All photos by Julianne Puckett.
After three years of tending my wee orchard in Jericho, I finally have a glut of fall fruit.
This is amazing and rewarding to me, after both the Great Pear Theft of 2011, in which some deer and possibly a bear ate all the pears right at harvest time, and the Great Season of No Fruit At All of 2012, thanks to our wacky Vermont weather. Although, to be fair, the animal thieves did teach me that I could harvest the fruit by shaking the tree while I waited for my fancy new fruit picker to be delivered.
In our orchard, we have two pear trees — a seckel and a bartlett (I think) — a bunch of apple trees, two sour cherry trees, one plum tree and one peach. The peach tree must have heard me talking about how I thought it was dead and was going to cut it down, because this year, it yielded a number of peaches in protest (think Monty Python’s “I’m not dead yet!” skit from Spamalot).
When we purchased our little farmette several years ago, I was more than a little excited about the wee orchard, envisioning the lovely pears and apples that I could pick and eat or turn into gorgeous, photogenic desserts for my blog. But it’s time for a reality check: homegrown fruit is really, really ugly.
Unless you spend a huge chunk of your time monitoring the trees, spraying for diseases and handpicking bugs, you’re going to end up with ugly fruit. My husband spoke recently with the owner of a local commercial apple orchard; he talked about how they have a team that walks around the orchard with a laptop, monitoring the trees and feeding the data into special software programs that show them the short time windows they have to spray the trees to avoid massive fruit loss due to fungal infections and the like.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that kind of time or devotion. As a result, my fruit is terribly ugly — misshapen, pockmarked, bumpy and spotty.
However, the good news is that the fruit still tastes delicious (and it’s a hoot to walk outside and pick a bushel of apples while still in your jammies). So don’t judge the book by its cover: just cut the cover off, so to speak, with a food mill.
Using a food mill means you don’t need to bother to peel or core your fruit when making applesauce or other fruit purees. Simply quarter the fruit, put it in a big pot or crockpot and cook until tender, then run it all through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds (even easier: I use a food mill attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer). Not only did this method save me hours of peeling and coring, the amount of waste that I finally threw into the compost pile was insanely small.
So, whether you grew it yourself or foraged it from a neglected tree by the side of the road, when life gives you ugly apples or pears, as with lemons and lemonade, simply make applesauce or pear butter.