Several weeks ago a good friend invited me to pick apples. She works for a large IT company, and when the buildings were landscaped someone had the clever foresight to incorporate dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees. The campus is mostly empty because the majority of people work from home offices now, so every year most of the apples go untouched. I ended up with five grocery bags full. There were still gobs of them that ended up rotting on the ground. Even the birds couldn’t keep up!
It didn’t occur to me until I got home to think of what I would do with all of those apples. They were stored in the cool garage, but not cool enough to keep them through the winter. I had to get busy!
Apple cider was my first project. I ran the apples through a vegetable juicer after cutting the seeds and bad bits out. I canned the first batch, but found that the wonderful, rich apple flavor disappeared after being boiled. So over the weeks I made a few small batches, and we enjoyed the seasonal flavor while it lasted. Freezing the cider doesn’t seem to compromise the fresh apple taste, so I froze a few gallon bags as well. The cider was wonderful warmed and with a shot of spiced rum, a dollop of whipped cream, and a dash of cardamom or cinnamon!
I threw most of the apple pulp from the juicing process into the compost. I did save some, which was added to sausage. Making sausage is time consuming, but it isn’t difficult. I took a pound of ground venison, a pound of bacon ends and a few cups of the apple pulp as the base. Sausage needs fat, so I use a cut of pork with a lot of fat or bacon to add to venison since it is so lean. First, I sauteed a small diced onion and two cloves of garlic with a few strips of the fatty bacon. The rest of the bacon was run through the meat grinder (Kitchen Aid attachment on a Kitchen Aid mixer). For flavoring, I added a few tablespoons of fresh garden sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and a few dashes of powdered nutmeg, salt and pepper, and a tablespoon or so of maple syrup. Diced apple was added for texture. I mixed all of this together by hand in a bowl.
Before stuffing the casings, I always make a few patties from the mixture and cook them up to make sure I’m happy with the flavor and texture. After making any adjustments, it gets run through the sausage stuffer with the largest stuffing attachment (so the apples and onion pieces don’t get stuck). I bought hog intestine casings at a butcher, you can also find collagen casings. These came brined in salt so they had to be soaked and rinsed, and then water run through them.
The casings have to be pushed onto the attachment, then the machine helps to push the filling through into the casings. (It is a lot easier if you have two people helping with this process – one to feed the meat into the attachment and another to maneuver the sausage as it comes out.) Once out of the extruder, it can be twisted every 6 inches or so to make links. We ate some for dinner and I froze the rest. (You can experiment with all sorts of different ingredients and combinations for sausage. You don’t have to have a meat grinder or sausage stuffer if you buy the meat ground. You can just make patties. )
My daughter and I spent a lovely afternoon at my friend’s house cooking and chatting while making the sausage. We had an amazing fall dinner: homemade apple venison sausage, red beets and sugar beets from the garden broiled with basalmic vinegar, sea salt and olive oil, and homemade spaetzel drizzled with butter.
But there were still apples left! I used them in a big batch of old-fashioned Apple Brown Betty, which I shared with friends. One night we had pork chops, sweet potatoes and apples with sautéed onions. They will also be used for apple pie and apple walnut stuffing for Thanksgiving. I diced and froze several bags. I’ve made enough of a variety of dishes that my family hasn’t gotten tired of apples yet, thank goodness. We’ll be eating them all winter!