Ask any of the Lincoln County Gleaner volunteers what they do during the week, and the answer is usually, “Clean up vegetables.”
From washing leeks to trimming beets, I usually have them hard at work making ugly vegetables beautiful again. Ugly might be too harsh of a word; most of the gleaned vegetables are second picks, or slightly misshapen vegetables, sometimes limp and in need of some rehydration. The volunteers do a good job of cleaning them up, so that the vegetables move quickly at share tables, and nothing is left hanging around the distribution center.
However, after distributing apples generously donated by Biscay Orchards in Damariscotta to pantries and share tables everywhere, I am still swimming in a sea of them. So, in order to handle the overflow, we planned our first processing event of the year, an applesauce-making extravaganza.
In the past, we have turned excess purple potatoes into hash browns, assembled shepherd’s pie kits, and even pureed pumpkins. The community kitchen at the Rising Tide Co-op is our usual space for processing, but we have not used it in over a year, and we have never tackled something like canning applesauce.
A quick call to Shannon Bailey and Heather Burt at the Rising Tide Co-op revealed that the community kitchen was ours to use, and they were excited to see it booked for processing once again. The hunt then began for volunteers willing to make applesauce, jars to can it all in, and apple peeler/corers. I leaned into the expertise of my colleague, Larissa Hannan, who is the SNAP nutrition educator for Healthy Lincoln County. She agreed to lead the group of volunteers, as she has extensive experience making and canning food through her own homestead.
Colleagues from the First National Bank signed up, as well as a few seasoned Gleaner volunteers. In just a few short hours, they were able to transform 150 pounds of apples into 79 jars of unsweetened applesauce (52 quarts, 19 pints, and 8 and 3/4 pints). Miraculously, all of the jars sealed perfectly. These jars will be out on share tables this week, ready to be enjoyed by families and older adults alike.
We’re not stopping there. Due to another generous donation, we’re planning a sweet potato processing event on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and a second applesauce-processing event with the FARMS at the Y team on Thursday, Nov. 10.
If these types of volunteer opportunities pique your interest, it’s best to get on my email distribution list. Oftentimes we have volunteer needs that come up quickly, without time to make it into the “Volunteer Bulletin Board” section of this paper. To be in-the-know you’ll want to be on that list, so email me at email@example.com to sign up to receive emails.