A few weeks ago now, Jonathan and I made 10 gallons of applesauce - yes, you read that right, 10 GALLONS! We ultimately canned 42 jars of sauce and 12 of stewed apples. The stewed apples were originally canned but the lids didn't seal properly - bugger. They are now stored in quart-sized freezer bags, resting on the top shelf of our new (to us) 16 cu. ft. freezer.
Jonathan's Grandmother lent us a copy of her book, Applesauce. In its final pages, it details her canning method.
Applesauce is one of those foods that reminds me of elementary school. My mom used to buy those convenient 24-packs of Mott's applesauce. I vividly recall sitting in the cafeteria during lunchtime using the foil lid as a makeshift spoon to shovel sauce into my mouth. I can still feel the impression of the plastic at the corners of my lips, as I licked the cup clean.
Applesauce was a convenience food, a grab-and-go. Growing up, it seemed to me that there wasn't anything particularly special about it. I assumed that apples were just apples, thus the same applied to applesauce. The only variation being the size of the container and/or occasional additives, like cinnamon.
One of my earliest visits with Jonathan's family involved processing applesauce. It was intriguing to witness their excitement for apples and applesauce making. I was hardly halfway in the door when I was handed a paring knife and instructed to remove the bottoms, and stems from the mound of freshly washed apples. As the sauce came together, his family could hardly wait to dive into the steaming bucket of freshly strained sauce, which was on the menu for lunch that day.
Freshly made applesauce. Ingredients: apples.
For Jonathan and his family, food preservation and canning reflects a part of their Mennonite heritage. The production offers them an opportunity to be mindful in regards to their food, and provides a connection to their larger community and land. With each annual processing they make enough sauce (or grape juice or corn or tomato sauce or whatever else) to last them a year, offering them sustainable and convenient access to the foods they frequent. Canning and food preservation runs deep within his family tree, recipes and methods have been passed down through generations (remember the aforementioned book? It alone has touched three generations).
For Jonathan and his family, applesauce is more than just a mealtime favorite or lunch box filler, it's a cherished tradition, dare I say, a cornerstone of their culture.
Inspired by J's roots, we have been preparing canned and frozen foods. Earlier this year, we processed sweet corn, peaches, and jam. All of which were locally sourced and gave me the opportunity to learn new skills from his family.
To put up applesauce for the year, we purchased four bushels of apples (Fuji, Gala, Empire, and Jonagold (a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious)) from Revercomb farm. However, with just one lackluster side burner on our grill, it was clear that we needed some additional support. Jonathan sprinted to his parents to collect some supplies and words of wisdom. He returned with the following: a two-burner outdoor stove, 5-gallon buckets, 2 pots, a big wooden spoon, and a "Happy sauce making" cheer.
With time, we eventually found a rhythm...
The drill made all of the difference when it came to straining the apples.
As we were juggling the washing, coring, simmering, and straining of apples, I went into the bus to begin sterilizing our jars. As I was filling up the sink with hot water, I noticed a drop in water pressure, and then, the water stopped altogether. J walked into the bus just as the water shut off, he crawled under the bed to inspect the pump. As we suspected, the water pump had burned up... In other words, our sink was utterly useless.
I improvised an outdoor sink to salvage our situation. I grabbed soap, dish scrubbers, and two 5-gallon buckets. I then filled each bucket halfway with cold water from the hose and started a kettle to provide hot water - voilà, a temporary fix!
By the time we had worked our way to the last of the apples, our appetite had grown fierce. We paused for lunch, which consisted of ham sandwiches, chips, and, of course, applesauce.
After lunch, we cleaned up our workspace and proceeded with the washing of jars. Once most of our jars were rinsed, we began to fill them with applesauce. We submerged the first batch of cans in already boiling water, for 10 minutes or so. Though something in our gut told us to be more patient, we consulted with J's grandmother, who advised us to slow down with the other batches, allowing the cans to sit in the canner as it reached boiling and then to let them be awhile.
After the rain passed
In the week since our applesauce making, we have enjoyed applesauce with just about every meal. Each time I spoon some into my mouth, I can't help but share how incredibly delicious it turned out. It seems to me that food tastes better after putting in a little hard work. So maybe I was wrong, not all applesauce is the same....