An Apple a Day (is not enough!)

Autumn. There are many things to love about this most anticipated of seasons (yes, even more anticipated than Christmas, ‘cos winter’s after that). Everyone will say it’s the sweaters, the layers, the changing colours and the casting off of sweaty, sand scoured mosquito bites that they love most; but for me, it’s always about The Food. This planet’s abundance will never cease to amaze me, and capturing those moments in flavors to share is what life is all about.

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The apple is a fruit found in every kind of history and myth, folk tale and recipe book. It is one of the first fruits cultivated, so its sweet and savory capacities can sometimes seem limitless. I have a cook book, though, by the Rose Bakery in France, which cannot stress enough that simplicity in food is always your best bet. The fewest and freshest ingredients will always yield the best results. Right now, in Ontario, the early apples are a bit tart, very crisp and have a heady perfume that comes from lingering hot sun. These apples are great with sharp cheeses, but my favorite way to use them is in apple butter. A bushel of apples, little apple cider vinegar, a few spices and some local honey go a long way in a slow cooker.

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Ingredients:

Two 3L boxes fresh early apples, or other tart apples

1/2 cup local honey (local to you!)

1 tsp sea salt

2 TBSP cinnamon

1/2 TBSP nutmeg

Tools:

Slow cooker (there will be different rules for an Instant Pot, so read the instructions!)

sharp knife

peeler

Optional:

black pepper for heat

turmeric for health

maple syrup for sweetness

no sweetener for savories

flower petals for beauty

Method:

Plug in your slow cooker and set it to high.

Wash your apples well, and core them. Peel them if you want a smoother butter, leave them in for health. Cut the apples coarsely (or real fine, if you like a labor of love) and put them in the slow cooker with everything else. Cook on high for about 8 hrs, then cook on low to finish another 8 hrs or overnight. For a very smooth butter, use a hand blender or tabletop blender. If you don’t mind texture, you can just whip it all up by hand. I tend to make it smooth for gifts, and just eat it as is at home. If you like canning, follow a pressure canning recipe after filling your sterilized jars at this stage. Otherwise, grab a spoon and toast the season! butter.jpg

mouse, field mouse, house mouse, mouse in the house, mouse eating, mouse eating seeds

Mice Will Play: Lessons in Seed Storing

By Catherine Winter

There are a few basic truths about living in a rural area: dining options tend to be limited (no going out for Ethiopian or Thai food at 3 a.m.); serenity will be disturbed by camping aficionados on summer holiday; and you will have mice in the house at some point.

They’re not as much of a nuisance in summertime, since there’s plenty to eat outside, but they will certainly find their way indoors once the weather turns cold. Since I no longer have a cat (RIP Callie and Aylwyn), my mousey housemates have gotten a bit bolder, and have been venturing into places they wouldn’t have dared to go before. Case in point, I discovered yesterday that the little monsters have somehow gotten into what I thought was a secure cupboard, and helped themselves to some of my vegetable and herb seeds.

My heirloom, organic, sacred-to-me seeds. Not cool, mice. Not cool at all.

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Storage Solutions

I’m of the opinion that every setback is an opportunity for learning and growth, and the lesson I learned this past weekend (Happy New Year!) is that my current method of storing seeds just doesn’t cut it. The mice chewed through plastic containers that were holding my paper seed envelopes, so I’m going to have to take more extreme measures and transfer my remaining seeds—and others I’ll purchase in future—into glass storage containers.

For small batches of seeds, I think that clearly labeled test tubes are the way to go, and then I can store those in wooden boxes. Hey, if it works in the Svalbard seed vault, it’ll probably be just fine for my homesteading needs, right?

Related: New Year, New Opportunity to Start a Community Seed Bank

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When I do my big seed order at the end of this month or the beginning of February, I’ll likely order a couple of boxes of glass test tubes so I can store the seeds properly. Until then, I picked up some glass spice jars from the grocery store: they can hold what’s left of my seed stash and will hopefully keep the furry little jerks from raiding my seed stash from now on.

Permaculture really is about working with the land and environment in order to cultivate a symbiosis, but it also takes into consideration the other life forms with whom we share living spaces. I plant alliums like chives, leeks, and garlic around my garden beds to dissuade deer and rabbits, for example, and protective cloth goes over the brassicas to keep the cabbage moths at bay.

Although I’ve tried to seal most cracks and such in my home, and use mint oil to fend off the mice, it’s inevitable that a few will get overzealous and make their way into my cupboards. Humane traps are great, but removing temptation entirely by storing things in glass and metal is probably the best action I could take.

Field-Mouse

How about you? How do you keep your seeds and stored foodstuffs from being gnawed upon? Share your tips with us in the comments section!