Apple Butter & Pink Apple Sauce

Ms. Donna has a wonderful garden full of various fruit trees laden with more apples than she wants. This year, she graciously offered to allow us to “drop by anytime” and “take all the apples you can carry!” The boys and I took her up on that offer — although we turned down the offer of “extra boxes in the garage!” and hauled away three trader joe’s bags full of apples. What kind? Donna’s not totally sure, they’re “some old variety, not red delicious, they’re good for cooking with.”

IMG_2080We are two bags into the process of coring, slicing and doing something with them.

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The corer-slicer was worth every last penny. I don’t think I could manage to core and slice so many apples otherwise.

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We made crock-pot apple butter, and apple sauce in the dutch oven. The apple sauce turned out pink, and is very tasty! The boys had seconds (and thirds). I’ve canned several pints of sauce, and several half-pints of apple butter.

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We’ve got one bag full of apples left, so I’m going to make a batch or two of muffins/quick breads, and then turn the rest into either apple butter or apple sauce, or the kids will partially eat them and leave them around the house. Helpful small children.

water-misappropriation problems resolved (we hope)

After a summer of being ignored as I reminding the children that California is having a drought and we need to leave the water off, I decided to solve the water-misappropriation problems once and for all and replace the faucet with one that has a removable “key” (or you can use a flat-head screwdriver in a pinch).

Gavin installed the first one this afternoon by the back fence where the drip system was hooked up, we tentatively plan to install two more — one in the front, and one more in the back (that one maybe tricky as it has an extra valve or something).

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The only downside to this, is that we’ve had to take down the timer for our drip system — it was set to run three early mornings a week for five minutes each time, just enough to keep things alive — but between the recent thunder storm and the regular ill-timed unapproved soakings the ground is soggy.

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I’m not too worried about the plants: the dill, parsley and basil are supposed to go to seed/die at the end of the season, the herbs are hearty, the strawberries are a variety of low-water/neglect-tolerant California native, and the roses and crepe myrtle survived for nearly a year under the bank-owned regimen of do-nothing.

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The drip controls will be dried out, cleaned up and set aside until spring when everything will be re-attached. We may need to reconfigure a few things to make the angles work, but that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make to keep our wasteful water usage to a minimum.

extra-long day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

On Friday, Gavin suggested we go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the weekend, after some discussion, we agreed that a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip might be a bit ambitious, and the crockpot wouldn’t be done until after 3pm, which would put us smack in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic.

Instead we decided to make a day of it, leaving at 7 am, which would’ve put us there by around 10, except we hit traffic (it took nearly an hour to get past the 1-lane section of 101) in Petaluma, we we arrived just after 11 (we also made a stop at Grandma D’s to have a snack and use the bathroom).

Popular exhibits on this trip included the Open Ocean, “scary” moray eels, and red octopus — I wish I’d gotten a photo of it! It was amazing!!
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The cephalopod exhibit was very popular with the boys, although the loop of the giant octopus taking out the Golden Gate Bridge terrified Patrick. Squid racing was quite popular as well.

IMG_2039It was an averagely busy Saturday, so after a few hours (and after lunch), we took an hour-long break, and walked along the path for some fresh air, and some space. We headed back to Grandma D’s around 4:30ish, for dinner and the children’s bath time before we headed back home.

It made for a very long day, by the end of it, Patrick was fall-over-exhausted. I was very glad to have a membership pass, as we didn’t see a large portion of the exhibits except to rush past them in hot pursuit of a small child.

Asian Pear Butter (2014 edition)

This year I decided to give Asian pear butter another try. I didn’t use an exact recipe, and I used my crockpot.

  • Fill crockpot to the top with cored and sliced Asian pears (I used my corer-slicer), add 2 cinnamon sticks for flavor
  • Cook covered on low setting for 24 hours/overnight/until the pears are a soft, watery mushy mess
  • Run pears through food mill (I got around 12 cups of liquid)
  • Put liquid back in crockpot, add a cup (or so) of sugar, and any other spices you feel inspired to use. Reduce on low partially covered until you like the consistency, I think mine was 18-24 hours?
  • Refrigerate or can according to a reliable resources directions (I followed the directions in Ball’s Blue Book).

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This year’s attempts ended up with a rich caramel color and while it still has a slightly grain consistency, reducing it longer really helped with that. Working with the theory that apple butter and pear butter can be used interchangeably, I’ve come up with several ideas from around the internet. With most of these I’m probably going to take the idea and modify it slightly, I already have a favorite pizza dough recipe, and a tried-and-true cinnamon roll-dough recipe.

  • Thumbprint cookies (using pear butter instead of jam), I’ll find something in one of my cookbooks and swap out jam for pear butter.
  • Asian Pulled Chicken Slidersleaving out the spicy jalapenos, were Monday night’s dinner. These scored an “okay to make again” from Gavin, the boys gave a thumbs-up to the rolls (King’s Hawaiian Butter Rolls) and a nasty face at the idea of chicken in a form other than breaded tenders. Everyone enjoyed the side of lightly simmered green beans.

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Handrails

Because it was Labor Day something around the house had to be fixed, last year it was the downstairs bathroom sink, this year it was the handrails on the stairs — as Oliver pointed out one day, “mommy, dem bo-ken!”

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So we got Gavin, and put him to work, it is labor day weekend after all.

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We took down the old railing — and by “we” I mean Gavin, the boys over saw. Then we patched up the walls,¬†cleaned the walls, primed and painted.

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After a false start, and ambitious trips to Lowes and Mead Clark, we’ve decided to replace the handrails as stripping the paint would damage them further. After some sanding, priming and painting (spread out over a week … or two? to let all the paint dry properly), they were finally ready to be installed.

The boys “helped” with the instillation.

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The new brackets were the sturdiest looking ones they had, they’re screwed solidly into the studs and we hope to not need to deal with them again for a number of years. IMG_1945