Author: Breeze Richardson, with assistance from participants
The day met all my expectations. “Seeking Peace: Preserving Apples” was a day filled with stories, observations of life, teaching, learning, sharing, creating, and accomplishment. We were 13 Friends gathered from a diversity of Meetings, staring down 3.5 bushels of apples, with boxes of jars heaped on the counter. Three of us were visiting McNabb for the first time (all three said they’d see us again soon, recipes were exchanged, and we have Mariellen Gilpin to thank for inviting them to join us for this extraordinary event). Some of us had plans to use this new knowledge towards canning projects in the future. Others remembered walking through these steps when they were small children and enjoyed reminiscing about those days. The tools needed to get the job done have changed very little in the time span between those decades.
The day was documented in photographs & wonderful reflections of the day. You can click through images (including descriptions) at our Flickr page, and here are a few favorites:
Thank you to Tanners Orchard for donating the beautiful apples, to Kay Drake for the loan of equipment and the donation of jars, special thanks to Grayce Mesner for all her wonderful support making this workshop happen, and of course my deepest thanks to Beth Schobernd for facilitating the day. All the steps to making amazing applesauce can be found in our photos.
Lastly, the words of those who participated in the day really moved me. I’ve asked all of them to comment here with their reflections, but also wanted to share just a bit of what I am so grateful to have received from them in the days that have followed since our time together.
From PRC member Mark McGinnis of Upper Fox Valley:
I had a great time. I intend to make two applesauce cakes with the bounty, one for the Lake Forest/Upper Fox Thanksgiving Dinner and one for the Blue Island/Upper Fox Thanksgiving Dinner.
From Mariellen Gilpin of Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting:
I usually go to worship via taxi, and as it happened, one of my favorite drivers took me to the meetinghouse this morning. His name is Glenn. He is an enormously kind-hearted soul, and I presented him with a pint of Quaker Applesauce and told him the story of how it came to be. We were twelve ladies [and our dear Friend Mark], and almost-four bushels of apples, and we’d cut ’em up and taken out the bad spots in an hour and a quarter, and had a good time doing it. Three Friends, foodies all of them, came from Urbana and brought me along, and we had a wonderful 5 hours total in the car, plus the seven hours of apple-ing, and we heartily agreed we’d had a wonderful day. We are eagerly looking forward to Food Preservation 102 — just say the word!! The other 3 Friends had never been to a yearly meeting event before, and are very enthusiastic about how much fun we had.
From Yelena Forrester of Pittsburgh Friends Meeting, but a recent transplant to Urbana-Champaign Friends Meeting:
I had a wonderful time at the event; thank you so much for making it possible. It was the first time I’d ever taken part in (or even seen) the canning process.
From Pam Timme of Oak Park Friends Meeting:
One of the quarts is destined to go to Oak Park Meeting next week for our potluck/Direction of the Meeting gathering. It was a wonderful and very educational day. Christina and I both enjoyed it very much, and also enjoyed getting back to peace of the countryside. It was a fun and hardworking, yet relaxed group.
From Elizabeth Mertic of Evanston Friends Meeting:
glad that I came the nite before and was able to relax in the quiet of the farm and share the easygoing company of Debie Smith; excited to be able to stand on my feet in front of the hot stove while stirring and monitoring when the water in the canners reached the boil; very pleased that three new Friends participated; grateful to have the chance to be with Beth, Grayce, Mariellen since we all are old timers at ILYM activities.
And from Debie Smith of Evanston Friends Meeting:
I sampled the applesauce three different ways; adding cinnamon and heating up; adding cinnamon and eating cold; and eating the unsweetened applesauce right out of the refrigerator. All three ways were delicious. AND each time I ate my applesauce I remembered our time together making it, as well as where the apples came from. I am really looking forward to more canning in my future with other friends/Friends.
Elizabeth and I made the most of the experience. We drove to McNabb together Friday afternoon, enjoying both conversation and the gorgeous trees and country scenes along the way. We arrived in time to take a long walk together, before settling into the Clear Creek Meetinghouse for the evening. What a welcoming and beautiful home.
I enjoyed every part of our applesauce and canning experience: meeting, cooking with and eating with new Friends; eating Beth’s delicious cookies; learning my way around the kitchen and the canning process; preparing the jars for canning; scrubbing pans; stirring apples on the stove (and slowly becoming more adept at doing so without burning myself so often); milling the apples; filling jars with applesauce; heating lids; putting the lids on the jars; putting the jars in the canner and timing the process; removing the jars to cool and listening for the “pop” to know they sealed. AND eating our collectively made treasured applesauce the next day. All of this – and we had the joy of learning and cooking and eating and cleaning together.
Being in the kitchen with friends and family is one of my greatest joys. Our time together in McNabb added to my collection of joyful kitchen experiences.
Oh, yes, as Elizabeth and I walked out the front door of the meetinghouse to head back to Chicago, we both paused as we were struck by the silence. You could feel and “hear” the silence.
Coming next: Some wonderful apple recipes were shared during the planning of this Peace House on the Prairie workshop – we’ll get them posted here soon.