Saturday, December 06, 2008

What is Applesauce the Gateway To?

In the last few weekends of September, I was making applesauce from the Fuji and Granny Smith apple trees we planted a couple of years ago. I had just picked the last apples, except for one lonely Fuji. At the time, I wasn't sure if it would ever ripen to the point where it would come off easily when one of us happens to be there to test it. It might have just dropped off in the middle of the night, and wind up in the ant's larder instead of ours. As it was, it did come off just before Thanksgiving.

Back in September, I had just finished putting a batch of cooked applesauce into a couple of 2 quart containers and left them on the counter-top, loosely covered. I wanted them to cool a bit before sticking them in the refrigerator. It was very deeply satisfying to pick and wash and peel and core and dice and simmer. Sampling the apples at different stages along the way lit up paths in my brain leading to very comfortable and comforting places. The snap and explosion of biting into a freshly picked and washed apple is like summer fireworks. Peeling the apples, I felt the juice slip over my fingers, making the peeler and the apple slick. I wondered just how much of the juice went down the drain instead of into the sauce. I've asked Jen to put a peeler on my Christmas list and I wonder if it will make next year's applesauce any different.

Lucy had introduced me to chewing some of the peel just after it drops into the sink. You get the tartness of the skin without the moderating sweetness of much juice or flesh. It's work, chewing on the peel, but it recalls other pleasures that are satisfying because they are work and not pure pleasure. Running is like that for me as well: it's hard work, but I feel better afterward.

Coring the apples is always an adventure. Attempting to pop out the heart of the apple with the seeds while minimizing the degree of flesh that goes with them. I ponder whether an apple corer will have a better or worse core/flesh ratio, since it's an indiscriminate cylinder versus the custom "cone plus wedges" that I'm cutting out.

If you compare the dollar cost of a quart of organic applesauce at Trader Joe's to the time and effort of growing, waiting for and harvesting the apples, then processing them all the way into sauce, it seems penny wise and pound foolish to spend the time. However, like many other things in life, the main value comes down to the doing, and not the monetary value of the physical product.

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