Oct
17

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Essential Apple Processing Tools

Ahhhhh, Autumn.  Leaves start turning and the peak of the harvest comes in.  It’s a time of abundance – but translating this brief period abundance before winter sets in takes a bit of work – especially if that abundance truly is abundant.

Old and New Apple Peelers

Old and New Apple Peelers

For our family apples play a big part of that fall harvest period – save for those years where a late frost kills the majority of the blossoms.   We get apples not only from our own trees but from those of our neighbors, and in good years we get loads of apples.  That was the case again this year, which is great since this is the second year in a row that there was a crop failure for blueberries around our cottage.

But, how do you get bushels of apples once picked from the bins into shape to last?  Well, as with so many things efficiency is the key – and that translates into both strategy and tools.

Steamed apples ready for processing into apple sauce

Steamed apples ready for processing into apple sauce

From a strategy standpoint gleaned or home harvested apples aren’t the perfect orbs you see in the grocery store where a huge amount of culling has taken place.  That means the apples you pick will include perfect ones as well as misshapen ones, bruised ones and tiny ones.

I save the best for fresh storage, the next grade of nicely sized ones get peeled and sliced to be frozen, dried, or canned as sliced apples.  Next along the line are those apples which have a bit of decay which I’ve cut out, misshapen ones and small ones these end up going for sauce or cider.  Cider and sauce is also the outlet for the better apples once I’ve filled the freezer and pantry shelves with sliced, dried and spiced apples.

Apple sauce from the Victorio food mill

Apple sauce from the Victorio food mill

You can do that by hand, but in any volume you’ll need some solid tools.  An apple slicer is key here – now I love my Bonanza apple peeler which is in my opinion the apex of hand cranked apple peeler development, even if that apex was achieved a couple of generation ago.  I started with a more modern hand cranked unit – and it’s a good stop gap – better I think than the Reading 76 I also have.  The modern unit is low cost and is an investment that will pay off very quickly in improved efficiency.

For apple sauce – my Victorio food mill is awesome – steam the apples until soft and the throughput is fantastic – and sauce makes great fruit leather!

cover 02 (481x640)Apple cider – both fresh (and canned) and fermented to hard cider, is truly ambrosia, and apple cider syrup makes for a great addition to a lot of recipes.  It’s also easy to make when you have a cider press – commercial ones can be pricey but homebuilt ones can be readily assembled and come at a low price point.

It’s a bit of work putting the harvest down – but the bounty will pay off through the year with readily available healthy food at the cost of the effort to put them down.  It’s a pretty good deal in my opinion.

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Tilting Hoop House Essential Upgrade

When I moved to my new home a few years ago I left my Harbour Freight 10×12 greenhouse and the nearly four extra months of growing season (two months on each side) that it provided – a not insignificant boost here in Ottawa given our frost free timeline is generally accepted as the end of May until towards the end of September.

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Heavy duty corner brackets installed on the hoop house

So after making due with row covers and some very low tunnels last year I put in some medium hoop houses, that were hinged to open from the base.  These worked pretty well – being able to grow taller crops and hold more than the single row hoops but were still a bargain cost and time wise compared to higher walk in hoops.

Heavy duty angle bracket

Heavy duty angle bracket

The base of these was made from 2×6 lumber – which provided strength and weight to keep things anchored down… but unfortunately in the process of opening and closing them the screwed together corners began to pull apart.

I tried reinforcing with 4×4 blocks but the forces were too much for that solution to last long.  So now I’ve gone and built some extra heavy duty corner brackets from some flat steel bent up in the hydraulic press and some U steel to provide further reinforcement.  With these bolted in place the frames are rock solid and should offer a great long lasting solution – even better, the cost to fabricate these at home was a fraction of what it would have cost to buy them would have been.  That’s the advantage of having some solid tools… now it’s time to get everything into the ground!