Picking & Preserving with Romero House

Apples are an abundant fruit in Toronto’s urban orchard. If you’ve been on an apple pick in the city, you know just how much fruit they can produce. It’s not unheard of to have an apple tree yield upwards of 400 pounds!

Sometimes you end up with so many apples, you don’t know what to do with them. That’s why we love to create preserves. Preserved apples can last up to a year on the shelf and even longer if refrigerated. Preserving food means you don’t have to find a way to deal with 100 pounds of fresh apples immediately, and can save the harvest for the winter.

This summer we took Romero House on an abundant apple pick at the Spadina Museum, and taught the participants how to preserve the massive bounty into a delicious apple sauce for use year-round.

Romero House is an organization that hosts transitional housing for refugees and new immigrants. Romero House is  home to a vibrant community, made up of refugees, staff, volunteers and neighbours. This community is shaped by their commitment to a certain way of being: by the way in which they seek to welcome refugees and to be good neighbours

We invited them to an apple pick at the Spadina Museum – home to a beautiful historic orchard. Here we picked from a few different trees, each with different varieties of apples. This is a great location to introduce people to the abundance of fruit that grows here in Toronto, and the different types of apples you might see growing across the city.

The group picked over 100 pounds of apples! The bounty was then taken to Romero House where we hosted an apple sauce preserving workshop with the residents. Apple sauce is an extremely simple way to preserve apples and is very versatile. It can be used as a spread on its own or can be incorporated in cooking or baking as an ingredient in cakes or pies!

We started by cutting and coring all the apples. It’s quite the process, but pays off in the end! To make 50 jars of well-preserved apple sauce we used about 35 lbs of apples, leaving Romero House with some apples of their own so that they could be eaten as is or incorporated into meals for the residents. After processing the fruit, we cooked them down in large batches with sugar, some lemon juice, and cinnamon. It’s as simple as that!

Once the sauce was done, we started the canning process. We used small 250ml mason jars and some simple canning tools. The filled jars went into a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes to sanitize and seal them. One of the greatest parts of canning at home is the satisfying pop you hear as the jars start to cool and fully seal. After sealing the jars, they must rest for 24 hours before you should open them. If your jars are fully sealed, they’ll last up to a year at room temperature and much longer if refrigerated.

We encourage you to give preserving a try it’s a simple process that will allow you to enjoy your fruit harvests throughout the year, so that you can enjoy some homemade jam or sauce in the middle of winter and remember fondly the enjoyment of picking and preserving your own fruit in the summer!

A huge thank you to Romero House for joining us on the apple pick and inviting us into their kitchen space. Thank you to Patagonia Toronto for supporting this picking and preserving workshop series with our partner agencies.

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