Verona (Hanke) Braatz, Treasurer of the Pommerscher Verein Central Wisconsin, recalls a special time in her childhood - when preserving apples was done in a very different way than we are accustomed in doing today, as follows:
My brother (LaVern Hanke), sister (Joan Hanke-Schmidt) and I were always very excited when our two Grandmothers (Martha Voigt-Mrs. EmilHaelke and Mary Beilke-Mrs. Wm F. Hanke) came to our home on the farm, when the Duchess and other apples had ripened on the trees in our orchard in the fall of the year.
We had a separate building in the farmyard, near the house, which was known as the “Summer Kitchen”. This building was used throughout the summer for the canning of fruits and vegetables from our garden. The summer kitchen had two rooms - one with a large, wood cook stove and a long table to work on. The other room was used mostly in fall or early winter for the butchering of a cow and pigs. This room, too, had two long tables for cutting the beef and pork and it was heated with a wood burner to keep the room comfortable enough while preparing the meat for the upcoming winter months.
The grandmothers peeled and sliced the apples while visiting and catching up on the latest with each other. While they were preparing the apples my mother (Elsie Haelke – Mrs. William Hanke) did the sulphuring part of the apple preservation and this is how that was done -
Approximately two gallons of peeled and sliced apples were placed in a 3-gallon earthen/stone crock. A saucer of hot coals was placed on top of the apples. A level teaspoon full of sulphur was then placed on the coals and the crock was quickly covered to avoid the escape of the sulphur fumes. A paper covered board was used for the cover and it was important to press it down tightly. The apples were sulphured for a period of three hours. After that, the cover and sulphur were removed and the apples were placed in an 8-10 gallon stone jar/crock and they would be ready for the next batch.Believe me, the sulphur fumes were very sharp on our eyes and the stifling odor, well, we didn’t stay in the summer kitchen any longer than needed! We continued to add more apples to the earthen crock as they ripened. Each time, a large, clean plate was placed on top of the apples and a cloth was tied over the top of the crock.
During the winter months I remember my mother would send me to the basement to fetch a dish of apples which were used for either apple pipe or apple kuchen. Funny, the pharmacist always wanted to know where the sulphur was being used because it wasn’t often that customers would ask for it! I don’t know if he ever learned how or where the sulphur was used.
Since home freezers came on the market apples have been frozen and made ready for baking pies and other apple recipes. I don’t believe our governmental standards of today would approve of sulphuring apples as our grandmothers did!