Join Janet on her adventures as a designer, writer, maker, and farmer in montana. no two days are ever the same. you might even see a bear or two.

Apples and Pears

Apples and Pears

This was my view yesterday morning:


The husband set up the orchard ladder for me so I could pick the Red Wealthy, the Golden Delicious, and the State Fair trees. All of our trees are on dwarf rootstock, but we still need the ladder for the ones at the top. It took me about an hour to get all the apples. I still have to pick the Honeycrisps, but they aren’t quite ready yet. Let’s hope the bears don’t decide to pick them for us.

[This is the first year that the deer haven’t cleaned off the State Fair tree, mostly because it’s too tall now. I tasted one and decided that it is my favorite of all the apple varieties we have. It tastes like what I expect an apple to taste like. And my friend Sunnie, who lives up the road near Susan and Jeryl, has a Macintosh tree. She said we could take grafts from it, so I’ll consult with Susan and see if she’ll help me with that. I’d much rather have starts from a local tree that is acclimated.]

I had to make a judgment call; the Wealthy apples were just this side of ripe. The seeds were brown but the skins hadn’t turned fully red yet. If we hadn’t had so much bear activity this year, or if we had fencing around the trees, I would have left them for another week or two. I’d rather protect the trees, so I picked them. I got a box full. They are nice-looking apples:


In fact, we have very little pest damage on any of our apples. (We don’t spray the apples, not even dormant oil.) We have very little pest damage in our garden, too. I have some theories on why that is, but I think I’ll leave that for another blog post.

I went ahead and made eight pints of applesauce with half the box of Wealthys. (I also have a box of Lowland Raspberry apples from Susan and may do a batch with some of them.) Being a lazy canner, I just cut up all the apples, put them in a pot, and cook them down into mush:


A group of 6-8 of us usually gets together every fall to make applesauce at church. We have a Village Cafe as part of our Ten Thousand Villages fair trade sale in November and serve applesauce with the meal. We can make 12 gallons of sauce in about three hours and we use this method.

Once the apples are cooked down and soft, I run them through my Victorio food mill:


I have a love/hate relationship with this food mill. It may be sexist of me to say so, but I am convinced this was designed by a man. Furthermore, it was designed by a man who didn’t bother to ask any women to field test it for him. The apple mush goes into the hopper at the top. There is a cylindrical screen around that red auger that separates the seeds and skins from the pulp as you turn the handle. The pulp slides down the chute and the leavings come out the end of the cylinder into that bowl.

THAT CYLINDER NEEDS TO EXTEND FURTHER. That’s such an obvious design flaw that I don’t know how this made it into production. Only bowls of a certain size and shape will fit under there, and occasionally, some of the scraps will fall back onto the chute and have to be fished out. We complain about this every year when we make applesauce.

I was very excited to find out that Victorio was offering a plastic cylinder extension—which should have been incorporated into the original design—so I ordered one. Unfortunately, as I discovered yesterday, I have the model 200 and the plastic extension only fits model 250. (Model 250, by the way, is basically the exact same design except that the end of the metal screen is slightly different.) I’ll find someone with the model 250 and give them the plastic extension. I’ve used this food mill this way for twenty-some years so I’ll just live with it.

[I also have one of the very old versions which is all metal. I’d prefer to use that one, but the clamp that holds it to the counter does not open wide enough for my counters or my table, unfortunately.]

I am kind of picky about my applesauce. I don’t like it to be really sweet, so I won’t add sugar unless I have to. I did add some to this batch because the apples were on the tart side. I also run my sauce through the mill twice because I like it smooth. Once I was happy with the taste and consistency, I put it in jars and processed it. I ended up with eight pints.

I also picked all the pears and set them in the garage to ripen a bit more:


Susan’s husband, Jim, told me to put them in egg cartons and that works perfectly. I will have to get them out of the garage by this weekend so the husband can work on DD#2’s car, but they should be ready to slice up and dehydrate by then. I also washed the dehydrator trays. All of our pears are a variety called Harrow Sweet.

After dinner, I went back out to the garden and pulled up more beans. We are supposed to get rain all weekend and I’d like to get them into the greenhouse. I am just enchanted with them. I love popping open the dried pods and finding the beans inside.

We do have a problem with the tomatoes. The majority of the Oregon Star tomatoes have blossom end rot. I thought the ground squirrel was chewing off the bottoms. I am going to pick them anyway and see if I can cut off the damaged ends before I use them, but if not, I may have to buy a box of paste tomatoes for making sauce. The other tomato varieties look great. And this is the first time in all the years of growing any tomatoes that I have had this problem. Blossom end rot is typically cause by lack of calcium. I find that hard to believe in our garden—our water is off the charts for magnesium and calcium and when we had the soil tested a few years ago, the calcium levels were fine. It could be a watering issue. The husband notes that we planted the tomatoes at the far end of the garden where the soil isn’t as good as it is in other parts of the garden. That section could use a load of manure. I’ll add that to the list of things to do.

I was going to do pie filling today but I have to run errands in town. I may pull beans this morning and prune the lavender hedge, go to town this afternoon when it’s hot, and reassess when I get home. I could do pie filling tomorrow.

Botanical Experiments

Botanical Experiments

Winter Is Coming

Winter Is Coming