[In which he describes the process of preparing the apple harvest for use]
In the evening after the regular work of the day was finished, paring and coring apples preparatory for drying was a part of the duty of the whole family. Several bushes of drop apples were brought from the orchard to the house during the day. This labor was generally performed by the women and children, the men being too busy at field work to stop to pick up a few bushels of apples.
After the supper dishes were cleared away the kitchen table was surrounded by all hands able to aid in the important work of saving the fallen apples and adding to the winter supply of edibles.
The paring was usually done by a paring machine – a home made affair – consisting of a wooden frame containing a band-wheel six of eight inches in diameter, turned by a crank. By means of a leather belt the power was conveyed to a spool wheel of inch and a half diameter immediately above the crank wheel. The axis of the spool-wheel was an iron spindle the left end of which had two prongs like a fork. On this fork an apple was stuck and a modest turn of the crank gave a rapid revolution to the apple. As the apple spun around a short knife blade fitted into a wooden base with a short handle, was held against it, paring the skin thick or thin according to the setting of the knife in its wooden frame. Any good carpenter could make this machine. The spindle on which the apple revolved was shaped by a blacksmith. I think ours was made by brother Milton, who was skillful in the use of carpenter tools. An expert hand with this machine could keep four or five persons slicing and coring to keep up with him.
[Note: examples of such early apple paring machines can be seen in the Virtual Apple Parer Museum’s Gallery.]
The modern metal parers are fastened firmly to the edge or table by means of a set screw, but the one above described was framed to the end of a board about two feet long, which, when in use, was placed on a bench or kitchen chair and held firmly by the operator’s own weight as he sat astride it.
Personally, I must confess that I did not always take kindly to these family apple-cutting bees. They came at the time when the average farmer boy would rather sleep than work, and frequently I tried to persuade the managers that, in my particular case, the former was more necessary than the latter. Looking at it from the standpoint of youth doubtless my parents sympathized with me, but thee was a question of duty to be considered. Children should help in providing for the needs of the family and dried apples were certainly a necessity. So with visions of dried applesauce and dried apple pies in the future, I applied my knife in quartering and coring the luscious fruit as vigorously as conditions would permit until the end of the session, which was announced by the machine man when he reached for the last unpared apple.
Machine paring was not very satisfactory with bruised or imperfect fruit as the knife would fail to catch all the rind, leaving much for the hand knife to finish. However, much labor was saved by its use.
After the fruit was prepared for drying it was spread out in thin layers on hurdles (commonly called hartels) and these were placed on a scaffold built for this purpose, located in a convenient, sun-shiny spot. The dryhouse with stove heat could be used in all kinds of weather.