Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ember Days

With September come the Michaelmas Ember Days, the seasonal days of penance which were once obligatory, but are no longer so, in the Roman Catholic Church.

As Father so clearly stated in his homily last Sunday, keeping the fast and abstinence is not obligatory. Failing to keep the fast and abstinence is no sin. But! Should we keep the fast and abstinence? Absolutely! (unless there is a very good--i.e., health, etc.--reason not to.) 

Sacred Scripture gives us some pretty good incentives to deny ourselves once in a while:

In Luke chapter 13 Our Lord says twice, "No, I say to you: but unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish."
Matthew 17:17-20: And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

Specifically, the Ember Days this week are today, Friday and Saturday. Wednesday and Saturday are days of fast and partial abstinence, Friday is fast and (complete) abstinence.

For further reading, Fish Eaters website gives some good information on the Ember Days, as well as guidelines for fasting and abstinence.

God bless you!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Apple Pickin' and Cannin'

The calendar says summer is quickly coming to an end! I welcome it as Fall is probably my favorite time of the year, with its sunny but crisp days, harvest time, and the smells that emanate from the kitchen this time of year.

Last Saturday we (my husband, myself, the boys and my mom) did a very fall-ish thing: we decided to pick some apples! So, we made a little trek over to Eckert's Farm in Illinois to do just that. We had never been there before, but now I'm quite sure this will turn out to be the first of many such trips.

It was a lovely Saturday in September, with temps in the 70s and perfect for doing just about anything outside. Eckert's is a beautiful, big farm with acres upon acres of fruit trees, pumpkin patches and I'm sure much more. There were a lot of people there, but everything runs so smoothly that we never felt like we were in a crowd.

When we got there we walked right by the Kettle Popcorn poppers (with promises to stop there on our way out) and other exhibits and proceeded to the wagons where they constantly loaded and unloaded apple-pickers. I in my scooter and the rest on foot, we boarded a John Deere farm tractor-pulled wagon. The folks at Eckert's are well-prepared for those with disabilities, and I simply drove my scooter up the removable ramps into the wagon. Piece o' cake. I love it when I almost blend into the crowd because of well-planned accessibility!

The tractor took us through the apple orchards to where the latest picking was being done. That day we could pick Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp and Jonathan apples, all at the fantastic price of $0.89/lb. Pick as much as you like, eat as many as you can, and catch a wagon back when you're ready to go back. Bags in hand, we set out.

The trees were smaller than I expected, but laden heavily with gorgeous apples.  I remember as a girl apple-picking on our farm meant climbing the trees or using a ladder to reach the fruit. Not so at Eckert's. The apples are easily picked in abundance without any climbing. It only took a half-hour or so for us to fill 7 bags. When we got in from the orchards our apples weighed in at 80 pounds!

After looking around a bit at their large store and picking up some canning supplies (and a big bag of freshly popped Kettle Korn!) we headed back home.

And so, with 80 pounds of apples, my mom and I had our work cut out for us. As I type this we are finishing up the last canner load of beautiful beige/pink applesauce. Two days of washing, quartering, boiling, straining, and hot water-bath processing yielded 23 quarts of applesauce and a large basket of shiny red apples to munch on.On tasting the applesauce we decided the Honey Crisp (red) apples resulted in a more flavorful--and pretty--applesauce than the Golden Delicious apples did, though it is good too. But next year we'll stick with the one variety.

I love doing things like this with my mom. We are a perfect team in the kitchen and we both enjoy immensely the satisfaction that comes with hearing the lids ping as they seal, and gazing at the canned jars on the counter of the clean kitchen. And, the house smells of apples, and fall.

Did we save money on our applesauce? Probably not this year. The apples were a great price, but I had to buy some canning supplies and jars. The fun we have doing it, though, the applesauce that is far tastier than the store-shelf variety, and the satisfaction gained from making your own, is worth the expense. And next year we'll have most of the supplies on hand already.

I can see us going back to Eckert's every year at apple-picking time. It's a great family outing that yields some tasty results. Just the right way to welcome Fall!

God bless you!