An Apple A Day

We moved to McMinnville the beginning of September seven years ago. Our rental house has an amazing backyard with a huge herb garden, a lot of raspberry canes, two blueberry bushes, some rhubarb and two apple trees.

gravenstein apples

When we finished unpacking we could pay attention to the apples that littered the ground under one tree. I gleaned what I could and made some pretty darn good apple sauce and an apple pie. The rest of the ground fall was too far gone but I was eager for the next harvest.  We brought an apple and some leaves to the farmers’ market where the master gardeners identified it as a Gravenstein.

That was a new apple to me. I grew up in the Northeast and my favorite was a sweet-tart Stayman Winesap.  It made great sauce and pies and each apple was so large, you really only needed three or maybe four for a pie.  In those days I was bothering to peel the apples before cooking, so the fewer, the better.

Image result for stayman winesap
source: Century Farm Orchards

It was when I moved to Tennessee in the 1970s that I learned that apples generally have preferred growing zones, and regional varieties are not common elsewhere. So, the Gravenstein easily became my go-to and as Can-Do Real Food began, it was the apple found in the applesauce, the apple pie filling mix and later, dried.

But there was another apple tree in the backyard. Each year it would bloom but produce no apples. The master gardeners could not identify it from the leaves. All we knew was it was not a Gravenstein.apple blossoms April 11 2014

Both trees had not been properly maintained so we had them trimmed back. That next year we had about 6 apples on the mystery tree but I found them too late…..they were early summer apples and I had not checked early enough.

Last year we had a “bumper” crop—about 50 apples, all growing on the northeast section of the tree. (I have no idea why THAT was the growth pattern.) We brought the apple down to the farmers’ market and the master gardeners were stumped and suggested I take the apple to some apple agency office in the Portland metro area. We were not that concerned,  especially after I took a bite….and was not impressed.

I made up some applesauce. It was flat…..so I added some sugar and cinnamon and lemon juice. It was edible, but nothing I wanted to use for Can-Do. So I canned the applesauce for home consumption.

But I got a brainstorm to thin the applesauce and make fruit-roll-ups that would become tasty with the addition of…..something.

I had some blueberries in the freezer and made a puree which I swirled into the applesauce mix on the dehydrator sheet. When I ran out of berries, I then sprinkled the rest of the applesauce trays with candied ginger.

apple bluebberry roll-up
fruit leather before becoming a roll-up

Come taste the fruit roll-up concoctions this Thursday at the farmers’ market and see if I turned an early summer apple into something worth repeating.

It may be a moot point…both trees had abundant flowers and the Gravenstein is forming small apple buds now, but all the early apple tree shows is the remains of the flower. So, appears it was not pollinated and you know what, that is just okay with me. We get PLENTY from the Gravenstein!

apples in June
June 2017 Gravenstein tree is loaded!

The Wild Ones

My husband Graham (Vice President of Research and Development) loves wine. He jokes that the reason we moved to McMinnville was because he heard there was a winery nearby.  Now that we’ve been here six years he easily admits how much he has enjoyed visiting and sampling the amazing depth and breadth of the wines offered locally. (I’m the designated driver!)

Graham is also quite devoted to Facebook and has friended many of the local wineries to stay aware of special events. We’ve recently attended free performances and concerts at several near McMinnville.

Image result for eieio winesA few years ago he told me that the owner of EIEIO Winery (a man named McDonald, of course) had posted that his property had a lot of plum trees that had not been cared for and the trees were loaded loaded loaded with ripe fruit. He had purchased the property where his house is located several years before and perhaps for 10 years prior to that the plum trees surrounding the inside of a paddock had been neglected. The plums were very small but very sweet. Anyone who wanted them was invited to contact him and arrange a time to glean.IMG_4920

There were yellow plums. There were red ones. And purple ones. It was an amazing rainbow. We tasted and discovered two things. 1: Yes, they were deliciously sweet. 2: They were cling, not freestone. (We  are masters of handling fruits that cling to stones now!)

We got them to the commercial kitchen and into the huge walk-in cooler for the processing the next day. I then went to the post office to send a package and met the owner of Third Street Oil and Vinegar. She presents olive oil and balsamic vinegar infused with flavors and has an amazing talent for taste combinations that work. She tasted the plums and suggested a balsamic vinegar infused with pomegranate. pom balsamic vin bench

The next day I made the most perfect jelly. It was my first year in business so I was very proud how it set up and looked so pretty with its deep reddish purple tone.  And the taste was great! Sweet and tangy.

Well, we have not been back to EIEIO since then but a friend has been bringing me the wild plums off a tree on her property these past few weeks and I decided to see if we could present the same wonderful tangy sweetness as a fruit leather.  And voila! It has been done!Pom Plum fruit leather

Ingredients are wild plums, a tiny bit of cane sugar and a splash of pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Packaged 4 roll-ups to a bag, selling for $5.  No artificial anything and I bet you will not find anything like this anywhere else.