I crossed another item off my bucket list last week.
I took my kids to Michigan to make applesauce with Aunt Susie.
To begin with, Aunt Susie and Uncle Greg aren’t my aunt and uncle. They’re Sam’s aunt and uncle. Actually, that’s not true either. While not blood relatives, they are such good friends of my in-laws, that they have become family. So Sam grew up calling them “Aunt” and “Uncle”. More precisely, he called her Aunt Shooeee until he could pronounce her name correctly.
I also lived with Aunt Susie and Uncle Greg for a brief time 25 years ago. I had graduated college and was beginning my first big-girl job in Detroit. I needed a place to call home for a few months before our December wedding. Aunt Susie and Uncle Greg had recently refinished their basement and invited me to move in with their family. I have the fondest memories of those months. I wish I could find the pictures. It made the transition from Texas to Michigan much easier. They had two adorable children, Mike and Emily, and a dog who looked like Lassie. I referred to myself as their troll. Thankfully, they never treated me like one.
Aunt Susie is the kind of person who can do anything. And she does it exceptionally well. On my very first day of work back in 1996, I found myself with a dead car battery. I watched in awe as she whipped her van out of the garage, went from 0-60mph before the end of the driveway, turned the car on a dime, and expertly placed the jumper cables. Aunt Susie could hold her own on a NASCAR pit crew.
She’s also incredibly organized. You should see her basement storage closet. If there is ever an apocalyptic event, I will show up at their door as I’m fairly certain there’s enough food to sustain life for at least a year. She also makes her own bread, an oatmeal based loaf that produces a delicious grilled cheese. Sometimes she crafts this dough into a cinnamon bread. Pure heaven. To top it off, she makes applesauce every year. From Jonathan apples. Deep, dark red ones. We’ve talked for years about my bringing the kids to join her for this event. This was the year it finally happened.
Mary Frances, Johnny, Becky, and I piled into the van for a road trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan. And my old stomping grounds. Aunt Susie had already procured the apples. Lots and lots of apples. A bushel is 48 pounds and we had more than that. The process began last Thursday with the washing of the apples.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of the washing. Because I was at the University of Michigan ER with Becky. I didn’t know it when I left home, but Becky was brewing a respiratory infection. By 3:30am, it was clear that she was in respiratory distress and needed help. I called Mom Rauch and she drove with me to the ER. Thankfully, the medical staff quickly determined that Becky had an infection and not a cardiac issue. After some steroids and a breathing treatment, she was released.
By the time I returned from the hospital, the apples were washed and waiting.
I was exhausted from both the drive and the unexpected trip to the ER. While I grabbed a nap, Aunt Susie took over on Becky duty while Uncle Greg took Mary Frances and Johnny to the driving range. Apparently, Johnny bet him $1000 that he couldn’t hit the American flag pole. Lucky for Johnny that it was just out of Uncle Greg’s range. Because Johnny doesn’t have $1000 dollars. Or even 1000 pennies.
The next morning, the applesauce show rolled into the kitchen. After hand washing, it was time to start chopping the apples.
We removed the stems and cut the apples.
Pots were filled with the quartered apples and a 1/2 cup of water. Then the pots were set to simmer.
The apples cooked down quickly and filled the kitchen with fall-like smells.
It was time to set up the Victorio food mill. Johnny was intrigued by all the little pieces and enjoyed putting the machine together.
Everything was ready to go.
So was Johnny. I should mention that Aunt Susie has the patience of a saint. Maybe two.
The applesauce quickly made its way down the ramp and into the big pan.
The delicious, warm sauce was scooped into Ball jars and sealed.
Aunt Susie freezes her sauce. But we decided to can the applesauce for our family. Frozen glass jars and my crew aren’t the best combination. So I learned how to can. Of course Aunt Susie had all the necessary equipment. In her basement of wonders.
I must give a shout out to Uncle Greg. Because he played an important role in the whole thing. Not only did he help select the apples, he also dried dishes and entertained Johnny. Quite the trifecta. When I had visited earlier in the summer, Johnny took an immediate liking to Uncle Greg. I captured this picture of them in deep conversation while grilling hot dogs. This visit was no different. Johnny was never more than a few paces behind Uncle Greg. The boys played countless rounds of pool while we finished the applesauce. Uncle Greg is a great sport.
I think we ended the day with 31 pints and 9 quarts. Aunt Susie will know for sure. She writes it down in her log book, a record for future applesauce making events. I’ve got my quarts boxed up and stashed away in our bedroom. This precious resource will only be consumed on special occasions. Like Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas morning brunch.
It was a wonderful visit with some tremendously special people. There are many memories in these jars, the very taste of friendship and family. Making applesauce with Aunt Susie is something that I’ve wanted to do since Greta was little. Johnny and Mary Frances were the beneficiaries. Becky too.
Everyone should have an Aunt Susie. And an Uncle Greg.