The kids and I discovered a new favorite spot: Beilke Family Farm. They had a blast pulling each other in the wagons and even helped pick a few apples. They were superb taste testers too! I have to admit though that the apples were a bit too beautiful and too tasty… and way too easy to pick… I over did it in a heart beat.
The result: three days of washing, peeling, coring, slicing, cooking, smashing and canning. Each time I open a can I will remember the hard work and be extra grateful. Each time the kids eat delicious, no sugar added applesauce or I bake our family favorite Apple Pancakes I will rejoice knowing it was so worth it!
On the third day, I was a bit sleep deprived (hindsight: when you have a teething 9 month old who isn’t sleeping – and you aren’t sleeping, let the apples sit, hide them if you need to). Determined to finish, and determined to infuse fun and let the kids enjoy working alongside me… I came up with a wild and crazy idea. Let the kids clean the apples in the BATHTUB! Their eyes lit up! Then they disappeared. I should have known I was in for it when they came back wearing swimsuits and goggles! I am trying harder these days to enjoy each age and stage, lighten up, share in their exuberance for life, grab teaching moments, say “yes” as much as possible and realize that it’s okay if lunch is served a bit later or there are a couple extra messes to clean up… and some days, that means swimming with the apples.
We picked Ruby Jon and Melrose for our apple sauce and apple butter. They were so sweet that I didn’t need to add any sugar to the apple sauce. My mode of madness that I think worked really well: get the crock pot of apple butter going first (fill large crock pot with peeled, cored and sliced apples, 2 cups of sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon and a dash of salt) so that it can cook on low all day or about 9 hours. That way I dumped the peels (why not get as many nutrients as I can?!) and cores (there is still plenty of flesh on those cores!) into the apple sauce pots. I use apple sauce as an oil substitute for almost all of my baking, so we will put our 62 quarts of applesauce to good use! We use the apple butter weekly for apple pancakes (I put up 51 pints of apple butter) and I cut up 5 gallons worth of apples for muffins, pies and crisps. I might go back for a different variety of apples and freeze more for pies? (That is, once my aversion to apples dissipates!). I love to can as much as possible because it saves my freezer space, however, I did discover that at the end of a long day of canning it is nice to simply put the apple butter in the fridge and then get up in the morning and simply use my FoodSaver to package it up in pint size bags and be done. (sidenote: this did not work with my sliced apples… for some reason the juice of the apples wouldn’t let it get a good seal… had to use plain ziplock freezer bags)
I love to save time, eat healthy and save money… so each week I have a morning of prep. I get out my grain (ordered through Azure), Blendtec grain mill, ziplock baggies and get busy. I have ziplock bags that I reuse each week that I have written the dry ingredients and wet ingredients of a couple of our favorite breakfast recipes. I grind my grain and fill my bags with the dry ingredients and then in the morning I simply add the wet ingredients. Bisquick can’t come close to homemade and now I feel like it is just as fast – sweet!
Our Apple Pancake recipe is a modified version of Cooks.com’s “Apple Cinnamon Waffles”… Matt says that I “healthify” everything (which is probably true, I have a hard time leaving any recipe alone – and why not? experimenting is oh, so fun!), but this one he says is “restaurant quality”… I love that man!
2 c wheat flour (I use soft white winter wheat berries)
4 tsp baking powder
2-3 Tbsp sugar (more or less to your taste – we don’t put syrup on these so I don’t mind putting a bit of sugar in)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 c milk (or almond milk)
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 1/3 c homemade apple butter
1 tsp vanilla
Another Smith family favorite that I bag each week in my ziplock baggies… “French Pancakes” from the Taste of Oregon cookbook (I haven’t found a recipe in that cookbook that we don’t love!) Our kids call them “roll up pancakes” because they are huge and they like to roll them up and eat them like a tortilla. 🙂