. When a rim of liquid does not separate around the edge of the butter, it is ready for canning.
Fill hot mixture into sterile jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Fasten lids and place in a boiling water bath: 10 minutes for half-pints or pints; 15 minutes for quarts.
Yield: 8 to 9 pints
SPICED APPLE RINGS
Apple rings can also be canned and preserved for later use. This recipe for a spiced version is another recipe from the University of Minnesota Extension Service.
12 pounds firm, tart apples (up to 2-1/2 inches in diameter)
12 cups sugar
6 cups water
1 1/4 cups white vinegar (5 percent acidity)
3 tablespoons whole cloves
3/4 cup red hot cinnamon candies or 8 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
Wash apples. To prevent discoloration, peel and slice one apple at a time. Immediately cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, remove core area with a melon baller and immerse slices in ascorbic acid solution.
Make a flavored syrup by combining sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon candies or cinnamon sticks, and food coloring in a 6-quart saucepan.
Stir, heat to boil, and simmer 3 minutes. Drain apples, add to hot syrup and cook 5 minutes. Fill wide-mouth jars with apple rings and hot flavored syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and place in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
Yield: 8 to 9 pints