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Sharing Apples with Codling Moths

Apple Buds

I moved into this house almost a year ago and now live with a productive apple tree for the first time in my life. When we signed the rental agreement, I knew the apple and pear trees were in the yard but not specifically what kind of fruits they would bare, and I excitedly anticipated finding out.

The first year in a new place is the year of discovery. A whole range of good and bad things a house has to offer are presented as the seasons change: how cool the house stays during the summer and how well it holds heat in the winter; if there is mold or mysterious noises; neighborhood cats that poop, dogs that bark, or roosters who crow through the night; what varieties of plants and fungi are hiding their life in the soil and what kind of insects thrive.

This spring, the fruit trees bloomed and tiny fruits began to form. In August, I received the gift of a dozen or two delicious pears from one tree and wormy apples began to fall to the ground from the other.

Worms in all the apples?! Whether they had fallen to the ground or were still attached to a branch, they had evidence of the codling moth larvae that had burrowed inside. First, I vowed to learn how to keep next years apples from getting infested (and found information about the no-spray paper bag method); and second, I vowed to use as many of the apples as I could anyway. With the wormy parts cut out, the apples were still delicious and usable for making apple sauce or butter. I saved up fallen apples for a couple weeks, collecting them right away before other critters could get to them, and then spent a Sunday cutting them up while watching streaming television shows on Netflix.

Apples Cooking

I'm not going to post a recipe here because I roughly, without measuring anything, used these apple butter instructions, which explain the entire process very well. I started with a large pot of apples, so they took much longer to cook down than the hour or so in the recipe. Making a smaller batch or using a wider pan, as Elise suggests, would probably make the evaporation go faster. Stirring did help, but it still took many hours before it got to a thickness I thought was right.

The process is: cook the apples with water and vinegar until soft, strain the skin and bits out, then cook the mush with other ingredients until thick. I almost bought a chinois sieve for this project but changed my mind because of messy memories of using one when I was a kid—and of how much work it was going to be to strain all those apples. Instead, I borrowed a fruit strainer Kitchenaid attachment from my sister, which, after the little learning curve of figuring out how to put it together, was fun to use and a huge time and effort saver.

After the straining part, I cooked the apple mash down a little more, removed a couple jars full for apple sauce, then added the rest of the ingredients and continued the apple butter cooking process. If I had reserved more as apple sauce, the "butter" making part would, I'm sure, have gone faster since there would have been less to cook down and evaporate.

Though it took some time, it was a fun and worthwhile project that left me with many jars of delicious apple preserves, grown and made at home.

Apple Butter

apples (1), cooking (4), farm (12), food (11), fruit (2), garden (21), harvest (5), insect (21), organic (2), preserves (1), sustainable (5), trees (28)

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