Last weekend we did our once yearly apple sauce run. I ordered 2 bushels (36kg) of Macs from Kimball Fruit Farm, which Buster, Millie, and I picked up at the Somerville farmers' market on Saturday morning. We also got to see a demo of a bicycle powered honey extractor put on by the beekeeping dad of the lady who runs Relish in Union Square, which was cool.
I'm not crazy about Macs in general, but they make a nice flavored apple sauce, and this is one application where their habit of turning to mush is in fact helpful. These two boxes of apples were not the most flavorful macs I've tasted, but they are still fresh and local and thus will make a sauce far superior to the flavorless mulch purveyed by the supermarkets.
The first order of business was to wash the produce. Fortunately the weather was glorious, so Buster and Millie worked together to wash the apples while I prepared things upstairs in the kitchen.
The apples cook much faster if you chop them up first; the smaller the chunks, the faster the cookdown.
For each pot full of apples, I added a handful of crabs for seasoning, and about 250ml of last year's hard cider to aid in initiation of the cookdown.
This year I tried a pipelined production technique, with a packet size of one of my medium pots full of chopped apples. So I would wait until the pot was cooked enough to process, empty it out and refill with already chopped apples and start another cookdown.
While the next pot was cooking, I would can a batch of sauce and start a canning cycle, process the previous output from the pot into sauce, and put the new sauce into a secondary pot for pre-canning cook. This was easier to manage than taking the whole load of material through each step entirely before starting the next, which is more or less what I have done previously.
I borrowed my co-worker Jim Serdy's Squeeze-O handcrank food mill again, which the kids enjoy operating (for a while, then I keep working it for the other 5 hours :)
Everyone took turns cranking, and much sauce was consumed hot from the mill.
The bottleneck in the pipelined process was the cookdown in the medium pot. To help this step go faster, I added a pre-bake step. So I would chop up the apples and put them into stainless bowls covered with foil, baked at 175C in the oven.
See that handle sticking out? Kind of inevitable, but of course I grabbed it while it was still burning hot on the countertop. Doh.
When the cook pot was emptied, I poured preheated apples from these bowls into the pot, then refilled the bowls with raw apples. Even if I had another big pot to add a parallel cookdown station, all 4 burners were already in use on the stovetop (cookdown, sauce cook, canning kettle, jar lids). So putting the oven to use made a lot of sense.
Here is the yield of this year's effort, in 35 jars, mostly quarts.
Should be enough to keep us in sauce for the year, with a few extras to give away as gifts.