Apples, Apples, Everywhere
By Rob Sproule
September on the prairies means never-ending blue skies, the smell of threshed wheat, and trees laden with more apples than many home-owners know what to do with. Drive down any older neighborhood and you’ll see tree limbs bountiful to the point of sagging, and many perfect apples inevitably end up wasted. We should avoid letting apples rot away for a number of reasons. Not only does it not make sense to let a rich harvest go to waste, but picking apples up off the ground slows down the spread of voracious apple maggots that currently terrorize backyards and orchards across Canada.
If you think you’ve run out of ways to use your apples, here are a few more. There’s one for the grown ups, one for the kids, and one for the soul. Enjoy!
For the Grown Ups: Apple Cider
Fresh apple cider is the best treat autumn treat ever, and you can even add an alcoholic kick (heartily recommended). Using sweet apples is best, especially for hard cider, but you can use 1 sweet: 1 tart (cooking apples) for non-alcoholic brews. Clean, quarter, and puree your apples, leaving the skin on for more flavour. Strain the puree through cheesecloth for the sweet, sweet juice. A bushel of apples (about 35 litres) will yield about a gallon of cider, so it’s a great way to strip sagging branches.
You can drink the juice or blend a hot toddy up, which is as easy as making coffee! Mix brown sugar, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and orange wedges into an ordinary coffee filter. Pour your home-made juice into the coffee maker for comfort in a mug! For a more interesting toddy, grab some cider yeast (usually available from wine-making places or online), and get your fermentation on! Instructions are readily available on-line for making the grown-up version, and it’s well worth it.
For the Kids: Decorated Caramel Apples
I say this is for kids, but let’s be honest here: we’re going to eat more than they are. If you have an eating-apple tree that you can’t graze fast enough, try making a family fun night out of making and decorating caramel apples. If you’re a keener and want to make your own caramel there are a lot of great recipes online if you don’t have one already. If you want the caramel to hurry-up already and let’s get onto the fun part (which has my vote), use a double-boiler or the microwave to melt a few cups of unwrapped caramel candies. Add a couple tablespoons of milk to make it apple-coating creamy.
Once you’ve washed and jabbed your apples with popsicle sticks, coat them in melted caramel, spinning slowly to coat the entire fruit. Refrigerate, sticks up, on a wax papered cookie sheet for 1-2 hours. If you’re going to decorate them, cool them after you’ve sprinkled the goodies.
Now the fun part! Get the kids together (with their friends to if you cool-parent-points) and lay out your decorations. Here are some of the most deliciously popular choices:
– Mini marshmallows (because who doesn’t like these?)
– Sprinkles (you can choose colours based on a theme, like Halloween)
– Crushed peanuts or cashews (for sweet/salty snack lovers)
– Crushed chocolate bars (now we’re talking! Butterfingers are the classic but choose your own favourite)
For your Soul: Operation Fruit Rescue
Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) was established in 2009 out of a desire to utilize the fruit falling, unclaimed and uneaten, across the capital region. It’s an inspiring idea wherein the goodness of a previously wasted bounty is spread around. The idea is simple. Contact OFRE (email@example.com). They will mobilize pickers to harvest your fruit. You’ll get about a third of it back; the volunteers will get about a third; the Food Bank will get about a third. The OFRE relies on volunteers so if you have a few hours to spend in the bosom of an apple tree than please contact them and let them know you can pitch in.