Stocking Up – a fall festival of food

Stocking up – A fall festival of food

Fall is always a special time of year for me.  Going back to when I was a small child and helping Mom, Dad, Gramma & Great-Gramma clean the garden and start preparing for winter, it was… precious. Time with loved ones. Gorgeous colours for the transition in nature.  Amazing food.

This year was a special one for me and my family. I took a full week off to pick and preserve fruit for the winter.  It worked really well. My wife and I just had our first child this spring, so it was a lot more challenging than picking & preserving in years past and it was also a lot more fulfilling.  But I’ll get to that later.

We got really lucky with the picks we signed up for. The first was a small acreage north of Edmonton, which listed needing 1 tree picked.  We got out there to find 3 eating apples. 2 crabs, and an Evans cherry all dripping with fruit. After speaking with the owner, we agreed to pick for two days, and pick as much as we could. The second day I’d already signed up for another apple pick, so that evening we got another full tree of eating apples and a handful of crabs.  All in all, there was nearly 500 lbs of apples & crabs, and almost 50 lbs of cherries.

One of the challenges I have with picking is deciding where to donate.  This year it was easy – the day after the pick we had an appointment near Whyte ave, so YESS got a nice surprise and a lot of fruit. It was neat because the chefs had just arrived and once I started bringing the food in, they immediately started planning what they would do with it. Very fun experience.

We had planned to juice a lot of the apples. I’ve been picking with OFRE for a few years now, so one of the friends in the organization has a T-frame jack press, that works really well.  I’d called him ahead of time, and we’d arranged to press it all in one go.

There was too much to do in an evening after he was done work, so we did it in two.  Mix of eating & crabs produces a very nice blended flavour.  If you ever have the chance, try to do some small batches of juice to see what different apples taste like. If you think all juice is the same… you haven’t been picking & preserving long enough.  =)

The following day was batch pasteurization day.  We have a lot of jars that have been handed down to us from family members who don’t use them anymore.  It’s very nice for us to have them all, and on a day like that day was… it was a necessity. 

100 L of apple juice, canned in 1 Day. Sweet (not sweetened, just very tasty as is.  Also – pun).

While I was busy with the juice, my wife and her Gramma were working on applesauce.  Remember, that new baby we had?  Well, we figured making our own applesauce would be a good plan.  So we had nearly 100lbs of that sauced too.  Much of it was frozen, as we were still running out of jars at this point (and a little sick of canning).  Applesauce is also great in baked goods – especially the chocolate chip walnut spice cookies I’m eating while writing this.  As an added bonus, my daughter really enjoys it now!  Huzzah!

This was a big part of the fulfilling part of the year.  Being with OFRE now for a few years, the whole family is involved.  It’s bringing us closer together.  We’re eating great food.  And we are spending time together in meaningful ways.

I hope my little one has great memories of this like I did, so that one day she can follow in my footsteps, like I do in my parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents.

By Jordan A. Wilson