fall apples for winter nights

There has been a lot of excitement here about the idea of putting food up (or ‘by’, just depends on who you talk to) for the winter. I love that my little boy shares the thrill of harvesting, preparing, saving and dreaming, all for warm winter stews and soups, filled with our vegetables. Today was a busy day in the garden – gathering carrots, picking tomatoes, getting more okra, and noticing that the Swiss chard was making a recovery from an insect attack (and we are fully stocked on chard already, YIKES!).

It was also full of little bits of learning. Elliott got an okra flower for a vase and analyzed the petals, the pistil, and all the yellow pollen, with all of his fingers. He collected two new caterpillars, one a black swallowtail, which provided lots of little lessons all day long: why it has orange horns (to scare off predators), how many legs it really has (six true legs, 10 prolegs), how and what it eats (carrot tops, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace), and how it will overwinter (in its chrysalis, but in our garage!).

Today was also full of cooking and kitchen work. Some days can feel overwhelming when I have this much to prepare. Luckily, today felt energizing and satisfying. The promised cookies were made with help from my little big boy. Carrots and Brussel sprouts were put up while dinner cooked. And apples, oh the big bag of apples from Rod at Farmer’s Market. They had to be dealt with today. Since we had other things to do, instead of applesauce and canning, I decided to tackle frozen pies and bagged apples for other desserts. Our favorite way to have warm apple pie in the winter is to do a bit of the work now with apples we have picked or bought and know the source, in this case a co-worker and vendor at farmer’s market. With my $7 bag of Golden Delicious, I set to work. I am using a trick my mom showed me. It may be well-known, but it feels clever and sneaky to me. You slice and spice your apple pie filling and freeze it in a bag right in the pie pan. Then, on baking day, just make the crust, slide out the pre-formed frozen apple pie filling from the bag, and bake. Genius! Here, I will show you.

Layout your pie filling ingredients – spices, sugar, flour. I am following the good old Betty Crocker recipe, which I cannot technically put on here without permission, but most any recipe will do.

 

If you have a apple peeler/slicer/corer, get it set up. Or buy one! It is quite handy for bulk applesauce, pies, anytime you have more than a few apples to peel. Do you see my company here? The caterpillars were my only pie-making companions today.

Layout the number of apples you need for a single pie recipe. I quickly lose count when I am cranking along.

Peel… which is very satisfying, and did I mention, easy.

Marvel at how fast that went.

Marvel at the pile of peels. Eat up if you pre-washed your apples (or if you are lucky to have apples that have never been sprayed).

Quarter the apple. Remove any seeds, bad spots, or peel that were not removed by the peeler/slicer/corer.

Throw the apple pieces into a gallon freezer bag. Yes, just skip the bowl and spoon. This was my revelation tonight (only after I made a mess of a bowl and spoon. Lucky you do not have to make the same mistake!) Make sure you have labelled it “Apple Pie” and got the date on the bag. Perhaps, like me, you will have no idea what day it is and just take a guess. Below you will see I was wrong. Hm.

After you finish one pie’s worth of apples, measure in the flour, sugar, and spices. Or, if you are like me, measure in the sugar and flour with a quick leveling shake (eh, close enough) and a few shakes of each spice (looks like a teaspoon!). The pie will forgive you and come out great regardless. Now, seal the bag, but leave the air in for now. It is time to spend a minute shaking the ingredients around, mimicking that spoon we cast aside. Once well shaken, then release excess air from bag and seal tight.

Shape the bag into the pie pan, pretending you are heaping it into a crust. (That part will really be months later.) *See, wrong date!* Now repeat all the above steps a few more times, depending on the number of apples you have and the number of pie pans you have on hand!

Marvel at your progress. Here, I am four pans down, one to go.

Time to place them in the freezer! A chest freezer is great for the number I was making. If you only make one or two, a small freezer will be just fine. Make sure you have level (or semi-level) space to set them until they are frozen solid. Once frozen, in a day or so, you can remove your pie plates. The pie filling can be stored vertically, you can stack things on it, whatever! 

Clean up time! I did not show the sticky counters, the drippy juices on the floor, the flour explosion. Yeah, that part just stinks. But the trip to the compost was worth mentioning. Two bowls worth! Since we do an open compost, it is great for the bees, wasps, other insects and big mammals who get their fill here. We have seen opossum, raccoons, and chipmunks all visit for a little snack. And it is two huge bowls we are not putting in the trash. We then use the composted material for our garden. Every spring we till it into the rows. If you do not compost, it is super easy and there are so many sites out there about how to set it up and how to maintain it. Basically, we add layers of leaves and grass, collecting and adding food scraps as our container fills up in the kitchen. We use a basic metal ice bucket – cheap, attractive, dishwasher safe, and it will not break like the expensive ceramic compost pails. And you do not need to worry about the smell. The lid keeps the smells under control and we have no filter to replace like the marketed compost pails. We add any fruit or vegetable scraps (except seeds!!), egg shells, and coffee grounds. You can add bread, crackers, even paper towels, but they do little to benefit the compost. It just cuts down on trash and is easily broken down in the compost bin. Do not add meat and pet waste! They attract to many animals and are not appropriate for a garden compost. Remember, you have to dig in that soil in the summer.

Here is ours, after adding the peels… you can even see all the carrot tops in the back. Oh, the best part, if you layer well enough, there is no need to stir. We just keep heaping and our super hot pile just keeps on working, even in the winter. Of course, this can be painful to look at some days so tuck it away, far from viewing range!

Now wait you say… all that work, all the cleanup, lots of pie filling in the freezer. But what do I do with them again?

Oh yes, off the compost talk. Pies, back to pies.

It is quite simple. On baking day, follow your recipe to make a fresh pie. Generally it goes like this: make your crust, place your (still frozen) filling into the pie plate on top of the bottom crust, dot with butter, cover with top crust, seal and flute, cover sides with foil, slit the top, and bake until juices bubble through slits. The  cooking duration might be a bit longer, so ensure the foil stays on until the last fifteen minutes or so. Serve warm with ice cream, or cool.

I am already dreaming of a cold winter evening and eating a *fresh* apple pie!

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2 Comments

  1. Amanda said,

    September 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Great post Diana! I’m saving this one for later 🙂

  2. Nichole said,

    September 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I love this apple pie filling idea. Oh what I could do if I had a deep freezer!! One day, perhaps! We played with apples too this weekend. Just can’t help it at this time of the year.

    Our composting sounds like yours. Just throw it in there and in a few months, you have dirt. So easy and so good. Yesterday, I got the fall garden going with what I know was table scraps from earlier this summer.

    Take care!


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