My uncle is a farmer. He was raised a farmer and has continued to be such his entire life. After duel knee replacements, a few bouts with strange diseases, and more than a couple decades of years under his belt, he is no longer able to climb the ladders and pull in all the vegetables which he once used to do. This hasn't stopped him from farming however. Now, my father and I help pick up the harvesting slack. From blackberries, to 3 types of pears, 2 types of apples, huge sweet onions, carrots, and giant pumpkins big enough for The Barracuda to fit inside (literally), he is constantly providing us with harvests.
The petunias he grew from seed and are now larger than Jules. Most of his dahlias are larger than my head.
The issue soon becomes, what on earth do we do with all this produce? Over the summers Jules is around to help out with all the canning. We can go through a serious amount of harvest between the two of us along with the helpful hands of The Barracuda here and there. However, school is in full swing and Jules is undergoing National Board Certification this year. His hands are very busy.
I'm not complaining. Free food is free food and this is organic, farm grown, good food which cans up fabulously. But it has gotten me thinking about our own orchard and garden in a couple years when we have ample land. Planting a multi-season harvest sounds like an incredibly brilliant idea. Why not have apples that ripen two months apart so you get two different batches and multiple months worth of fresh fruit? Pears which are early fall ripeners and then more which are late ripeners provide more fruit and many chances for enjoyment. Oh this just sounds so ingenious.
However, it also means much more time spent processing pears, while I'm also trying to process tomatoes, and apples, and jam and finish quilts before the cold, homeschool an energetic kid, keep Jules' favorite work clothes clean, and knit up another years worth of kitchen clothes. Inevitably the fruit flies will start and the canning will never be done in time.
This isn't to say we don't grow things over the fall and winter. We are lucky enough to live in a place which is mild enough for much to grow all year long. However, these are not canned items. Spinach, garlic, collards, beets, and cabbage do not need to be canned up and can be eatten on demand. The Beatles and the Bible got it right: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven....a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted...." I am not a multi-season gardener when it comes to canning. Let's be real, Self...it aint gonna happen.
Luckily, I have now learned this about myself and can safely say that when our orchard is planted it will possibly be of multiple varieties, but they will all be one season. One crazy, action packed, very sticky canning season is about all I can muster.
What we have done with a lot of the harvest is make apple rings and pectin. Lots and lots and lots of apple rings. We are going on 5 quarts of apple rings and I'm already beginning to have to ration as I notice significant dwindling.
Apple rings are taken when we backpack and are chosen over cookies by The Barracuda when we are home. Jules is also quite good at nibbling over half a jar in one sitting if I let him. I thought I would be sneaky and purchase some from the store, but they both hated them. So, its back to the dehydrator for me.
To make apple rings you must first peel the apples. A crank style peeler is worth every cent of the 20 dollars they cost. They work for pears, potatoes, and just about any other firm fruit with thin skin. You can also buy slicing attachments of different sizes to produce different thicknesses. This will core, slice, and generally make the entire apple ready to be processed. Not only do they make the task fast, but they make it fun for little hands that cannot wield a knife or peeler well enough to not get hurt after four or five apples. The Barracuda peels most all our fruit at this point because he finds the crank so much fun.
Lay the rings out on trays and dehydrate for at least 4 hours at 135 degrees. We like ours thin and rather crisp so 6 hours is about right. Use some trial and error to find the correct time for your family. But, be sure you place them high on the shelves or you will soon run out!