I've always loved applesauce. When I was a child my mother would make her own with just a little water and a touch of honey . It never took much encouragement to get me and my two siblings to clean the pot out with gusto.
Later, after college, I worked on a farm in Berryville, Va called Smith Meadows that still had an old apple orchard from the 1930s and 40s in what is now primarily cow pasture. The Pritchard family matriarch, Ruth, still knew where the Grimes Golden trees were (though she wouldn't tell anyone else) and she would go out to pick those apples and make a fabulous applesauce of her own that we would take to market. Needless to say, I always had a keen eye on any unsold containers of that golden sauce. So when I started working at Vintage Virginia Apples the idea of applesauce was never far from my mind. Then, last year, we were at a chamber of commerce meeting and Anne Shelton had a chance encounter with Allie Hill of Virginia Food Works and the applesauce moved a step closer to fuition.
Virginia Food Works is an exciting new Non-Profit that has taken up residence in the Prince Edward County Cannery. The idea behind their organization is a brilliant one that cuts right to the heart of an interesting and perhaps unseen aspect of agriculture in Virginia. You are probably aware that agriculture is big in Virginia. Specifically, the 46,000+ farms in Virginia comprise the largest sector of our state's economy by far, creating $52 billion and 357,000 jobs annually. But with all that agricultural firepower in the Commonwealth 85%-90% of what Virginians eat is still coming from out-of-state. Virginia Food Works aims to change that figure by allowing more farmers access to programs and services to strenghthen their capacity for the production and sales of value-added food products. And when more farmers can turn their crops into a shelf-stable, value-added product that has been processed safely you increase everyone's access to these local, nutritious foods throughout the year. What's not to love?
Processing Apples at Virginia Food Works
So we hopped on board with this idea and started with a "test" batch of 600lbs of apples. Using a variety of old apples (in our latest batch: Grimes Golden, Turley Winesap, Stayman, IdaRed, and Shizuka) and fresh apple cider from our press for that extra touch of sweetness the results were fantastic. Most recently we upped the ante and delivered a whopping 1,100lbs of apples to the Food Works and received a literal truckload of applesauce in return.
The Local Food Hub and Relay Foods are now both carrying and distributing the applesauce to a number of grocers in our area and households all over the state, and it has made the perfect addition to our offerings of food in the tasting room.
So if you stop by for a taste of some of our hard cider, check out our 'sauce too, and if you want to see this unique product on a grocery store shelf in your area ask them to call the Local Food Hub and put some applesauce on their next delivery.