Tag Archives: apples

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

An introduction to cider making!

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As fall quickly approaches, heralded in by an early September snow fall, you may notice that the apple trees around the city are heavy with fruit. If you are familiar with OFRE’s mission and take part in it, you know there is more fruit available than you could possibly use. Even walking my dog around my neighbourhood in North Glenora I have seen at least a dozen trees still full.

While big juicy apples are perfect for eating or baking, many of the apples trees around Edmonton are crab apple trees. Crab apples are too sour to eat and too small to make pies with, but they are perfect for one thing, and that’s cider! Crisp tart cider, tossed it in the crock pot with some spices and you have one of my favourite winter drinks, mulled cider.

If you ever thought making cider was hard, you’re wrong; it’s simple, fun and inexpensive.

apples for cider

cider press
Here’s what you’ll need:

  • a mix of different varieties of apples
  • an apple crusher
  • a press

The key to a good cider is the choice of apples. While any apple can make a good cider, a good mix of a variety is key. I prefer ciders heavy on the crap apples because I like a tart cider. I’ve made a cider with only sweeter apples and I found it flat and too sweet for my palate. Try making your own blends until you find what tastes best to you.

Next you’ll need a lot of apples, for every 15-20 kg of apples you can expect 10L of cider. If you consider that an average tree can have well over 100 kg, that’s not a lot of work.

To transform your apples into a delicious cider you’ll need an apple crusher and a press. You can either rent this equipment or make it yourself. There are several blogs that provide instructions on creating different DIY models. I prefer renting the equipment as I find you get more juice (and it’s a whole lot easier). While I’m sure there may be other places you can pick up the equipment, I usually head over to Estate Brewing where owner Kevin Hogg has a few sets of crushers and barrel presses and will be happy to show you the ins and outs.

The actual crushing and pressing is pretty easy. The Cider Workshop is an excellent resource and can give you advice on how to press cider. Likewise there are numerous other blogs which give good advice.

Once you’re done pressing and before you call it a day, you will need to get rid of the pressed apples (called pumice) and store your cider. The pumice can be left out in clear garbage bags and it will be composted at the Edmonton Waste Management Facility. As for the cider, it will last a week in the fridge before it starts to ferment. If you want it keep it longer, you can simply freeze it or preserve it through canning. Read about: Preserving Fruit Juices and Apple Cider from Oregon state University

Cider pressing is easy and it gives you a healthy, locally sourced drink that you can enjoy throughout the winter.

Pick of the week – What do you mean by ‘rescue’ fruit?

In the last few weeks as I make my rounds in Edmonton I have been queried as to what it means to ‘rescue’ fruit. Rescue in this context isn’t the rescue of Jimmy because he’s fallen down the well and Lassie tells someone they need to bring a ladder! As miraculous a dog as Lassie was other than the use of a ladder there is very little similarity!

BFF

BFF

There is no danger or distress…not really…yet fruit is still rescued nontheless!

The true story

The true story

To the average inhabitant of Edmonton and area the individual awareness of fruit bearing trees and bushes is likely limited. You travel your routes to and from your regular destinations giving only passing attention to what may be visible in the front yards of the homes along the way. Those with these fruit bearing trees and bushes may have a different awareness: they’re a nuisance or they’re a fabulous homegrown resource!

Wherever your personal awareness of the abundance of fruit bearing trees and shrubs falls the fact is Edmonton has a fabulous growing season for many of the usual suspects: apples, rhubarb, crabapples, sour cherries, and saskatoons. If you know what to look for there are also nanking cherries, pin cherries, highbush cranberries, and seabuckthorn berries, for instance.

Highbush cranberry

Highbush cranberry

Late fall apples

Late fall apples

Mini yellow flesh crabapples

mini yellow flesh crabapples

Fruit trees look fabulous when in bloom, they can produce beautiful fruit, keeping the garden colour scheme going into fall. Once fall arrives the fruit begins to fall and its time to clean up the mess. Where the rescue of fruit comes into the mix is in the harvest (and distribution): rescue the fruit before it goes to waste!

My favourite example of fruit going to waste…an experience I will likely never forget was on a pick last year. One of the most abundant apple trees in this backyard had no edible fruit left on it! None! All of the apples had in fact begun fermenting on the tree!?! It was an intoxicating and nauseating blend. Made infinitely more surreal in smelling apple cider vinegar coming from a tree?? Mind boggling! Sarah and I either wanted some fresh hot fries or to run away with our noses plugged.

Seabuckthorn

Seabuckthorn

In attempting to mitigate the natural cycle of unharvested fruit going to the compost bin, rescuing fruit happens! It really does. By individuals who are willing to lend their hands, ladders, buckets and bags, etc. all to harvest as much unused fruit as possible. It is a rewarding hands-on experience! A great family outing and a learning experience for children who may never experience a farm.

The fruit rescued by Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, fruit pick volunteers give a significant portion from each harvest directly to any one of the many local organizations who feed those in need. How awesome is that?!? Fruit that has a great chance of going to waste gets delivered into the hands and mouths of those in need.

Consider this: how much more enjoyable would eating fruit grown in your collective backyard be…and an easement on your grocery budget…if you helped rescue fruit too?? I can tell you…its delicious…absolutely delicious!

Cheers!

Kim Schaeble

 

Pick of the Week – A is for Apple

A is for apple…

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Apple blossom time is just finishing. They hold the promise of upcoming apple picks!

Did you know that Edmonton is a zone 3A gardening zone with an average of 140 frost free days a year between May long weekend and September labour day weekend? It’s a great place to garden. I love to garden, but have trouble keeping my digging dogs out of my flower beds!

I’m involved in a local fruit rescue non-profit society called: Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, also known as OFRE. Since joining their organization, I’ve learned that yes, it’s true, apples, pears, cherries, rhubarb, plums, and even apricots grow here!

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Apple play a major part of my summer activities, not only the lovely blossoms in the spring that fill my backyard, but harvesting and preserving apples collected on fruit picks!

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OFRE helps Edmontonians find the fruit hidden in our city. This is the second year in a row that I am a board member, and I am finding it very rewarding. OFRE connects fruit pick volunteers with homeowners interested in sharing their fruit. When the fruit is harvested at a pick, it is shared with the homeowner, volunteers, and a charitable organization such as the Salvation Army or the Edmonton Food Bank.

We also organize cider pressings, canning, and preserving parties during the fall season for our members to help them eat locally all year round!

Seriously think about becoming a member of our society. Go to our “become a member” page for more information. A great season awaits!

 By Bonnie Patterson-Payne

 

Building community through food: MacEwan Apple Project

As the Director of OFRE, I often get more requests for interesting partnership projects than we can handle in a season and it’s hard at times to say no. But, that is sometimes the case when you are working a volunteer run organization. One project that came by our desk this year was a partnership with MacEwan business students to donate apples to their campus foodbank. One of the group leaders of this project is Jacquie Lycka who joined OFRE this year as a Neighborhood Fruit Captain, approached us about the idea. When we heard what they wanted to do, we couldn’t help but say yes!  She has been a instrumental volunteer with OFRE and I knew with her energy and joy for apples, this project would get off the ground and be a success.

Here is a great short video the students put together on their apple project. Please watch and show your support for this great cause to increase healthy food donations to foodbanks on campuses. It’s inspiring, fun, and may cause you to think outside the kraft dinner box! Enjoy!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqkx9dUOm48]

 

It’s so great when we do get an opportunity like this to partner with other organizations and help build a stronger food community in Edmonton. Thanks Jacquie and congratulations on your project!!