Seems appropriate…wasn’t that an apple falling on Chicken Little’s head which set the whole thing off? Two things I have a lot of around here right now: chickens and apples.
The three new chickens are still skittish, but getting settled. The one missing a large patch of her back feathers will launch herself at me when I come into the coop, but not to be mean. No, she wants to sit on whatever bowl of food I’ve brought out so she can gobble her fair share without any of the others picking on her. The other buff orpington will come out and let me hand feed her and pet her, but she doesn’t yet go down and join “my girls”. The little game hen, now dubbed Racer X, is speedy, flighty, nervous, and the low girl on the totem pole. I did manage to catch her tonight with little effort, and held her and cooed at her for a while until she calmed down. They’ll get there eventually, I’m sure. Meanwhile, one of my original girls has a big owie on the back of her comb, presumably where the other girls were picking on her. Turns out that one likes to sit on my lap and cluck to herself and have her wings scritched. I’m sure my neighbor thinks I’m insane; he used to raise chickens by the hundreds, in a very “factory” mindset, and here I am petting mine.
As for apples, well, we have a lot. There’s a tree in the front yard which is obviously old, and had a few sad apples stuck on it last fall when we were moving. It’s dropped a ton so far, filling a big cardboard moving box with soft-fleshed yellow apples with a bit of surface scabbing but no sign of anything major. Once peeled, they are perfectly acceptable apples. I made some into a pie last weekend, and though I objected to them on the basis that they are soft and don’t hold up well after baking, they did have a nice flavor. They’re destined to be applesauce though.
We have even more apples than that, though, because we went over to our old house and raided the Emerald Spire columnar apple tree in the back yard. (My parents now own the house, so it’s not as weird as it sounds.) We planted the tree three or four years ago, and it’s a beautifully compact tree less than 4 feet wide but about 12 feet tall. The apples are big and green, and those that hadn’t fallen yet were also smooth skinned and relatively free of anything resembling scab or insect damage. I did find a few with a worm parked right at the stem end, but they appeared to be doing nothing beyond sitting there in a little webby bit. After bringing them home, I slated them for apple pies and apple cheesecake, because I know they are wonderfully firm and have a nice tart flavor that holds up well in baking. I still have a few left, but I canned a batch of yummy apple pie filling today!
Apple Pie Filling
* 6 quarts blanched apple slices
* 5 1/2 cups sugar
* 1 1/2 cups Clear Jel (a food starch, available at WilCo Farm Stores and some baking stores)
* 1 Tbls cinnamon
* 1 tsp nutmeg
* 2 1/2 cups cold water
* 5 cups apple juice
* 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice
* Ascorbic acid powder, or commercial anti-darkening powder for fruit
* At least one 6+ quart saucepot, two very large bowls, and a strainer or sieve
* Quart jars and lids
Prepare your jars and lids for canning, leave the sterile jars hot and leave the lids in the hot water from scalding. Fill your water canner and set on to heat.
Wash, peel, and core your apples. (If you do this a lot, let me recommend a hand-crank apple peeler-corer. I’ve had mine a couple of years now, and I love it. LOVE it.) Cut apples into 1/2 inch wide slices, place in a large bowl with anti-darkening solution of 1 tsp ascorbic acid to 1 gallon of water, or solution made according to the directions on the bottle.
Remove slices from the solution, drain well. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Blanch fruit by placing 6 cups of slices in the water, then return it to boiling. Boil each batch for 1 minute after it returns to a boil, then remove the fruit from the water, drain well, and place in a large bowl. Cover the bowl to keep warm.
After all fruit is blanched, drain the pot of water. In the large pot, combine sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water, and applesauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble.
Add the lemon juice, stir in well, and boil one more minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, immediately fold in the hot blanched apple slices. Fill hot jars with the pie filling, leaving 1 inch head space. Remove air bubbles with a non-metal spatula, wipe jar rims, adjust the lids. Process in a water bath canner for 25 minutes (pints and quarts.) Makes 5-7 quarts depending on how much your apples shrink during blanching.