Apples Aplenty

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

In the dark days of winter we will remember the lush colors of spring, summer, and autumn. Small tokens will remind us of the sunny days: a sea shell, a pressed flower, or a jar of something yummy canned at the peak of sweetness. 

One Sunday morning not very long ago I woke Quinn up quite early (too early for his liking I believe) and we emerged from the Barn into a lovely foggy dawn. The sun was just starting to break through the thick billows of mist, and in that wonderful light of morning we started picking apples. 




Though Quinn wasn't too excited to get up with the rising sun, the prospect of jars and jars of apple butter in the larder was a scrumptious thought. We set to work finding the biggest apples and filling the trug. After scouring the trees in our back yard we returned inside to start the long work of pealing and slicing them.
 


 The recipe we used for our apple butter is one that was sent to me by my penpal, Jaclyn. It was perfect for us as it used a crockpot. We have had our crockpot for three years (since our wedding) and I haven't hardly used it at all! The last two months I have been trying to use it at least once every week, and I have come to love it as my new favorite way to cook dinner (If you have any good crockpot recipes I should try, email them to me!). The apple butter would cook in the crockpot for 12 hours, which is why Quinn had to get out of bed so early this morning.

Some of my favorite spices got added to the apples in the crockpot, and soon it was sitting in the corner starting to cook. Meanwhile, Quinn and I got ready for church and headed out into the sun once again...

What a lovely morning to drive into town and go to church!

Upon returning home we were met with the most heavenly smell! Who knew apple butter smelled so wonderful? The whole house smelled of Christmas - which I have been looking forward to quite a bit (I'm listening to Christmas music as I write this - haha).
At the beginning of January of last year I purchased a book entitled "The Homemaker's Mentor - Treasury of Homekeeping Skills" (I bought it on Amazon here.) In it, women from all over share stories of their grandmothers and mothers who were true homemakers, and along the way share wisdom about everything from first aid to cleaning and keeping a household. I particularly loved the canning and preserving section, and I'll be sharing the recipe I used for canned apple pie filling from the book with you today!

Now that we were home from church we set to work in the front yard, where the apples were bigger than in the back yard, but also higher up...
There may have been some screaming and carryings-on as I was not too keen to fall and it seemed that was the only thing to do when being that high up! Oh dear! Oh well, I made it through without a bump, and Quinn did not mention my weight at any time, haha!
















With basket and trug full of apples we went back into the kitchen for another round of peeling, coring, and slicing, this time putting the cut apples in to bowls of water with a little lemon juice added, to help prevent browning. While I worked on the apples, Quinn worked on making the apple pie syrup and preparing the canning jars.

Once the big jars were sterilized and the syrup all ready, we worked fast to pack the cut apples into the jars, pouring the yummy smelling syrup to fill them up. Off into the boiling water bath they went!

Before we knew it hot jars of apple pie filling started lining up on the counter - and oh what a great feeling of accomplishment we felt! 

The sun is setting earlier and earlier with the arrival of Autumn, and before we knew it it was dark outside and the time to take lovely pictures was over. Because of this I don't have any photos of us canning the apple butter, but I can tell you the feeling of accomplishment was the same - how wonderful to have yummy things on the shelves from your own yard or garden! We finished with six quart jars of apple pie filling, and six quarter pint jars of apple butter - a good number if I do say so myself. 

We have already started eating through the apple butter, and I think Quinn agrees that waking up early was worth it. Our apple crop was great this year, and I hope next year we'll be making these same recipes again - hopefully with some new ones too!
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Apple Pie Filling
From The Homekeeper's Mentor -
Treasury of Homekeeping Skills

Peel, core, and slice 6 pounds of tart apples. Keep prepared apples immersed in water containing a tablespoon of lemon juice, to prevent browning while preparing killing syrup.
In a large saucepan bled together:
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Add in and cook and stir until thickened:
10 cups of water
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Pack apples into clean, sterilized quart jars up to 1 inch from the neck of the jar. Fill with hot, thick syrup. Do not fill to top but leave a bit of headspace. Use a spatula to help distribute syrup. Wipe rims clean and adjust lids and bands. Process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Makes 6 quarts.

To Serve: Prepare a double pie crust pastry. Line pie plate with pastry and add in 1 quart of pie filling. Dot with butter. Top with 2nd pie crust, crimp and seal edges. Cut slits for steam to escape. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a baking sheet, lined with foil, to catch drips. Bake at 400 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A Last Day of Summer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

As you know our summer was beyond terrible. Such rainy weather was never before seen during August and July! That made it all the more amazing when it dawned bright and warm last Tuesday morning. We simply couldn't believe it! It wasn't long before we found ourselves saying (while still being at work, mind you) "I think we need to go out and enjoy this weather!"

It took very little convincing for dad to pack everything up, and soon we were leaving the tramway - where we play shows eight times a day as the Alaska String Band - to go get the boat ready for a day at the beach. Lupin was the only one who seemed unhappy by this prospect, and it took quite a bit of pulling and lifting to get her into the boat.






















Silly Lupin! We won't be in the boat for that long, we promise! Greta on the other hand was much more excited to get in the boat. She knew that it meant a sunny shore where she could run around unsupervised!
Soon we were off! Our friend Rebecca came along and she remarked "Wow, I think this is the first time your boat has started up without any problems!" Dad answered "Well...we aren't there yet. Don't hold your breath!" Oh dear! It's true that the boat has a rather bumpy reputation, but I am happy to report that we made it safely there and back again.


Abigail sits on the front of the boat as we cruise along. 
There's simply not a better view!

As I said, Greta was having a grand time until we reminded her that she needed to wear a life vest. We were blessed to be given a life vest in just the right size for her, though she doesn't really like it as you will see.

The best part about it is that it has a handle on the back so we can easily pick her up out of the water. She particularly dislikes this fact. She was wallowing in the back of the boat when Laura started to feel sorry for her. So of course she picked Greta up - by the handle on her vest - Greta was not amused.
 

Laura then got the idea to put Lupin in a life vest, though we didn't have any doggy vests for her, so she improvised. A PFD that no one ever wanted to wear was put around Lupin and she was all strapped in. She wallowed even more than Greta! Poor puppies, they simply can't take a joke.

As I was taking this picture of Lupin in her life jacket, Rebecca called "Emily! Over here is what you should really be taking a picture of!" Quinn had Greta in his arms and they were both leaning over the side of the boat, their heads in the wind. Greta wasn't too happy at first, but I think she warmed up to the idea.
 




















When we got to Portland Island, Quinn lowered Greta down into the water so that she could swim to shore. Laura threw Lupin over the side of the boat, rather unceremoniously, and laughed as she paddle to the sandy beach (very unhappily I might add).

We went ashore with our arms laden with food and blankets for the evening - though Rebecca's arms were overflowing with costumes and camera equipment (for she had some filming she needed to finish).



We had the whole beach to ourselves! 

We started the evening off with gathering firewood, most of it wet from the constant rain that has befallen us these last weeks. Abigail found a swing in the woods while collecting wood, and Rebecca found a few thimble berry bushes with a few berries still ripe.



Before starting our fire we decided to get Rebecca's filming over and done with. We weren't sure yet what exactly she was having us do, but we knew for a fact we would be standing in the water (for she always seems to have us in the water for her film shoots!). So we started getting dressed in the many layers of costumes she brought with her.





















Rebecca, who told us then that we would be Irish peasants during the Dark Ages, gave us shells full of dirt and water to rub on our faces. in her exact words "Yes, here are your makeup pallets." and I added "Make sure to blend it down your neck too!" This was certainly making to be an interesting evening (I do believe Quinn's expression says it all, ha!).
Here's Abigail and Melissa in their costumes. I guess that old saying is true: "You could wear a potato sack and still look lovely!" Even with dirt on their faces these two ladies still look beautiful!




















In Rebecca fashion, we were (of course) put out in the water for the shots she needed (yes, it was cold!). Some of us had our XtraTufs on, but for those in front - me, for instance - bare feet was needed.
It was then that Rebecca shared that we were the people of Ireland seen in a vision by Saint Patrick, who saw that God was calling him to Ireland to preach the gospel. All of this was very exciting! After all, how often to you get to act in costume on an island during a picnic? When Rebecca was all through with us we certainly looked like we were right out of the dark ages!
Quinn of course is having a little too much fun with his cape, but don't we look fantastic? Rebecca joking said that the photo should be our next album cover for the band - haha! Though I doubt that will be the case, it was still fun dressing up and stepping back into the Dark Ages for a short time (for updates on when Rebecca's new movie will be coming out, watch her website!). But back to the picnic!

A picnic table was set - with a nice tablecloth of course - and soon we were trying to start a campfire. Because of the wet wood it took quite a bit longer than normal to start flickering, but thankfully we didn't need to ask God to send down fire from heaven. Soon hot dogs were sizzling over the fire and everyone was starting to feel hungrier - including Lupin, who ignored all reminders to "...get off the quilt!"
Lupin won in the end, the quilt was officially hers (for no one wanted to sit on the wet and sandy thing now!), and she was quite smug about her victory I do believe.
As the evening wore on it got a tad bit cold, fall is certainly on it's way! Everyone crowded around the fire and talked and laughed as the sun danced inside and outside the clouds. Even though the sun wasn't always out, I had worn a sun hat I made earlier in the summer for my family vacation (and didn't it turn out darling?). I was certainly trying my hardest to soak up all the last bit of summer.




Laura may have photobombed a photo or two, ha! And soon Lupin was off running around somewhere, and Greta had taken her spot on the wet quilt. *sigh* These puppies just don't understand they're all wet and gross!
All too soon it was time to pack up and make the return journey home. Rebecca was due to fly the next morning back to sunny California (we all asked that she think of us when her thermometer read 90 - while ours was reading 50), and we needed to make sure she got some sleep for her early flight. 
  



As you might guess, Lupin was not excited to get back in the boat, and gave Quinn and Laura quite the run-around as they chased her all over the beach. 
"Lupin? Aren't you ready to go home?"

We finally got the dogs in the boat and started out. Both Lupin and Greta were shaking, cold from their romps in the water with the wind blowing through the boat. Lupin was wrapped up in the quilt she so loved, and Greta was bundled up in a beach towel and sat in my lap the whole way back to the boat launch. 

If there is anything to be said, it's that Lupin has certainly mastered the pitiful look. She's so funny!

I don't think any of us wanted to leave the beach, nor pull the boat up out of the water - knowing that it would be the last time. The wind blowing off the sea smelled like summer, but it was cold, and it was time to go home. 
As I am writing this Autumn has indeed come to Southeast Alaska. Though we don't have the lovely fall colors of the Interior, the temperatures are dropping and the rain is here to stay. I have put away my summer wardrobe and brought out the comfy sweaters and jackets for the coming season. Though I am a bit sad those lovely sunny days are over, I look with anticipation towards winter and the promise of music, projects, and stories to share with you soon. Until next time, dear reader!
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