Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Apples Get a Second Life and Even a Third

'Tis almost that favorite time of year for most men...deer season. You can get deer apples for cheap in the farmer's market. I saw an auction ad for them 65 lbs for $13. They may be under ripe, bruised, bug nibbled on, or just plain ugly. They are deemed unsalable to human consumers who only want bright, shiny, and pretty apples.

Not me! I'm looking at these apples and thinking apple pie filling, applesauce, and apple butter. Yummies for my tummy! Our newly planted apple trees here at the Cockeyed Homestead are still a few years from producing. The one ancient apple tree on the property was raided by squirrels again this year. So, I'm still having to search elsewhere for apples.

Bed Bath & Beyond model
At 21 cents a lb for apples, count us in! Sure they might require some extra labor getting them ready for the peeler/corer, but for the price I couldn't ignore it. But before my purchase of these apples, I needed somehow to peel and core them. I used to say, "With a sharp knife, I can do anything." I could shred fifty lbs of cabbage in an hour for sauerkraut. Of course, that was before my strokes left me with one functioning arm. Now, I need extra tools to get the job done. So I searched for one of those peeler/corer thing-a-ma-jigs that my grandmother had. I wanted one that bolted to the table, but short of ordering one, I had to get a suction base one. I was pleasantly surprised by the one I purchased. The suction cup actually held well!

Usually for pie filling, I like nice sized wedges of apple in my pie so I didn't use the slicer. This time was the exception. If the slices got broken, it was okay. Since it's just Mel and I on the homestead, pint jars were fine for apple pie filling. Huge, deep dish pies have been replaced by hand pies or smaller, individual serving type pies. Smaller pies need less or smaller pieces of apples. For applesauce and apple butter the size of the slices didn't matter.

When I picked up my deer apples, I wasn't surprised by the lot. It was just as I suspected. I got busy sorting them. Nothing goes to waste on this homestead. The really bad apples (overripe, too bruised, really wormy, etc) were placed in a bucket to be fed to the chicken and rabbits as treats. For the chickens, it's mainly to get them from underfoot. I ended up with a 3-gallon bucket of these. For every ten tasty, but ugly apples I threw in a couple of under ripened apples as I peeled and cored them to keep my tart to sweet ratio.

After all of them were peeled, sliced and cored, I rinsed the slices with cold water. I ended up with two 5-gallon buckets of the "waste." The reason the word waste is in quotes is because nothing is wasted until it truly is waste. I'll show you what I mean.

One 5-gallon bucket of peels and cores went into the kitchen. This was set aside to make fruit pectin for jams and jellies. The last 5-gallon bucket was set aside for homemade apple cider vinegar.

Spoon test
The bucket of peels and cores destined to become pectin was rinsed and place in a stock pot 2:1 ratio with water to boil. Two gallons of water to 1 gallon of peels/ cores. I did a spoon test to check the pectin. Once the liquid was reduced by half, it was strained through a butter cloth bag. It was allowed to slowly drip (no squeezing) overnight. The liquid was brought up to a boil the next day and hot packed unto jars. I did not process this in my water bath canner, but inverted the jars for ten minutes and then allowed them to cool and seal on their own. The ratio I use when making my jams and jellies is 1/4 cup of pectin to 1 cup of fruit/juice.

Now for the other 5-gallon bucket of peelings and cores destined to become apple cider vinegar was rinsed and divided up into 1 gallon jugs. I placed one cup of sugar to a ratio of 1:3 apples to water in each jugs. If you have an organic, apple cider like Braggs you can super charge your starting apple cider vinegar by adding 1 cup of Braggs to a gallon. I shook it up until the sugar was dissolved. I covered each with several layer of cheesecloth held in place by a rubber band. Each day, I stir it down for two weeks. It will start to ferment. I'll follow this by once a week stirring unless a SCOBI has formed already. If my SCOBI has formed, I'll carefully remove it, strain the liquid, and then replace the SCOBI. Each week, I'll taste the liquid until it reaches the acidity level I want. Usually within two months it's ready.

Use it for your next batch of apple cider vinegar or make kombucha with it.

Now, I'll have to admit there's not much else you can do with the cores and peels after all of this.Wait, have you got pigs? Yummies for their tummies. Shucks, we don't have pigs on our homestead. But it all can do triple duty by adding it to our compost pile.

Let me add all this up. My cost for the apples was $13. Sugar and assorted spices about $6. My results were three cases of pint jars of pie filling, one case of apple butter, two cases of applesauce. *BONUS* Four gallons of apple cider vinegar, and a case of fruit pectin for free. And, don't forget all those "spent" apple peels and core in the compost pile for feeding my next year's garden.

How's that for adding bang to my bucks?

Y'all have a blessed day.

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