Sunday, September 29, 2013

Xan, Catherine, Ryan, Kris, Cammy: Apple-picking!

Folks, it's apple-picking season!

Last year, apple picking was a bust.  An early warm-spell/frost killed off all the apples in the midwest.  Instead, County Line orchard hung up miles of rain gutters and stocked them with pre-picked apples flown in from Washington.  They helpfully decided to inform us by advertising on their website not only that they were open for picking, but furthermore that it was in fact "raining apples."

Needless to say, we showed up at the orchard excited and left disappointed.
Despite their devious lies, we returned to the orchard last weekend, after verifying that it actually had apple-picking, of course.  

Gala, McIntosh, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, and Jonagold.  Here's the haul:

As you know, I like climbing trees.  It's kind of the main point of apple picking for me, actually.  But I haven't been able to find any orchards around Chicago with big trees.  All the places that offer apple picking were planted in the last 25 years and the trees just aren't that large.  I think it's actually becoming more usual to plant trees closer together and keep them smaller because it makes picking easier, but even the "old-style" trees they have just aren't big like the ones we grew up with in the DC area.  "Climbing" a tree at most consists of taking 1 to 3 steps up the tree.  What?  Moreover, they are mildly annoying steps, because small trees have lots of leafy shoots everywhere, because even the "interior" gets sunlight.  Nevertheless, I enjoy it because it is my natural habitat.  And I think the trees enjoy being inhabited by a native as well.

A farmer guy yelled at me for climbing a tree.  He said I would break the tree and then break myself.  It's not his fault; the tractor is his natural habitat, and he does not recognize his agile woodland kin.  I continued to climb trees away from the farmers, because it is socially optimal to break rules that are not designed for you, so long as you can avoid getting caught.

The farmer reminds me of a particular security guard at Pomona.  The golf cart was her natural habitat, and she had it out for the parkourists.  However, golf carts cannot do parkour, so she only ever caught up with us when we weren't doing parkour.  A catch-22, or perhaps a not-catch-4.  In exchange for her hypothetical lectures, let us say a prayer for our pathbound kin, it is not their fault.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh yes, pie!  We converted our bounty into an apple pie and applesauce:

8 apples each

The crust was really good, which was Catherine's doing.  She has made Kenji's recipe a few times now and is getting it down pretty well.

Recipes for crust and filling: 

Or for the science behind those recipes:

I know some of you like the vodka pie crust method.  That was also developed by Kenji (during his time at Cooks Illustrated).

If you are having problems with your apples turning too soft, this pie recipe with fix that.  Before filling the pie, you soak the apple slices in hot water for a few minutes.  This gives the pectin time to convert into a heat-stable form that won't break down at higher temperatures in the oven.

For the applesauce, I used this recipe:

I put in 2 cinnamon sticks instead of 1, because Catherine specifically likes cinnamon applesauce.  It was delicious, and so easy!  In fact it was so good that we just bought more apples at the grocery store and made another batch of applesauce.  I guess we did not pick enough!

Ryan, on the other hand, picked a lot of apples.  He walked away with a couple bags, and a pumpkin too!  Doesn't this baked apple look delicious?

Unfortunately that only gets rid of one apple...
And here is his pork tenderloin with cinnamon applesauce:

Apple sauce, that's more like it!

And here is our parallel dinner:

You might think that's a pork chop, given that it looks like one and is served with applesauce.  But actually it is lamb!  I do not regret this, although I do wish we had included peas, and put the applesauce in its own bowl.

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