|Tuesday, September 2, 2008|
The boughs are bowing with the weight of fruit, as Mother Nature makes up for last year’s dearth with an over abundance of apples. Every tree is loaded and has bending branches. Nature always redeems herself.
June apples come in early. Lodi, Transparent and Early Harvest are the soft, yellow ones. Striped June is a generic term for any number of varieties that ripen early. We grow one called Strawberry that Coin Hire’s family grew in the Haysville Community over a hundred year ago. It’s crisper than most early apples and has a macintosh texture and flavor.
For sheer quantity the Golden Sweet can really put them out. When ripe, in late July they are a deep golden color and as sweet as sugar, but too mealy for eating out of hand. I like them better slightly unripe when they’re still crisp. They turn into applesauce in a matter of minutes when cooking them down.
Mollies Delicious ripen in mid-August with the biggest apples I’ve grown. Shaped like a typical Red Delicious, their sweet flavor is far superior. Big apples have a big advantage; there is still plenty to eat even if it has a bug bite or two.
Gala comes from New Zealand and is another sweet apple. Although on the small side, especially if the crop is not thinned, Galas are as pretty an apple you’ll see. A bright yellow skin is blushed with pink, and the taste is superb.
Another favorite apple we grow is called Liberty, because it is free of many common apple diseases. It was bred at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, a town with a very different pronunciation than our Lafayette. Liberty has a true apple flavor; just the right mixture of sweet and tart. The texture is crisp and the juice flows down your chin.
Jonagold is a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious. I think it is better than either, and it bears well, too.
Arkansas Black is the kind of the late fall apples. As the name implies, the fruit is very dark colored. They mature late and taste best after they’ve been stored for a few months. These apples will still be rock hard next spring, and are the best ones for winter storage.
What do we do with all of these apples? Pies, either baked or fried, put a smile on everyone’s face. They can be dried and saved for later, or cooked up into applesauce. Eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away, or so they say. But that still doesn’t put a dent in the crop.
On August 24th, 1869, our apple cider press was made, at least that’s the date stamped on it. 30 years ago Steve bought it for $12.00 at the Doc Kirby auction, and rebuilt the wooden part with our friend Chris. We celebrated it’s birthday by pressing out 40 gallons of delicious apple juice.
After bloating ourselves on the nectar, we filled bottles and froze it, leaving headroom for the juice to expand. Some of it was canned in jars; similar to the way you would can tomato juice. The rest was given away to the neighbors who’s trees we raided on the way to the pressing.
Apples don’t bear well every year, mostly due to a late frost while they’re blooming. So we put up a little extra for lean times ahead. Pruning the trees in winter helps kept hem from overbearing. Lime is important to have in the soil for disease prevention. Grass and deer take their toll on younger trees; they need to be kept free from both as they’re growing up. But when all conditions are right, fruit falls like manna from heaven.