Apple picking. Apple sauce. Apple butter. Apple cider. Apple chutney. We’ve had an appletastic month!

We went apple picking at the beginning of the month so we could make our annual batch of applesauce. In past years we’ve gone up to Sebastopol, but the orchard we used to go to changed their u-pick rules this year, so we were in the market for a new apple orchard.

An apple-picking excursion

We drove down the coast towards Santa Cruz and found the Swanton Pacific Ranch’s apple orchard, a tiny teaching/research orchard a bit off Highway 1. They pack 12 varieties of apples into maybe 16 rows of trees. It’s a low-key affair with no one there staffing it: you let yourself in the gate, pick up a small paper bag (unless you plan ahead and bring reusable shopping bags like we did), find a row that has a “Ready to Pick” sign, and when you’re done picking, weigh your apples on their scale and leave your money in a box.

We picked Gingergold, Royal Gala, Jonagold, Yellow Newton Pippin, and Fuji apples. The trees are nice and small, so the picking was easy. They’re organic apples, so we had to sort through them and discard some that were bug-eaten or overly scabby.

There was a particularly intriguing variety, the Sali’s Red Delicious, that had dark purple apples; they looked almost black from a distance. Alas, those weren’t yet ripe, so we didn’t get to try them.

Even without the fun purple apples, we picked 30 pounds of apples—heaviest on the Jonagolds, as they are one of our favorite varieties.

When we got the apples home, they filled up both produce drawers in our fridge and then some.

Putting up: Applesauce

We sauced about half of the apples using our newly acquired food mill. You see, with a food mill, you don’t have to peel or core the apples. You just toss them in the pot, cook them down, and then process them through the food mill to strain out the seeds and peels and such. Brilliant, right!? The applesauce-making took 2.5 batches in our big stock pot, and we canned six quarts in mason jars.

We kept out one batch of applesauce, and cooked it down with some spices and sugar to make apple butter. We’ve made lots of applesauce before, but this was our first time making apple butter.

Even better: Apple butter

The verdict? It took an awful lot of stirring, but the deliciousness of the final product was well worth it. And next time, if we have more time to devote to making the apple butter, we can try one of the low-stir methods.

One of the fun side effects (or positive externalities for all you econ nerds out there) of cooking the whole apples when making applesauce is that it turns out a lovely pale pink color from the red of the apple skins. (The big jars are applesauce and the little jars are apple butter.)

Stay tuned for part II of our apple adventures, wherein a plethora of apples are obtained and fresh apple cider is pressed.