The Apple Saga

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A truckload of apples…

Goodness gracious, where do I even begin?!

For the past month or so, Lindsey and I have been embroiled in a full-on war! It seems like virtually every weekend, every evening, every spare second has been spent battling the mountain of apples you see in the picture above.

(I’ll admit that “every spare second” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but still, you get the picture!)

We’ve been washing, chopping, boiling, roasting, straining, smashing, grinding, pressing, drying, and eating apples every chance we get — and I tell ya, it’s been a pretty madcap race against time, just to get ’em used up before they go bad!

And to think that it all started out so peacefully…

The birds were singing softly. There was a gentle September breeze fluttering in the leaves. Not a cloud in the sky. And to top it all off, it was a Friday!

And there I was, standing in the shade of a beautiful apple tree on our beat-up old aluminum ladder, with a white 5 gallon bucket perched on the highest rung — picking apples to my heart’s content.

Every once in awhile, I’d pause, pick a particularly juicy looking apple, rub it off on my t-shirt, and crunch into it right then and there atop my ladder.

I don’t care what you say, there is nothing in this world like a fresh autumn apple!

The day was so beautiful, and the weather was so perfect, and the apples were so plentiful that I just kinda zoned out. I was in a real apple picker’s paradise, so I picked bucket after bucket after bucket. After bucket. After BUCKET!

Before I knew it, I had run out of buckets…

So what did I do?

I rummaged around in the truck and found a few spare grocery bags, and filled them too!

When I finally ran out of containers, I simply folded my ladder, loaded everything into the truck, and started heading for home (I was probably even whistling something like “Zip-a-dee-do-dah” to myself — I honestly can’t remember).

All I know is that I was about halfway home when the apple picker’s bliss wore off, and I started thinking to myself: WHAT THE HECK ARE WE GONNA DO WITH ALL THESE APPLES?!

And So It Began…

Now, I don’t want you running off with the idea that Lindsey and I are novices at the apple game. We definitely aren’t experts or anything — but for the past several years now, we’ve spent a large chunk of our Octobers putting up apples.

We can make applesauce, apple chips, bottled apples, and apple pie filling with the best of ’em!

As a matter of fact, we have a whole slew of yearly traditions built around “Apple Season.”

The year just wouldn’t be complete without spending at least a handful of evenings bottling applesauce and listening to our “Halloween Apple Playlist.”

And what exactly is on that playlist?

Well, it includes audio recordings of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Devil and Tom Walker — as well as Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. One year we even listened to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but it was a little too weird to become one of our perennial classics…

I tell ya, nothing will get you more pumped up for Halloween than sitting there in the eerie glow of our decorative orange-and-black holiday lights — washing and cutting fresh apples, while the narrator’s voice drones on about the harrowing woes of Ichabod Crane!

It makes me smile just thinking about it!

The only problem is that we don’t need very much pie filling. When it comes to dried apple chips, a couple of gallon-sized jars full will last us the entire year — and 3 or 4 bushels worth of applesauce is really all our little family can handle.

Besides, we’re quickly running out of mason jars!

So when we had run through our entire repertoire of apple preservation techniques, and still had about 8 bushels (roughly 15 buckets) sitting in our basement, we realized we needed to change our approach.

Bring on the Cider!

Apple cider was exactly the silver bullet we were looking for to help us win our war against time.

First of all, fresh home-pressed apple cider is pretty much liquid heaven.

I am not even kidding!

It’s like you’ve taken everything that’s beautiful and good about orchards and apples and autumn — and then you condense it all down into a golden nectar that you can pour into a cup!

I SERIOUSLY LOVE APPLE CIDER!

Plus (depending on how you look at it), another good point is that cider uses up a LOT of apples!

Generally speaking, a 5 gallon bucket full will usually only yield about a gallon or two of cider — which was perfect for us this year, seeing that we were practically drowning in apples.

But it definitely helps if you have a cider press at your disposal!

In the past, however, we’ve actually experimented quite a bit with making “hand-pressed” apple cider — squeezing out the precious elixir manually. But the process is so time consuming and labor intensive that we never made more than a gallon or two at a time. It certainly isn’t ideal for churning through large quantities of apples…

Don’t get me wrong though — hand squeezed apple cider is still well worth the effort, but given the amount of apples we had waiting on us, Lindsey and I decided we really needed to bring out the big guns this year…

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Our homemade cider press — shortly before her maiden voyage.

For awhile now, I’ve had this crazy dream of making my own cider press — and I even bought some of the materials for it a year ago; I just never really got around to putting it all together until recently.

But heck, I only spent $20 on the trailer jack — and an additional $20 for all the rest of the supplies (lumber, hardware, mineral oil for soaking the wood, and a cheap cutting board for the plunger), so all in all, I’d say it was a pretty thrifty project.

(Especially when you consider that most cider presses carry a $300 to $500 price tag!)

We did have a few mishaps along the way though.

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The juicer can kinda exploded in the middle of the very first batch…

But after a bit of tweaking and a bit of tinkering, our thrifty little cider press really saved the day!

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With just a cheap piece of 3/16″ steel strap, a regular old 1×2, and a handful of nuts and bolts, I was able to make a schnazzy new (extremely durable) juicer basket!
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We cut our way through a LOT of apples!

Not only did we make it through all of the apples from my initial picking, we actually ended up picking another couple bushels this last week — just so that we could make a bit more cider.

(I told you I loved the stuff!)

No doubt about it though — this year’s Apple Season has really been an adventure. Unfortunately, this post feels like it’s getting a little long, so I’m gonna have to cut things short.

If you want more apple-related stories, you’ll just have to come over for a visit.

We’ll discuss it over a mug of cold apple cider! 😉

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