Notes from Windward: #67

 

Of Apples and Pears

Monique talks about preserving the fruit harvest


     As the days become increasingly short and the rain increasingly incessant, I have found myself spending large amounts of time in the Windward dining hall. Although many people say that the kitchen is the heart of the home, I have never been able to fully relate to that until my time here.

     Recently we have had to move the remainder of our apples and pears from the outdoor cellar, inside to the dining hall, to prevent them from getting damaged from freezing temperatures. While we are protecting them from the cold, we are also subjecting them to temperatures that make them more susceptible to rot and mold. One of the activities that we have been feverishly working on is preserving the fruits.

     One of our quickest options has been to dehydrate the harvest. By simply peeling, coring and slicing the fruits, we are able to run them through the dehydrator over night, providing both a healthy lasting snack, and a resource that can be used later in baking and cooking.

  

     The second preservation method we have been using frequently is canning. The most obvious use for an overabundance of apples seems to be making applesauce. We start out by coring and quartering the apples, which seems simple enough. We can easily go through 8 gallons of fresh apples in one batch of applesauce. Our only hindrance on the amount of apples we go through has been the size of our largest pot. Once the apples are cored and quartered, we cook them covered, over very low heat, with a small amount of water, until they can be easily mashed with a wooden spoon. This takes a few hours. If one wants to take the process one step further, you can end up with apple butter. In order to do so, boil down the applesauce until you have a thick and creamy texture, and add spices such as cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger.

  

     Once you have cooked off your choice of preserves, the next step is torun your apples through a mill. We use one with a hand crank, but there are many options out there. This may take a while, but it is an imperative step in removing skins from the apples, and making a smooth consistency.

     Once you have the apple sauce milled, the next step in canning is to prepare the water process. First, select enough jars, tops and lids that you will need.Fill a water processor with water, and heat up the jars and lids in this large pot until they boil. Let boil for five minutes. At the same time, if necessary, reheat the preserves until they are hot enough to boil. The tops of the jars must also be hot, but it is important to not allow them to boil for too long, as this can affect the sealant. We have found that the best option is to heat them separately in a small saucepan. If perhaps the process seems lengthy, it might be hopeful to note that we usually draw out the process over a few days.

     Once you have all your necessary supplies ready, you can start transferring the preserves to the jars. Leave about an inch of room at the top of the jar. Carefully wipe clean the rim of the jar and cover with the top of the jar. It is essential that the rim is free from any debris or nicks that could allow bacteria to penetrate. Next, place the lid on the jar, and tighten it with your thumb and little finger. It is important to use these two fingers, as you want to prevent over-tightening of the lid, which can also prevent the jars from sealing properly. The final step in the canning process is to boil the jars. The amount of boiling time depends on your elevation and the size of the jars you have used.

  

     For quart size jars, we boiled them 25 minutes. Finally, all you need to do is remove the jars from the pot and let them cool. Once the jars are cooled, you can slightly tighten the lids securing the top from being bumped. Voila, you end up with fruit that can be used all year long! Here is one recipe that uses apple sauce:

Applesauce- Spiced Muffins, courtesy of www.epicurios.com

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup pecans or walnuts (3 1/2 oz), coarsely chopped

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400F. Grease muffin pan.
  2. Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl.
  3. Whisk together eggs and brown sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter, a little at a time, whisking until mixture is creamy.
  4. Stir in applesauce, then fold in flour mixture until flour is just moistened.
  5. Stir in nuts and divide batter among muffin cups.
  6. Bake until muffins are puffed and golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool slightly.

     For the pears, we have used this wonderful recipe, which combines pears with other ingredients, but still allows the pears to carry the weight of the dish.

Colorful Pear Relish
taken from The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader

  • 12 1/2 pounds ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 8 jalapeno chiles, seeded and chopped (wear rubber gloves)
  • 12 bell peppers, 6 red, 6 green, seeded and chopped (we used about 3 Cups dehydrated peppers, and the recipe turned out thicker then the original)
  • 6 medium onions, chopped
  • 5 Cups distilled white vinegar
  • 5 Cups sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon celery seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • fourteen 1 pint jars

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a heavy 10 quart saucepan. Mix well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat.
  2. Simmer, uncovered, for approximately 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently and being careful not to burn.
  3. Ladle the hot relish into clean jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Cap and Seal.
  4. Process in boiling-water-bath canner for 20 minutes. If necessary, adjust for altitude.

     Since we have had access to so many fresh apples, we have tried to incorporate them into our daily meals. Here is a recipe that is typical of polish surowka salads, that uses mostly ingredients from Windward's property.

Fresh Carrot and Apple Salad
Serves about 5

  • 6 large carrots, grated
  • 4 medium apples, grated
  • 1/2 Cup raisins, cherries or plums, finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Heat honey and lemon juice in microwave 30 seconds.
  2. Toss all ingredients together.

     This is my favorite baked goods recipe that I have found so far. The preparation of the apples is simple, yet the taste and texture of the apples remains dominant in the bread.

Old- Fashioned Apple- Cinnamon Crumb Coffeecake
Taken from The New Best Recipe, from the editors of Cook's Illustrated
Serves 8-10

  • 2 -3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 Tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used 1 Cup all-purpose and 1 Cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 11 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1 Teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 Cup buttermilk or plain yogurt, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 Cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter in a skillet over high heat until golden. Add the apples, cover and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until they are dry and tender, 2-3 minutes. Remover from heat, set aside. Cool to room temperature. Set aside.
    2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Generously grease 10 inch springform pan, or bread pan. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.
    3. Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl until blended. Add the butter and cut in with a whisk until the mixture resembles course bread crumbs. Remove 1 Cup mixture and set aside.
    4. Whisk the baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon into the remaining flour mixture. Add buttermilk, eggs, apples and vanilla; whisk vigorously until the batter is thick, smooth and fluffy, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
    5. Add the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon to reserved flour mxture, toss until well blended. Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter, pressing lightly until they adhere. Bake until the enter is firm and the cake tester comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool.

         Since working on dehydrating and canning the pears and apples, I have come to understand more intimately the life line that the kitchen provides. Cooking in itself at Windward is a social activity. When processing so much food, it is imperative to have a group working in unison. When we cook together, we share experiences, we learn about each other, essentially, we connect. Knowing that the products we have canned will be enjoyed over the next few years, by people we may never meet, is fulfilling. We are continuing a legacy that previous interns started by harvesting the crops. We are making an impact on the Windward community that is entirely unselfish and therefore sincere. At times, I feel a bit frustrated that so many people come and go, here, and throughout life in general. It is comforting to know, that even after my time here is finished, I can have a connection with the people that will be here after me.


    Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 67