This time of year I pull out one of my most fun kitchen gadgets, an apple peeler/corer/slicer. It peels, it cores, it slices and all at once with just the turn of a handle. Push an apple onto the forked end of the shaft and a half-dozen turns later the peel is gone, the core is gone, the apple is sliced and ready for whatever next steps you have in mind. For me, that step is cutting through the apple “slinky” to create perfect apple halves. While these halves would be fine filling for a pie, my plan is to arrange them on food dehydrator trays, set the dehydrator temperature at about 130 degrees and four or five hours later have tasty dried apples.
Who invented this amazingly fun tool and when? I realized that I had no idea, so I turned to Google where a short search led me to the website of the Cheshire County Historical Society in Keene, New Hampshire and an entry titled The Labor Saving Devices of David Goodell:
In 1864 Goodell invented and patented the “lightning apple parer,” a device which peeled an apple faster and easier than could be done by hand. Goodell began to produce these machines in Antrim, and sold them through a New York distributor. A few thousand of the parers were sold during the first two years. In 1867 Goodell went on the road to sell the product himself. He sold 24,000 parers in three weeks and the machine became known far and wide…When Goodell passed away in 1915, his successful company employed 250 people. Although the firm expanded its line of products over the years, the original labor saving apple parer was known to generations of Americans and was still being produced by the Goodell Company in the late 1970s, 115 years after David Goodell invented it. http://www.hsccnh.org/mm/mm092.cfm
My apple parer isn’t an original Goodell, sad to say. It’s a Progressive Kitchenwares copy, but David Goodell’s ingenuity still pleases me as I happily peel, core and slice apples one after the other.
The dried apples I’m making now, a batch a day for the next week or so, are all meant for Christmas gifts. A few years ago I began adding dried apples to the gift box for my brother and his family and they were such a hit that I’ve added them to the gift boxes for six other families, both siblings and in-laws. The soft, fruit-leather texture and the intense apple flavor of each dried slice make them a delicious snack, but my brother also puts them in a ground pork pie and says the flavor they add is great. I’m pleased by their popularity because these dried apples are a way to share the bounty of our kitchen garden orchard with family living far away.
Melrose is the apple variety I use for drying. They are latest-harvest apple we grow, picked in mid-October and stored in a cool place for six weeks or so while their flavor mellows. By late November, they are sweet and juicy and ideal for drying. They are also a nice round shape, a perfect fit for David Goodell’s ingenious parer. I’ll be sure to include his story in this year’s Christmas box.