Thursday, October 7, 2010

Squirrel Family

I was reminded yesterday of one of the many reasons we try to eat locally as much as possible: children. Not children's health, though that's key, but children's connection with their food. And I got a new moniker along the way. I do have a few other blog entries written which I'll post soon from farm visits, but this story  illustrates why this is so important to us.

Last weekend, we went apple picking at Larriland's with a few friends. Picking itself is just a great community activity. The kids got to run around, seeking the perfect apple by look and taste, and my friends and I got to catch up as well. We ended up with more than 50 lbs of various apples. Now comes the storage time. Luckily, apples are so much more forgiving than peaches that I can take time to figure out how to use them, rather than spend mad evenings in a canning frenzy.

Applesauce is a staple, of course. We made a batch last weekend. My son loves to use the gadgets, and I've found that is just about the best way to get him heavily involved in his food. This summer, I bought a plunger-style cherry pitter, and he spent hours pitting 40lbs of cherries. A huge help to me, fun for him, and  the cherry jams and dishes mean more because he made them possible. With apples, we have the peeler, corer, slicer deal, which he also loves. So we used that last week for the sauce. I decided then though to invest in a food mill, another simple device that would give us more versatility in the kitchen.

Kenai had a friend over yesterday and I had cooked down a bunch of apples in a crock pot. The kids got a huge kick out of running the cooked apples through the food mill, separating the seeds and peel from the pulp into an even-textured sauce. His friend was absolutely delighted.

"You could use this for all kinds of things, like pears or peaches!", she exclaimed,
"Yep. You could. Or tomatoes.", I replied
"Then you could make ketchup! Can we make ketchup next?"

She took the fact that we weren't making ketchup that day in stride and asked, "do you make a lot of home made things?"
"Yes, we do. A lot."
"For storage?"
"Yep, so we can store the food for the winter."
"So, you're like a squirrel family!"
"Well, yes, I guess we are...."
"except, squirrels don't have food mills.", she finished.
No, they don't. Food mills are cool.

I then got out all the various spices... ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice... and the kids took samples of the sauce and spiced them in their bowls. They needed to find the right spice mixture. In the end, pumpkin pie spice with extra cinnamon and a dash of ginger was the winning combo. They tried the final result before we canned it. "Awesome!" and "You can't get applesauce like this in the store!"

Statements like that make you feel great. Or at least, make me feel great. When her mom picked her up, my son's friend told her how she had made applesauce and how the thing that made it perfect was the dash of ginger. Her idea. Like Josie and Shawn had done with me, giving me a pint of their precious, gorgeous dried beans, I gave her a jar of the canned applesauce. She earned it.

So, we are indeed a squirrel family. What a great label.

I'm not a true foodie, so I'll leave all the fancy recipes to others with food blogs, but if you are looking for simple things to do with apples this fall, there is a great recipe for fresh apple salsa on That's one of my new favourites. Another thing to do is chop up apples, walnuts, add raisins and a bit of brown sugar, and cook down for a bit. Bake up Pepperidge Farms pastry puff shells and pour over the mixture. You have a great, simple dessert in under 30 minutes and about 5 minutes of effort.


  1. My jaw dropped when I read your post today. It just so happens that I made a fresh batch of applesauce last night. Welcome to the squirrel neighborhood!
    --Jennifer (Jeff Kubina's wife)

  2. Picking apples at Larriland has been a fall tradition in my family for over 20 years. Kristen and I still get together to pick-our-own at least once a season. Natalie moved away after college graduation, but she requested homemade applesauce when she visited last year. It made me feel good to learn how much this childhood memory meant to her.