Last Sunday I made my first-ever batch of homemade apple juice.
Earlier in the week, Lady Persimmons, my friend and next-door neighbor, and I decided that Sunday night would be our apple date. I agreed to pick the apples beforehand from the two apple trees in our backyard, and Lady P would provide the setting and necessary equipment.
The fact that we had a successful crop of apples this year was a happy surprise. For the previous two years, a type of moth has gotten the best of the apples -- with wormholes in nearly every apple, slowly devouring its life force, and making the idea of eating them more than a little bit unpleasant. However, I did try a few of them, but, more than not, they dropped to the ground, spoiled.
This year, as a more committed ethicurean, I helped hang some sticky moth traps in each tree, which I -- the previously known "nonkiller of snails" -- reluctantly agreed to use in order to keep those pesky moths from engaging in their seasonal breeding dance.
A much healthier and appealing crop of apples was our reward. So Sunday afternoon, I used our tall stepladder to hoist myself up high enough to reach the lower branches, now full of ample bouquets of yellow-green fruit. Sometimes it seemed for every apple I plucked another one, somewhere, dropped. Ker-PLUNK.
Next year I expect to have an even better crop, now that I've learned that it's really better to cull some of the apples from each grouping before they start to compete too much with each other for survival. Unfortunately, once again, a number of apples have gotten tossed willy nilly, like marbles, onto the patio tiles below -- which so clearly illustrates what happens when culling isn't done.
(Also, I just discovered in one of my garden-tip books that I may have pulled too hard when I picked the apples, unwittingly causing at least some of the "kerplunkings." In fact, it's better to gently cup the apple in your hand and push it toward the stem and sideways, to allow the apple to break free. Also, the book recommends placing each apple as you would an egg into your basket, to prevent bruising.)
Fortunately, the possums love us for our typical laziness in getting these juicy jewels picked up off the ground, making a late night dinner of them. (Next year we pledge to get the dropped fruit picked up more quickly -- and more often.)
Speaking of critters that pass in the night, the last two weeks have found us battling with at least one very determined skunk over whom -- if anyone -- gets to hang out under our house at night. Two holes dug into the earth over the past week or so have been discovered and refilled. One hole was filled in with cement to let that sneaky skunk know how really serious we are about that no vacancy sign. Yet, just two days ago, another hole appeared, to the right of the cement, almost big enough for at least a svelte skunk to slip into. How much cement is this going to take?
One night, my Sweet Pea (a.k.a. Peaches) awoke at the ungodly hour of 4 am and confirmed with her own eyewitness the identity of said suspected species, who was scratching away just below our bedroom window, attempting to dig under our abode. We have had possums lurking at night, eating our dropped apples; raccoons have opened our locked cat door from the outside with their very agile paws and claws to get in to eat the cat's food... so why not have a neighborhood skunk squatting under the house of these seemingly very nice, slow-witted people? But I digress...
So, after filling up my grandmother's old soup pot to nearly overflowing, I determined we had more than enough apples to make some juice.
At Lady P's, we filled her kitchen sink with the apples, washing them with a steady stream of tap water. Next we got out the juicer and quickly made our assembly line. We did this in the spirit of both efficiency and speed, since Lady P had a dinner date with hubby Lord Barbeque just an hour hence. Thus, time was of the essence.
Apples washed in sink. Check.
Cutting board with sharp knife placed near sink. Check.
Juicer revved up and ready to go -- with four-cup-sized measuring cup set right below juicer's spout. Check. And. Check.
I began cutting apples, first in half, then each in half again. Pared the core and trimmed away any blemishes or sign of worms. A wastebasket was conveniently at my feet... and even more conveniently, Lady P and Lord B's low-riding, black dachshund sashayed left and right whenever my speed caused apple-piece overshots onto a well-mopped floor. I had no idea a dog would eat apples, let alone with such passion. Good dog!
And what a fantastic invention, the modern juicer. It hummed, and it purred; it whirred, and it poured... til our large measuring cup peaked, and it was time to pour... and then taste! Two kiddie glasses filled to the brim and then, clink, and we toasted! And oh, such deliciousness. Do you want to know a secret?
The secret ingredient
Lady P was so brilliant. Somewhere she'd read, that adding a carrot or two, would make a great apple-taste enhancer, and she was so right. I have never tasted an apple juice so sweet and yummily tart. The experience was also a bit like enjoying that first tomato from my garden this past summer. There's just a certain extra something when you've had a hand in it's being or making.
(To be honest, we did add about six organic apples of various varieties that Lady P had recently purchased to the mix... just in case. In the past, she had found the flavor of the apples from our trees to be less than perfect, back in the day before we lived there. But next time, I think we should try using only our homegrown apples and trust that they will suffice. Stay tuned.)
Over the following three days, I enjoyed drinking my share of the juice we had made. And a few nights ago, I heated up the pulp and fiber I had rescued from the other side of the juicer.
Unfortunately, I have had such a hectic week that my good intention to use these cooked remnants in something hasn't manifested. Today I did have this wacky idea to freeze some of it in ice cube trays, put the frozen blocks into a freezer bag, and then add a cube or two when making my smoothies, for a little extra something. If anyone out there has a suggestion for using this "by-product," please let me know.
Homemade Apple Juice
Sliced apples, not peeled
(I have no idea how many apples we cut up)
Grind two carrots for every four cups of juice
We made four batches -- or a total of 16 cups -- of apple juice.