posts tagged with 'apples'

cider economics

For Backyard Farm Club yesterday folks came over to our house to press cider. We got through all the drop apples we've been saving—the ones that hadn't turned entirely into gross decay, that is—and bottled nearly three-quarters of a gallon of delicious appley goodness (then drank half of that, in very small servings, with our snack). With the pressings we did before that brings our total to around 1 1/2 gallons, worth $16.50 at Chip-In Farm prices! Or $12.00 if you go to Whole Foods (I don't even count the cheaper grocery store cider; if it isn't locally pressed it's kind of something different). Even if we take that Whole Foods price, that means we just need to produce 48 1/2 more gallons to break even on our equipment costs! Um, does anyone have any fruit they want pressed?

cider flowing out of the press into a jar

let the cider flow!

appley ever after

One of the things that's feeling a little stressful in this busy busy time is the couple bushels of apples sitting on our kitchen floor. For whatever reason, despite the drought this was a great year for apples. It wasn't anything I did; wild crab apple trees are coming out with bumper crops too. But we're benefiting, because we have way more apples than we've ever gotten before. Three or four times more! Lots of them are far from perfect, of course—most of them we pick up off the ground—but all the ones we bring inside are good for something. More cider is in our plans, and jelly. There are more than enough solid northern spies to make a few good pies. And even amidst the bruises and insect damage there's a goodly number of beautiful, perfect apples, that feel like an amazing gift: apples that when you bite into them juice drips down your chin. It's the life, I tell you! Now if only I didn't have anything else to do so I could deal with them with the attention that they deserve!

pressing matters

Last winter Leah and her parents gave me a cider press for Hanukkah. Super exciting, but naturally I had to wait quite a while to use it. A little over a week ago we brought it along to a Backyard Farm Club grape harvest and pressing date, where it performed nobly; perfect for a warm-up. Then yesterday we put it to its true purpose for the first time.

Zion cutting up apples at the kitchen table, Elijah turning the press behind him

cider time

Despite the drought our apple trees are doing quite well this year... or at least, they're producing lots of apples. Most of them are pretty small, and lots of them were knocked off by last Friday's storm (not to mention all the other things that are constantly knocking down apples). Plenty of the drops are fine to eat, but we have so many—including plenty with cuts and bruises that started attracting fruit flies as soon as we brought them inside—that we pretty much had to do something drastic with them. Like make cider!

One slight problem is that we don't have an apple grinder. My generous gift-givers didn't realize that cider making is actually a two-stage process: first you need to crush the apples before you can press them, or else no juice will actually come out. Instead, we used the food processor (after first coring and slicing the apples and cutting out the bruises and worms). We did five and a half Cuisinart bowls full, which we estimate was maybe 40 apples (but we're not really sure). Some hard work on the crank of the press netted us just over a quart of cider.

I don't know if that's any good; internet research suggests that many apples could produce a gallon, but I don't know how much the small size and dryness of our droughty apples contributed to our reduced total, as opposed to the unsuitability of the food processor for its part of the job. It it worth it to buy a grinder? The cheapest ones are close to $150 on Amazon, with ad copy that suggests they're designed and constructed by people for whom English is not their first language ("Enjoy the nature,how happy they are smiling!"). But then again, speaking English shouldn't in any way be a requirement from making great cider! So maybe we'll try to pick one up before we press again. Though I don't know how soon that'll be: I'm starting to hear requests for apple pies...


the apple pie

Last year we got tons of apples from our Northern Spy tree. At the time I predicted, half in jest, that the bumper crop would mean slim pickings this year—in fact that's just what happened. Never mind, we got tons of Honeycrisps this year, which is what the people want, and there are enough Northern Spys to eat a few and make a couple of pies. I made the first one yesterday.

apple pie in process on the kitchen table

putting it together

I have to admit I didn't feel totally manly as I rolled out this particular crust; the refrigerator repair guys working a few feet away put me off my game a little bit. But the apples were good ones, and the pie came out wonderful. Even better, when time came to serve it there was also a cheesecake and a gigantic (and wonderful) carrot cake, so there was some pie left for me and the boys to have for breakfast this morning.

a slice of apple pie on the table



farewell, apples

As a follow-up to what I had to say about storage apples last month... After a successful pie for January 1, I thought I'd try one for the beginning of February. No such luck. When I checked this morning four of the apples were still in fair shape, but the other two were half rotted—not horrifying by any means, but not in any shape to use. Oh well. The hens have been stuck inside their coop for a while because of the snow, so I figured they would appreciate the fruit, however imperfect. I made oatmeal raisin cookies instead. Seven months til the next apple harvest.

new years apples

Many of our apple trees did well this past fall. Last time I wrote about them I was celebrating 2017's successful harvest, one that we dramatically surpassed this year. There were so many fruits, especially on the Macintosh and Northern Spy trees, that I'm kind of worried that I did something wrong and there'll be none next year (what that says about about my mental state than or my knowledge of apple cultivation I will leave to the reader). We've long since eaten all the Honeycrisps and Golden Russets, and baked into apple crisp all the Macs we couldn't eat. But as we approached the turning of the year there were still at least a dozen Northern Spies holding on to near-perfection in the fridge.

True, they did take up a little more room over the last 2-3 months than they deserved, but we find that our cellar doesn't have the consistent temperature and humidity that you'd look for to preserve apples. So Leah was kind enough to suffer their presence so I could like my dream of making a pie for New Years Eve. Which I did, and it was delicious. (I may have boasted about the apples' provenance to two or seven people, I'm not sure.)

There are still enough apples for one more pie. Leah says they don't take up an objectionable amount of space any more. When do you think I should make the last pie?


apple days

So I haven't written anything about our apple trees since last time, but I should have: they lived up to the promise of those blooms and produced an impressive crop. Impressive for us, anyway, since except for the crab apples it's the first time we've gotten any fruit off of any of our many fruit trees. This year we ate countless Macintoshes, five Golden Russets, four Moonglow pears, and the one precious Honeycrisp apple, watched carefully over long months of ripening, and finally picked last Tuesday (as pictured in this post). All those trees are done, but the Northern Spies are just now coming into their own.


enough for a pie

Back in the end of September I picked that pile—the ripest ones I could find—to make a pie. Because that's what Northern Spies are for, I'm told; that's the reason I planted the tree. How good are they? I had to find out!

an apple pie cooling on the porch

a good use of apples

Very good, it turns out. They made a pie with plenty of juice, but with each apple slice still entirely distinct and firm. Impressive and delicious. Of course, it was also the first time I ever made a pie with apples picked less than an hour before, so maybe that has something to do with the good results too. Either way, I'll take it!

I'd also love to take credit for our bumper crop of fruit this year, but I probably shouldn't... apples are doing great all over this year. What I can take credit for is properly using the ones we have. All over town I see trees laden with unpicked fruit, surrounded with drops. Sure, they might not be the tastiest apples for eating out of hand, but they can at least be applesauce or jelly! Or even cider... what if we could have a shared community cider press?!

We're leading the way in full utilization of the Malus family by even using our crab apples, to make the jelly so beloved of our middle child especially. We didn't get any last year because of the late freeze, so it was gratifying last week to be able to pick a couple gallons. Of course, now I need to find the time to actually make the jelly!

Of course, if you ask the kids apples are really just for eating. I was excited to pick those finally-almost-ripe Northern Spies for the pie the other day, but we've actually been getting apples off that tree for a while because Lijah, notably, much prefers "a green not-ripe apple from the tree!". The Macs were all ripe by mid-September, so he had to move on. Northern Spies now. They're so big, he gets plenty of enjoyment out of each one. We do like our apple days.

Lijah biting an apple



precious blossoms

pink furled blossoms on the apple tree


In the midst of the cool wet weather last week I noticed something thrilling: our fruit trees had flower buds. We have five apple trees and two pears, plus a couple of crab apples, and to this point only one of the crab apples had ever flowered. Considering I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to tree care I wasn't surprised, but it's still been a little disappointing every year—five years of disappointment. Well, in 2017 we're at least moving in the right direction, because all nine trees are in flower!

pink furled blossoms on the apple tree

small but full of promise

At just about the same time we have blooms on the the six-year-old Macintosh and Northern Spy apples, the four-year-old Honeycrisp, the three-year-old Golden Russet and Cox's Orange Pippen apples and Seckel and Moonglow pears, and the crab apples. The flowers might not be the most beautiful, but to me they're precious and delightful.

white opened blossoms on the apple tree

phase 2

Now all we need is for the pollinators to do their work. It's a little disturbing how few I've seen so far—a subject for another post—but there's time yet. The weather looks like it'll be cool but not too cold for a while, and now that the rain stopped those bees can start getting busy. I wish we still had our own; it would be great to watch them in action. A project for next year!


artistic outing

a stone bird sculpture; Harvey and Zion in the background

in the sculpture garden

On Saturday I took the boys out to Old Frog Pond Farm, an apple orchard that also has a sculpture walk.

a big egg-shaped porcupine-looking sculpture

porcupine egg?

As we pulled in the boys were delighted to see what looked like an egg made out of porcupine out on the front lawn, and we were instantly sold on the idea of mixing sculpture with apples. It was a chilly gray day, and the morning's light rain had just ended when we got there, so we had the place to ourselves. The woman at the sculpture side of things greeted us warmly, gave Harvey a map, and pointed us in the right direction... then we were on our own to explore.

Zion and Harvey walking in the sculpture park

a farm where they grow art

There were all kinds of pieces by a variety of artists, but all of them shared certain qualities—especially in how much they blended in to the natural (and agricultural) environment. Sometimes so much so that they were hard to spot!

an instalation: white plastic leaves in the oak tree


All the art was very approachable for the kids, and lots of the pieces just cried out to be touched. I'm not sure what the rules really were, but when things looked safe enough I didn't want to hold the boys back. Who could resist, say, this giant mancala board?!

Lijah checking out a giant mancala board

begging to be played with

The biggest piece on the walk was a rusty-brown teapot of a considerable size. We saw it right from the beginning but the path took us away from it, around a pond and through the edge of the woods. When we came to the end of the loop and saw it again the boys ran right up.

the boys checking out a giant teapot sculpture

the biggest sculpture

I was delighted to see it was made out of old leaves stuffed into a structure of chicken wire. Even more delightful was discovering, a little later, that the piece is called "Compost Tea".

detail of the teapot sculpture: leaves under chicken wire

that's what it's made of

I don't think I could pick my favorite of the sculptures we saw—I could barely restrain myself from posting pictures of all of them! There were eggs woven from twigs and carved out of wood; golden dragonflies suspended over the stream and a silvery creature emerging from the pond; suggestions of birds in pieces of branches and cast-off iron machinery; and a sacred circle of standing stones, to name just a few.

The walk was free (though we did pay the suggested donation, despite not being asked—I wouldn't have known about it if I hadn't read the website) so I thought we might support the endeavor by picking some apples... also Lijah was just about demanding it, since he could see them hanging on the trees. So we did.

Harvey and Zion picking apples, alone in the orchard

a real orchard, and all to ourselves

The only varieties left were two I'd never heard of, Green Crisp and another one I can remember. We got both, and it was nice to have to work to find good apples off of real trees in a real orchard.

Lijah walking back through the orchard, munching on an apple

Lijah approves

The only bad part of the day was we came home to find that Leah would have loved to come with us to the orchard, something I completely failed to realize. I'm now working on being a better listener.


obligitory fall outing

We had friends over to join us for schooling this morning, and Leah treated us to a lesson on Rosh Hoshana. The accompanying snack of apples and honey was just the thing, since we have plenty of apples around!

three half-bushel bags full of apples

only some of those are ours

We got most of them on Saturday, when we headed up to the farm to celebrate Eliot's birthday. He and Zion had such a great time together that I didn't get any pictures of them; Harvey and Ollie are slowing down in their old age.

Harvey and Ollie waiting for the hayride to start

tractor hayride

The hayride was lovely, but everyone was ready for it to be over so they could get their teeth on some apples!

Lijah holding an apple and water bottle and looking cute under an apple tree

"appa tee" shade

We were allowed to taste one apple, according to the rules, but rules are made to be bent... especially when we did more than our share of helping the farm's bottom line by filling much of our half-bushel with drop apples. And how can you know what to pick if you don't taste?!

Harvey eating one apple, another waiting in his other hand

taste testing

Our friends had to listen to my laments about the lost romance of the old-fashioned orchards, which have given way to pollarded rows of trees about the same dimensions as the high-bush blueberries at the same farm. And the fact that the whole thing was marketed to the casual outing crowd; it used to be about the apples, man! Of course, not even we could resist an opportunity for a family photo to commemorate the day.

all five us us sitting for a portait in front of a row of apple trees

family portrait, with apples

Of course, while apples are good—who doesn't like apples?!—Lijah knows the real reason for a trip to the farm.

Lijah feeding a goat one pellet of feed

he's getting better at this

Happy birthday Eliot, and thanks for giving us a push to get out there to celebrate the (almost) start of fall!