There’s an apple tree in the park by our house in Michigan that I always begin to check on each spring. It gets to be covered in lush white flowers in early June.
I patiently visit each summer trip to check on the tree’s progress as these flowers turn to small fruits then slowly get larger until they begin to fall from the tree just before ripening. By August the ground under the tree is covered in green apples. If you know me at all, you know I hate to see food like this go to waste. It pains me to see all that fruit sit and rot… I have to pick it up!
When I set off with my basket the first time Josh laughed. The second time, he called me a hoarder. “Well,” I said, “at least the stuff I hoard is edible!”
These apples are yellow when ripe, so most are definitely not there yet. Their flavor, though, isn’t bad. Not super sweet, but also not terribly dry. I can work with that.
I brought two big baskets of apples home with us and set myself to processing them.
My first project was Apple Wine. I made a batch of this previously, and it was the best homemade wine I’ve ever done. We drank all 5 bottles in one week earlier in the summer because it was so delicious (and we were on vacation – why not!?).
So, I used one entire basket to make three batches this time. That’ll be 3 gallons, 15 bottles. I used the recipe from Wild Wine Making, which is now my go-to for wine recipes. It’s simple:
- 3 pounds apples, diced
- 1 gallon water
- 2 pounds sugar
- 1 packet of wine yeast
Boil the water and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve. Pour over the apples and let come to room temp. Stir in the yeast. Let it ferment for 7-10 days, stirring several times each day. Strain out the solids and put in a carboy with airlock for at least 6 months, or until fermentation (bubbling) has totally ceased. Rack as sediment settles to the bottom of the carboy. Bottle.
I’m on day 3 of primary fermentation. It’s super bubbly! My kitchen smells quite yeasty, and you can hear the wine bubbling away when it’s quiet in the house.
Next up, I washed my second basket of apples then quartered them for juicing and apple sauce.
To make juice, I cooked the quartered apples in just enough water to cover them. Once they came to a boil, I lowered the temp to a simmer and cooked about 10 minutes or until the apples started to disintegrate.
I turned off the heat and started pouring batches of juice/apples through a colander lined in fine cheesecloth. I gently stirred to move the liquid through.
As I strained each batch, I then put the solids through my food mill. Two runs through and I had a lovely thick sauce and not much solid waste – mostly all skin and seeds.
It took a while to strain all the juice and process the solids into sauce, but I ended up with a huge pot of nice clear juice and another of applesauce. The juice I warmed to 190 degrees for about 5 minutes, adding a bit of brown sugar to sweeten it slightly. Taste yours and see if it’s needed. Then I filled quart jars, added 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice, sealed and processed for 15 minutes. (Recipe from Drink the Harvest)
I also heated the apple sauce, adding some brown sugar and cinnamon to taste, then canned and processed these.
I finished the day with 6.5 quarts of apple juice, 12 pints of apple sauce and 3 gallons of wine bubbling away. I’d say my apple hoarding paid off!