Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Slaving Over a Hot Stove

Morning was cool here, the sky a pearly grey.
Jim wanted French toast with a topping made from frozen blueberries--a fairly quick breakfast as we intended to get voting over with early and get on with our day.

I bought more apples yesterday from the Beachy Amish family up the ridge.
I dithered over my selection, knowing that Empires make lovely applesauce, but intrigued with several varieties which had been brought in from Pennsylvania since my last purchase.
I came home with a half bushel bag of Winesaps [a favorite] and a bag of York [aka York Imperial] an apple with which I was not familiar.
Jim immediately bit into a York and declared it not as crisp as the Winesaps.

From wikipeda: This cultivar has a tart yet sweet taste, and keeps extremely well, becoming sweeter and mellower-tasting over time. It sweetens in flavor for 5–6 months after it is picked. The York Imperial is excellent for baking, cooking, apple sauce, cider, preserves, jams, dried apple slices, and juice, as well as eating fresh. The 'York Imperial' is one of the few apple cultivars to have survived for 180 years. It is still commonly grown in orchards and backyards in the continental United States, especially Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina. It was often exported to Europe before import restrictions were implemented.
In addition to its native region of south-central Pennsylvania, the 'York Imperial' is now also grown along the Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

A laundry load of sheets pegged onto the back porch lines, bed freshly made, jeans and shirts tumbling in the dryer and I decided to spend the rest of the day making applesauce to can.

Stewing the apples is a long, slow process, one that does well on the wood stove.
The day seemed cool enough that the wood fire might be pleasant rather than stifling.
I soon had three kettles of apples simmering,so turned my attention to cooking dinner on the wood stove as well.
The kitchen grew hotter. 
Kettles and pans needed to be twitched about so that the apples cooked without scorching.  Potatoes were nearly jumping in their covered saucepan and needed to be pulled to a cooler spot. Salmon patties sizzled in a buttered skillet.
The kitchen was overly warm!
I opened a window to let in cooler air.
I opened the door into the sunroom off the back hallway.
My face felt flushed and my shirt clung to my back.

I discovered that York Imperial apples take considerably longer to cook than others I have used.
I set the canner on the stove, poured in water and left it to begin heating while I put the hot stewed apples through the foley mill, stirred in sugar, ladled the sauce into quart jars.
I added more wood to the fire.
 Jim, on a meander through the kitchen, tweaked the dampers for maximum heat. 
Water bubbled and boiled around the jars in the canner.

The fire has died to embers, the canner is resting on the coolest part of the big black range. 
Kettles, ladles, wooden spoons, have been washed, my work area tidied.
The cats have sprawled near the stove.
A gentle mist of rain has fallen intermittently through the evening. 

As I've labored over the applesauce I've pondered the work of our fore-mothers during the many years before electric or gas cookstoves became commonplace.
Every meal was cooked over a blazing hearth, or on a 'range' fired by wood or coal.
I choose to make applesauce [among other things] on the woodstove during the cooler months from a sense of old-fashioned frugality. 
But--I have the option of using my electric cooktop and oven, the microwave, the crockpot in preparing a meal. 
I could buy the uniformly pale and rather insipid applesauce available in any supermarket.
I appreciate the sense of satisfaction, that feeling of carrying on a frugal tradition when I view the rows of filled jars on the basement pantry shelves. 
No doubt this pride of accomplishment was shared by my fore-mothers.
I'm guessing that, like me, they admitted to the weariness of  hours spent slicing, stirring, ladling, bottling, in a too warm kitchen.
I have more apples. 
I will not make applesauce tomorrow!
The apples will keep until a day when the warmth of the wood fire is more welcome.


  1. Homemade applesauce is so much better than store bought. You've got me wanting to make some in my crockpot now.

    Happy Fall dear Sharon ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; I've never thought of trying applesauce in a crockpot--you've given me an idea!

  2. And it makes the house smell wonderful! We grow several old New England apples; Fameause (sp.) or Snow apple, Esop Spitzenburg, Smokehouse and Rhode Island Greening (my favorite pie apple). We also grow Wolf River which originated in Wisconsin. Great job of canning!


  3. Jane; I don't think many folks are familiar with Wolf River apples. They grew in the old orchard on our farm in Vermont--usually bore well every other year.They reminded me of Northern Spies. Don't you love apple names?