For those of you who may not know me, or may not know me well; I attempt to spend as little money possible on things. I do this mostly out of necessity as I don’t make a whole lot of money as a nursing assistant and what I do make quickly goes to bills and groceries. That being said, I had no idea what I was getting into when I decided that a laundry basket full of free apples was a good idea the Friday before Labor Day.
“When the apple is ripe it will fall.”—Irish proverb
O, a girl I work with has an apple tree in her back yard that was the pride and joy of a Purdue horticulturist before he moved on to bigger and better things than Lafayette Indiana. She was asking around work if there was anyone who wanted apples. I thought, “Hmm, free apples? I could make a ton of applesauce and pie slices, and freeze it all for the holidays!” and told O that I would come by and get some. I was told to hit the back yard and help myself.
Equipped with a laundry basket I picked my own apples straight from a tree. It was amazing. I’ve picked strawberries nearly every spring as far back as I can remember but it is nothing like picking apples. With strawberries you work in the morning in rows of small bushes. In the end you are a weird combination of sandy and muddy, you have strawberry prickles all over your hands and arms, you have a sore back from bending, and you have red-stained lips and tongue from eating the warm jewels straight from the bush. With apple picking, at least apple picking at around six in the evening, the sun sifts down through the leaves making everything green and gold. The slightly rotten scent of the apples underfoot blends with the sweet of damp dirt, and the green smells of leaves and fresh apples. The branches of the tree nearly touch the ground in places and I found that I did not need to even stretch in order to fill my basket with the pale green orbs of goodness. In just a short fifteen minutes I was back in my car and headed home to start my weekend.
Upon arriving home I equipped myself with a potato peeler, a bowl for peels and cores, a large pot of water to drop peeled apples in, and a paring knife. I sat on the porch on a perfect evening of warm sunset and crisp air hinting at the start of fall. Ruby, my dog, sat near watching for the occasional apple to fall and roll by. Surprisingly they have more of a pull than tennis balls. After a few tosses of the apple-ball I started peeling and that started Applepalooza 2010.
After a while, I moved my production inside and peeled some more. I started the first batch of applesauce and quickly realized that if I didn’t have a better peeler and an apple slicer that I would be peeling apples right up until Armageddon. I ran out to acquire new implements and came back. I peeled, and peeled, and peeled. My sink filled up on one side with peels and the other with naked apples slowly turning brown despite the lemon juice in the water. The first batch of applesauce finished as I finished peeling the third batch of apples and the second was well on its way to done when I decided I was finished for the night. I could not peel another apple.
With raw hands, tense muscles, and absolutely no idea what I was doing I heated up a borrowed canning pot and looked up instructions on home canning. A few hours later I had seven pint jars of applesauce cooling on top of the washing machine and a huge mess to clean up. I was so proud I had to pull a half-asleep Penguin, my boyfriend, in to see what I’d done. He feigned delight before stumbling to our bed while I made three gallon zip-locks of seasoned apple slices for pies before a half-hearted attempt at cleaning up and going to bed myself.
Saturday, just a few short hours after I climbed in bed, I awoke feeling like I’d been beat up—quite violently, with a bat. My hands, arms, back, chest, neck, and jaw hurt so badly that I came out of a dead sleep to take Advil and crawl back in bed. I felt better later and decided that Applepalooza could continue in to breakfast. I peeled and chopped a few apples and made an apple cake with store-bought yellow cake mix and my home-made applesauce in place of oil. It was good, reminiscent of pineapple upside down cake. Despite the breakfast accomplishment I still didn’t feel like tackling any more apples yet.
Sunday I found that while I was sleeping Penguin managed to eat the quart and a half of applesauce that was in the fridge that didn’t fit in the seven jars I canned. I was surprised, but in the grand scheme of things it was a decently healthy and cheap snack/snacks. More surprising to me was that Penguin offered to peel the rest of the apples that I’d picked if I’d turn them into more applesauce. Thus, Applepalooza Part II began. He peeled and sliced, I checked for pieces of stem and bruises, and two giant spaghetti pots turned them into a chunky, cinnamon mush in a few hours. Applepalooza Part II netted us three and a half recycled butter containers of applesauce after significant “taste testing” both plain and over vanilla ice cream by Penguin and I.
Now, as if Applepalooza Parts I and II weren’t enough, I was insane to think that it might be nice to make some more and went back to O’s to get more apples. Laundry basket number two came home Monday afternoon containing around 150 apples. After some basic clean-up around the house Penguin and I sat down on the couch with apples on/near the coffee table, a bowl for peels, a pan for peeled apples, a slicer/corer, and a pot for the sliced apples. I peeled, Penguin sliced/cored, and I rinsed and went over them all for loose seeds and such. Then we started more batches of applesauce. We took turns peeling, stirring the applesauce, cleaning up, and resting. Once the two giant pots of apples were cooked down there was a whole spaghetti pot full to almost overflowing with applesauce. Applepalooza part III ended with 12 small jelly jars and two pint jars (though one broke after boiling) filled and we still had a huge ice cream bucket full which went in the freezer.
With our freezer full to bursting and having run out of jars; we had no place to put any more applesauce, apple slices, or apple anything and we still had over 50 apples left. After posting to Facebook we found a new home for those lonely 50. For now, the Penguin/Butterfly House is closed to apples and anything else that requires freezing. Of course, now that it’s all over I would be given two more cases of jelly jars. Applepalooza part IV anyone?
If you click the picture you will be sent to an exciting slideshow about Applepalooza!
This was a guest post by Heather Raye Peterson.
Heather is a nursing assistant who loves to read in her spare time and has a book review blog called The 20- Something Bibliophile. She also has discovered that saving money is a good thing and can be fun at times too. She has dedicated her time to her other blog called ” Rockin’ Some Deals” to coupon saving methods to help others benefit from her finds as well. You should really check out her blogs!