Apple Harvest is a two part project. First, we took our ancient, wobbly wheelbarrow two blocks down the street to an old apple tree in the front yard of a shabby vacant rental that had dropped its fruit all over the yard and sidewalk. Dropped apples are excellent additions to the very dry summer compost pile—the moisture aids in decomposition and the scent makes the yard smell better. We gathered three loads worth and then studied the tree itself. There were still quite a few apples on the branches, so I spent half an hour with the apple picker and cleared the tree of excellent fruit. I had half of a large laundry basket full when I was finished.
I borrowed a press from my friend Rich—Lucy had to bond with the box for several hours while I organized the day. It was a cool and sunny morning, perfect for outdoor food processing. Once everything was set up, she sat on the chair watching me chop up the apples in the masher, poking the fruit as it emerged until her paw was sticky. There is a real rhythm to the process of grabbing the apple, whacking it in half, checking for really nasty spots, tossing into the bin, and then cranking the masher, which is truly enhanced by old bluegrass music. A few bees wandered by to investigate the project as well. While I mashed fruit, the pulp began draining in the press.
Once the press was full, I wrestled with the ratchet—I do not have a brain for ratchets—and began cranking down on the press. Juice flowed out. Lucy, of course, sensed the change in the center of action and wandered over to investigate. Steadily, the press bore down on the pulp, juice flowed out, and I used my feet to stabilize the entire operation. Sun, breeze, apples, cat, making tasty food from free fruit—life was pretty fine. After two rounds of pressing, I had 14 quarts of free apple juice, which I pasteurized and canned for the winter (10 minutes in the steam canner, hot pack). It was a good day’s work. Lucy approved.