Applefest 2014, Part 1: Homemade apple juice!

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I mentioned last year that we had a few apple trees on our property. Two large ones that produce very decent cooking/eating apples and two smaller crabapples. All of them were very prolific this year, owing to a gentle spring followed by generously long growing season. For the past two years, I’ve been using a blend of these apples to make a very nice juice. Which is great, since apple juice is something we like to have in the fridge all the time and that can get spendy with Finnish grocery prices.

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Our two larger trees in flower earlier this spring. For a few days, the air is heavy with gorgeous apple blossom scent. One of my favorite reasons for having fruit trees is getting to fully enjoy their flowers up close.

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Then fast forward four months to harvest time. I was fortunate enough to have a few friends help me with the harvest this year, since the baby made it almost impossible to get any serious garden work done on my own. Even with extra hands, it took a few weeks of systematic harvesting (lessons learned: don’t look up when shaking fruit down ;-D) to get as much as we did — we filled several IKEA bags and still probably only got half of the total fruit that was produced. Each year, though, we get better at it.

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Keva shows off the fruit of our labors. Literally!

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Preparing the first batch of apples. This year, I decided to not only juice the apples, but to do a bit of canning as well. I figured with the baby starting to eat solid foods, there was no such thing as too much applesauce in the cupboards.

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Prepping the apples with the rotary apple corer and peeler. The best investment I could have possibly made in fruit processing, considering how many trees we have. All work done in a quarter of the time, which was great since I spent several nights in a row doing nothing but working my way through those bags of apples. Amusingly, almost everybody who saw this contraption in action had to try it out for themselves. It is strangely mesmerizing, watching it work.

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I did all the juicing with steam juicers this year, after having used for them for various other fruits with great results. Pictured above, apples in the juicers — we used two side by side this year, thanks to Keva’s generosity. One was for cooking down the edible apple meat and one for the cores and peels, which yielded quite a bit of juice and most of the pectin I’d be using for other applications. I siphoned off the juice into a large pot and added additional sugar and some citric acid (a pinch per liter) to help preserve it, before putting it through the standard hot water bath routine. Because the mixture of apples varies, so does the sugar ratio — I just taste test until it’s right.

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Finished, sweetened and processed apple juice, ready to go in the pantry. I didn’t even bother to keep count of how much I made this year, since we had already consumed several bottles before I thought of it. Also, I froze half the harvest for later processing, so there’s no telling when I’d get a correct total. Quite pleased with the results and love knowing that we will always have juice on hand.

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