Autumn is a festive time here at Rabbit Hill. My dining room table is decorated with trays of elongated yellow and red striped Blush tomatoes, blood red Goldman’s Italian American tomatoes, and plump processing tomatoes.
Blue-green Hubbard squash, creamy yellow and green striped delicata and tan long-necked butternut squash are hardening in the greenhouse.
And apples (with the unwelcome guests of fruit flies) are everywhere.
Fruit of all sizes and shapes litter the kitchen table, while bowls of known apple varieties line the counter, sitting on printed pages of the particular variety’s history and description, courtesy of the crew at Out-on-A-Limb (outonalimbapples.com/varieties).
Since our small family can’t begin to enjoy all this abundance of food at one time, I do a lot of food processing; roasting tomatoes for sauce, cooking and freezing pumpkin, pureeing over-ripe peaches and preparing batches of applesauce.
Preserving the harvest, putting food by and food processing are all interrelated terms and techniques for transforming a bounty or surplus of fruits and vegetables into a more shelf-stable state. Because the shelf-life of freshly harvested fruit starts to decline immediately after it becomes perfectly ripe, you need to eat this delicious fruit or vegetable right up, or process it into another form for storage.
I’ve found that the handiest and most useful piece of equipment in the food-processing kitchen is my mother’s Foley Food Mill.
A food mill, also know as a purée sieve or moulinette, consists of just three parts: a bowl, a bottom plate with holes like those in a colander, and a crank fitted with a bent metal blade which crushes the food and forces it through the holes in the bottom plate as the crank is turned.
My mother’s Foley mill dates to the 1950s, and is made from aluminum. Newer versions are manufactured from stainless steel to prevent corrosion from acidic foods. Introduced as an “ingenious device” by the Foley Manufacturing Co. of Minneapolis, Minn., in the 1920s to “busy homemakers,” the Foley food mill does it all: straining, mashing and pureeing, all without the labor of peeling.