This post is was sent to NaturalMommy by Kristin Urdiales of Nature Had it First.
Two years ago when my son Keenan was five, I took him to pick apples at a friend’s orchard.
Our little apple-picking outing was a bit of an afterthought and we were late in the season, so all the best apples had already been picked. We bobbed around the orchard stretching as high into the trees as we could (sans ladder or stepstool, mind you) in an attempt to find apples without wormholes or other signs of vermin. Finally, we had collected about two bags worth and headed home to make applesauce.
Even making applesauce was a stretch for my domestic skills. I had to print out a recipe. Since my son was so young at the time, he couldn’t help much where sharp knives and the stove were concerned, so my afternoon was spent peeling, chopping and cooking the apples. Finally, we were able to taste the fruits of our labor, and boy, was it ever delicious! Now, I know it’s tough to mess up applesauce, but there was a great sense of accomplishment in taking a food from the tree, to our table in one afternoon.
I could not have imagined the impression this simple activity would make on my son. Keenan has asked for very few things as many times as he has asked to go pick apples and make applesauce again. So, on a warm day in September, we went back to the orchard with Keenan (now seven) and his sister Ella, who’s three.
This time we took a stepstool and Keenan picked most of the apples while Ella insisted that I lift her up so she can reach for herself. Despite my repeated claims that many of the apples on the ground are probably just as good, it did not seem to hold the same excitement as plucking the apple straight from the tree. Ella seemed enamored with the activity, though not in the same quiet, contemplative way as Keenan.
I remember back when Keenan was two and we took him to a place called the Berry Patch. You go there to pick your own strawberries and then pay for them by the pint. The strawberries are organic and not sprayed with any chemicals, so eating as you pick is the happy norm (mm-mmm). At the time, we’d never had a garden—not even potted herbs on the front porch—so Keenan hadn’t experienced picking something from the earth. When I told him he could actually eat the strawberry right there, he was floored! I still remember his face looking at me in disbelief as I told him to take a big bite. He was in heaven as he put the first small sweet strawberry in his mouth. As we continued to pick (his to eat and mine to fill our container) Keenan uttered over and over, “Thank you, Mommy.”
Now back to the applesauce. Having not grown up doing activities like making homemade applesauce, I am just now realizing the infinite value of gardening, canning, making and preserving fruits and vegetables. While my mom has mastered many of these things over the 15 years I’ve been away from home, I still feel like I am on the steepest part of the learning curve.
As we arrived home with the apples once again, I still had to print a recipe. The recipe calls for apples, water, sugar and cinnamon. I think I can handle this. So, as my three-year-old Ella climbed all over everything and made me a nervous wreck, Keenan and I started peeling and cutting up the apples. Keenan was now able to help more with peeling and chopping, but typical of a seven-year-old, he was already over the novelty of getting to use a knife. So about five apples into the dozen we need, I took over cutting while he began stirring the apples and water together on the stove.
I modified the recipe slightly to use raw honey instead of the sugar and also thought about adding a little organic vanilla extract (there may be hope for me yet). I added the honey too soon, however, and watched it boil with the apples and water. Great, just killed all the enzymes. Note to self: Add honey at the end next time. I decided that instead of the vanilla extract, I’ll split a whole vanilla bean open and scrape the contents into the applesauce. I showed Keenan the bean and explained to him that this was the beginning of vanilla extract and vanilla ice cream.
As we peel, chop and stir, Keenan asked me if we can get bees when we move to South Dakota. I utter the thing all parents say when our children ask us things that we can’t even comprehend, “Wow, we will have to see about that. That would be cool.”
Keenan’s comment impressed on me how a small part of each of us is drawn to these pure, natural foods and the ways in which we get them to our table. It’s all about the simple things that yield infinite benefits, including a deep appreciation of food and creating something together—even from ingredients as humble as apples.
We soon finished making the applesauce and scraped our bowls clean with delight. Pretty good, we all agreed. You know it’s a successful endeavor when kitchen time is 45 minutes start to finish and Keenan has something to take for the first few days of school. Now I can’t stop picturing him at the lunch table telling his friends that he actually made the applesauce from apples he picked himself. I also can’t stop smiling.
Kristin’s Applesauce Recipe:
(Makes about 1.5 cups)
5 Apples (they are especially delicious if you pick them yourself with your kids)
3 table spoons water
¼ table spoons ground cloves
2 tablespoons raw, local, organic honey
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Core and peel apples. Slice into small pieces. Place apples, cinnamon, cloves and water into a pot. Turn heat to medium and cover. Cook until soft and mash with a fork or spoon. Add honey and cook on low for another 10 minutes to infuse all the flavors together. Enjoy with you kids who helped you make it! To make a larger batch, just double or triple the recipe.