Bushels of apples have loomed outside my door since our return on Sunday. There they sat, as I baulked at the thought of sticky applesauce splatters on kitchen floor and ceiling (and every space in between), sinks piled high with pots and pans, hauling out the 'equipment', and unpacking more canning jars. I knew with such a big task at hand, my day would be spent and the children would undoubtedly be underfoot.
But I bought the things with the intent to can them, and surely must now be a good steward of the gift of HAVING them. (In abundance!)
Yesterday was the day of reckoning.
From morning until dinner I was in the kitchen. I sorted apples (the worst ones were used) the pretty ones set aside for drying, eating, and baking with. Rinse. Quarter. Throw in the pot. While they were cooking up, I'd unpack canning jars. Wash. Bring water bath to a boil, sterilize jars. Cooked apples would then be pulverized with my very own Norpo (the second year we haven't had to borrow one, and I am STILL as giddy about it as the day I got it!) and thrown in the roaster oven.
Again, and again, until the roaster oven was full- then the sterilizing, ladling, topping, canning, and setting to rest on the tabletop. All the while, between filling jars, I'd continue the quartering apples. The washing of more jars. The finding of more lids and rims. The pulverizing. The adding freshly made applesauce again to the roaster oven.
And so it went from 8 until 5:30, all the while helping Corynn with schoolwork, throwing loads of laundry in and out of the washing machine, and helping Panda with those pesky puzzle pieces that just wouldn't fit. I kept going until my feet were exhausted and Bunkin felt as if s/he might fall right out of me.
Many thoughts of the day revolved around how much easier if I had several pairs of hands to help me. I thought about (and pined for) the day when my children would be able to help me in a way that was actually efficient. Andrew could take to the cranking and Corynn to the quartering, and Bunkin could do the jar washing all the while I was the ladler and topper and finish-offer. Who knows?!? With even more children, the day might come when I can just snap pictures! ;-)
I can picture it now: Laughing and smiling together, sharing stories and antics, all the while working hard for the good of the family and finding joy and fulfillment in that place, together. What a DAY that will be!!!
But those days are still yet to come. The days of now have children milling about my feet while I race from one end of the kitchen to the other, cranking boiled apples occasionally (and for sport) but not a bit efficiently and me terrified that burning applesauce might scald their little hands. It is incredibly important to share these experiences with your children, and to encourage them to find value in being with you and sharing the workload, but, at this stage of MY game: all these things are still a bit more of a SACRIFICE than getting anything productive out of it.
Yet: when that wonderfully productive kitchen daydream DOES happen, won't I be just a bit sad that I didn't have a little boy who was walking about using a funnel as a trumpet or a little girl who was asking me questions about heaven that only a five year old would ask?
I pray that the day comes when my young adult children will enjoy working alongside me in the kitchen (and throughout our home) and that, even then, they will share with me freely what is on their hearts and minds openly and willingly. I look forward to that day so very much, but as I look forward, I can not look PAST today. Because today is the MAKING of our future together. That day, far into the future, is a day that is built upon the many days of now. What a shame it would be to miss out on these precious moments.
My back bent low with aches and my feet heavy with soreness, I looked upon the table before bed, and still, found satisfaction. I worked hard yesterday. I did the work myself (with the exception of a few "helpings" from the children) and juggled and toiled, but I did it. At the end of the day, 26 jars of applesauce lined the table like little soldiers awaiting orders and a roaster oven full of more applesauce sat simmering for today's canning of apple butter.
I went to bed and felt satisfied. Satisfied because, though drained and at times overwhelmed, I taught my children that I love them so deeply that I wanted to serve them and this family with my actions, even if it just making sure they will be fed this winter. I gave them the gift of love, ladled into jars, so that their bellies might be filled with it and they might be satiated. A jar of applesauce from the grocery store just doesn't have that same effect. When they ARE grown, I will have paved the way for them to love being in the kitchen with me and hopefully, then, they will remember their little bodies hovering near me (and being welcomed) in the kitchen as I worked and they might understand how much I loved them and wanted them near, even if they weren't able to help me. Because isn't that what unconditional love is? Real love? Not wanting or expecting anything in return?
I have a roaster oven full of apple butter, ready and waiting to be canned as I type, so time is of the essence. Somehow my words just start oozing, even if my intent is just to post photos.
Before I go though, I want to record the applesauce experiment, lest I forget and it be made useless.
I made four batches of applesauce and flavored each one differently. My hope was that we would try each batch and decide which one we preferred so that I might be able to make our own favorite "Newman's Own" applesauce every year.
Here are the different batches:
Batch One: Cinnamon Spice Applesauce
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. allspice
Batch Two: Natural Applesauce
plain, unsweetened applesauce
Batch Three: Red Hot Applesauce
2 c. sugar
3 T. red hot cinnamon candies
Batch Four: I call This Caramel Applesauce
1 c. dark brown sugar
1 T. maple extract
Each batch yeilded 6-7 quarts, made with about 15 soup bowl scoops of unsweetened applesauce.
Now that I have THAT recorded, and the jars labeled, the experiment has officially begun!