I confess to being a lazy cook. For example, the idea of peeling, coring, and slicing apples makes me a reluctant pie maker. Here are three of my favorite kitchen gadgets to preserve the harvest.
In past years, after spending a few of the most beautiful days of fall inside processing tomatoes, apples, and pears, I could sympathize with Robert Frost when he wrote “I am overtired of the great harvest I myself desired.” He was referring to apples and this year was a banner year for apple growing in my area.
After last season’s non-existent harvest, we were very excited when the apple trees bloomed during a break in the spring rain so the bees could do a proper job pollinating them. We had enough rainfall this summer to reverse last season’s drought and the apples drank it up. They were big and juicy!
We sold and ate a good many but they were ripening faster than we could keep up. When we planned our mini-orchard we chose early, middle, and late season varieties to spread the harvest over a longer period of time. The season started with the Gravensteins which we were able to handle; now Honey Crisp and Liberty are ready to pick, and Jonagold and Winesap are still to come! Without the help of my partner Tom and my handcranked kitchen appliances, I’d still be peeling apples.
We made apple pie filling using the handcranked peeler to speed things up. This simple machine draws children (and even grown men) as soon as it is set up. There is something fascinating about turning a handle and having all the work of peeling, coring, and slicing done right before your eyes.
We also made applesauce from the apples that were too misshapen to work in the peeler. For small batches, I usually use the Foley food mill.
This weekend, however, we brought out the big guns—putting the Squeezo strainer to work. I was given this glorious piece of machinery by my sister-in-law when she gave up her big garden and went back to work full time. Since we grow organically and use no spray, I cooked the apples skins and all—it makes for a pretty pink sauce—and sent it through the Squeezo which spits the peels and seeds out one end while the yummy strained sauce comes out the side chute.
It worked so well I tried making pear sauce too. The pears have been plentiful this year as well as the apples. Our trees were planted in 2009 and this is the first really big harvest we have gotten from them.
The Bartletts, my favorites, are an early variety. If I were a perfume designer I would create a swoon-worthy scent from ripe Bartlett pears. Since they are not great keepers we made pear sauce. It came out a little watery so I had to cook it down a bit. That concentrated the pear flavor even more making it dee-lish!
Since the Squeezo was all set up, we put a load of tomatoes through it too. Just wash them, cut out the bad parts, and throw the chunks in the hopper. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Following my sister-in law’s lazy way to make tomato paste, I poured the strained tomato sauce into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl, put it in the fridge for the night, and in the morning had thick tomato paste. No cooking necessary!
As I said, I am a lazy cook and I have my share of labor-saving devices but these simple handcranked machines are huge time-savers this time of year and no electricity is required.