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blackberries–“luscious” doesn’t begin to describe these berries

You have heard me sing the praises of my own red raspberries, yes, and I’ve long enjoyed the wonderful blueberries that cover the hills in South Glastonbury, CT, but never  until this week have I experienced berries that were positively decadent.

on the way to the blueberries

We were at Belltown Hill Orchards, one of my very favorite PYO (pick your own) places in my area, with our grandsons, planning to pick their fantastic blueberries.  Usually we get to hop on their trailer and get a fun ride to the blueberry patch, but this day we were picking close to the store and just needed to wend our way through the blackberry patch to get to the blueberries.

row of blackberry bushes, beautifully tended, easy to pick

It was there that I was ambushed by a sight of such opulent abundance that I was stopped in my tracks. The blackberries were such as I had never seen, having only been exposed to the wild ones, which are large berries in their own right — certainly larger than red raspberries. Well, these cultivated blackberries looked like a snapshot taken from the Garden of Eden. The berries averaged in size easily over an inch and were dark, sweet, and sensuously juicy with almost a smokey undertone. Pop one in your mouth and your tongue is flooded with flavor. You pause for a moment and wonder if you are in an orchard or a vineyard for wine tasting.

so easy to pick!

I walked past the blackberries to make my way to the intended picking target: blueberries. They were wonderful as usual. In a short 30 minutes, the four adults and 2 children gathered about sixteen pounds. But I couldn’t resist the call of the blackberries. While the rest of the group stayed on task, I returned to the store for a different picking bucket and headed to the rows of blackberries.

a riot of berries

What a treat! Even if I didn’t ever eat any of them, just looking at them was a joy. How nature could produce such a joyous overabundance was amazing. But I did pick; I did eat; I was happy! I will return for more and have plans for a blackberry jam. Stay tuned.

apples -- before

apples -- after, aka, applesauce


What is more iconic of fall? Applesauce! What says comfort food better? If you haven’t enjoyed the pleasure of picking your own apples, you are missing a real treat. I’m very fortunate to live in an old farming community that still boasts many orchards, and most encourage pick your own. It’s a fun outing and a very economical way to get good, local apples. Not sure whether there are any pick your own options in your area? Check out for a listing of farms in your area. You’ll also find good information about local foods and food preservation.

Of course you’ll want to eat lots of your apples fresh and make apple pies, cobblers, tarts, and what not. But don’t forget the simple, homely applesauce. Using my recipe, you can easily make it in about an hour, and if you want to can it, add maybe another hour total. Applesauce also freezes very well. By the way, this recipe and many more will be found in my upcoming book, Hobby Farm Homes: Canning and Freezing to be published by BowTie Press in September of 2011. **

easy does it

Nearly every recipe I’ve found for applesauce tells you to peel and core the apple, then cook, and mash or strain. Yes, you can do this, but why would you when there’s an infinitely easier method (which is just as safe and tested) that saves you the time peeling and coring and yields more applesauce. This recipe is perfect for babies (and grandchildren — just ask granddaughter Ava) since you don’t need to add any sugar.


Apples, water, and some ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) or lemon juice to prevent darkening. That’s it. I make my sauce when the McIntoshes are plentiful. You will hear other folks proclaim the benefits of other apples, and I’m sure that they are good as well. Some tell you to use a mixture. One actually gave me the percentage of McIntosh to Fuji, Yellow Delicious, Gala, and Winesap. Okay, I don’t disagree that you might get a sparkier flavor by mixing a tangy Winesap with your Mac, but try to find a good Mac when the Winesaps are ready. So, I just use Macs. They’re generally pretty inexpensive, sweet, flavorful, and cook up perfectly for sauce. A bushel of apples will give you about fourteen quarts of sauce.


  • Wash the apples thoroughly, cutting out any bad spots. Clean the blossom end thoroughly.
  • Cut the apple into about six slices — don’t worry about removing the seeds or skin. Rinse.

    put your cut apples (skin, core, and all) in a heavy pot

  • Place the apples for about 5 minutes in a water bath containing 3,000 mg.  of ascorbic acid (that’s six 500 mg Vitamin C tablets crushed) or 3/4 C. lemon juice per gallon, or follow manufacturer’s instructions if you use a commercially prepared mixture, such as Fruit Fresh(R). This will help to prevent oxidative darkening.
  • Remove apples from water bath (do not rinse again) and put them dripping wet into a very heavy saucepan.  Ideally, you’ll want an aluminum core with stainless steel inside surface, but I’ve used heavy aluminum for years with success. A flimsy saucepan can work, but you’ll need to keep the temp very low to prevent scorching.
  • Fill the heavy pot nearly to the top with the cut apples. Add a little bit of water. For a three-quart pot, I add about ¼ cup of water.
  • Turn stove top temperature to medium high (or medium if you don’t have heavy-duty pot) and cook apples until they are very soft and the flesh falls off the peel. Check on them now and then, and stir. Depending upon the pot size and heat, this will be about twenty minutes. I do multiple pots at one time.

    cook apples until tender and mushy

  • While the apples are cooking, if I’m making enough sauce to can or freeze, I get my jars, lids, and other equipment ready. *
  • When finished cooking, pour the cooked apples into a food strainer or food mill. If you have a fancy food mixer, there are attachments that you can buy to do this, but I’ve used a crank-style food mill for years and it works great.


    cooked apples in food mill

  • Strain the apples to remove the sauce from the skins, stems, and seeds. It’s amazing how much sauce you can get in this way. From my bushel of Macs, I only lost about six cups of apple peels/seeds, and such — and that ended up on my compost pile.
  • If you are planning to use your sauce right away, you’re done! Just eat and enjoy; store any extra in an airtight container in your refrigerator. Should easily keep for a week to ten days.
  • If you plan to can or freeze your sauce, as you finish each strainer full, empty the sauce into a large pot until you have finished cooking and straining all the apples.
  • If freezing, let the sauce cool, then put in freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch head space (pints) or 1 inch (quarts) for expansion.
  • If canning, heat the sauce slowly to boiling, being careful not to scorch.
  • Working one jar at a time, pour the boiling sauce into the jar, leaving ½ inch head space. Remove all bubbles, wipe rim, adjust lids. Process in a water bath canner 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

* In future posts, I’ll go into canning and freezing processes. They are all covered in my book, but until then, I suggest the web site from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, which was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Please beware, there are a lot of canning and preserving instructions floating around cyberspace, and not all are accurate or safe! Only use canning recipes that have been approved by the USDA.

**Portions of this post taken from Hobby Farm Home: Canning and Preserving are copyright protected, BowTie Press(R), Inc.

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