Thursday, October 23, 2008

an accomplishment of apples

On a sunny day in September, two young women -- myself and a friend -- picked some Whitney Crab apples from a neighbour's orchard. It was a good time and we chatted as we worked the trees. My friend would climb up into the central boughs of a tree, and shake the branches, joking, "Feel my wrath!" Apples would tumble down, falling "plop plop plop plop!" all over the grass. After she'd shaken a good amount, I'd go around with a plastic bag picking them up. We talked and talked and shook branches and picked up apples, not realizing how many we were picking, until we'd run out of the bags I'd brought. It didn't seem like that much at the time, but then once I got them all home I realized what I'd set out for myself: something like 12 or 13 full-size plastic grocery bags filled with apples.

September and October, I'm realizing, is still full-on food production and processing time, in the Maritimes. I don't know where I got the idea from, but I had held the notion that things wound down in September. Nope! Our slow spring and summer mean that a lot of crops come to fruition in the Fall, not just the usual root crops like winter squash (including pumpkins), turnips, potatoes, carrots, and onions. There are also crops that in more Southern climates are all summer long, like tomatoes, zucchini and corn. And if you're into apples, as I am, increasingly, then Fall's the time to get busy!

So I looked at the grocery bags full of apples. I started to freak out a little. I said to myself, "It's OK if I only process some of them. Whatever I don't process can go into compost, or maybe I can even take them over to Murdoch's and give them to his horses."

When I did actually start processing them, I wrote down each day I worked and how many hours I was working. So now, I have the statistics, ready to present.

Over a period of nearly two weeks (September 27th to October 10th), one woman (that'd be me) worked a total of thirty-one and a half hours making and then either freezing or canning:

  • 9 quarts of spiced applesauce
  • 14 pints (7 quarts) plain applesauce
  • (1 gallon of cider that went into making cider butter, which made)
  • 8 half-pints of cider butter
  • 5 and 1/2 Liters of cider (additional)

For the non-Imperial minded in you, a quart is equal to four cups of liquid measure. A pint is equal to two cups, and a half-pint is equal to one cup. Also, one Liter is equal to four cups, and one gallon is roughly equal to eight quarts, or eight Liters. So to convert my production to the cup measure, we have:

  • 36 cups spiced applesauce
  • 28 cups plain applesauce
  • (32 cups cider that went into making cider butter, which made)
  • 8 cups cider butter
  • 22 cups cider (additional)

This is not including the apples which rotted along the way and had to be tossed out, which wasn't a large percentage, but did account for some. So that's between 31 and 32 hours of work, spread out over two weeks (because real life is still existing, with other, paid, jobs to do, as well as chores around the property and home, and oh yeah, down time), to process what took two women just two and a half hours to pick. That means about 12.5 hours of processing work for each hour of picking time.

And in the end, I actually did process nearly every single apple, even though along the way I kept telling myself, "If I don't process all of them, that's fine too!" It taught me that for a big project, one where you can't see the end after a day's work, it's best to keep your head down, looking at the part you can see for now, and pace yourself. That's really the only sensible way to get through it.

Now I think: imagine if I had to live, for the winter and early spring, off what I and my family could preserve in the summer and fall. And not just that, but imagine how it was when people around here did live off what they preserved. There'd be more than 9 quarts of applesauce going into the cold room, that's for sure!

It's all food for thought, while I learn how to preserve the real food.

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