Hi, I'm Torrey. Welcome to Left Field, where creativity runs amok and imagination is ALWAYS more important than knowledge. Shoes are not allowed but ties are optional. This is a repository of snippets from my life out here in Left Field. One never knows what shiny bits of creativity will be found here... cards, scrapbook layouts, photography, poetry, recipes, ponderings, rantings and musings. It could be anything! Life in Left Field is always changing, always real, always ...interesting.

November 19, 2010

Fruits of Labor

Wow, it's been a long time since I've posted anything in here. I really do have the best (or at least "good") intentions of keeping my blog semi-current. So here it is almost Thanksgiving. Time flies like the wind (fruit flies like bananas). I love this time of year. The weather is finally cooling off. Fall colors are at their height of splendor. And, apples are the fruit of the hour.

I got...um...ambitious this year. Ambitious and nostalgic. When this happens you just know I'm gonna be elbow-deep in something culinary-related. This year it was applesauce and apple butter. I have to give credit to my bestie, Jodi; for without her teaching me the fine art of canning, I never would have attempted this sweet sojourn.

So here's how to do it. Sort of. I'm not real good at writing down this type of recipe since it's mostly based on personal taste. The basic mechanics are easy enough to write down, but the seasoning, well--it's totally a "throw-in-a-little-of-this-and-a-whole-lot-of-that" kind of thing.

Step One: Choose apples.
 For applesauce and apple butter, you want sweet apples. The sweeter the apple means the less you have to sweeten them in the end (FYI for my applesauce I added NO sweetener of any kind. I only sweetened the apple butter). 

Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, Winesap, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp--any of these will do nicely (but stay away from Granny Smiths--too tart). It's best to use a mixture of different types of apples for a more well-rounded and flavorful sauce. I used Gala and some Red Delicious because they were on sale. Yes, that's a Honeycrisp in the middle...it's just for show (personally, I wouldn't waste Honeycrisps on applesauce--they're just too darn yummy and are best eaten raw). 

Nice part about applesauce is that you don't have to use beautiful, perfect fruit. Mis-shapened, small, bruised, blemished...doesn't matter. You can even buy what are called "culls", "seconds" or "drops" from local orchards. These are apples that aren't pretty enough to be sold to commercial markets...but they're JUST FINE for canning. 

After you select your apples, wash 'em. Cut out any REALLY bad spots--remember that bruises and blemishes are fine to leave--just cut out any truly ROTTEN parts.

 
Step Two: Assemble your equipment
Equipment:
  • Canning pot with wire rack (21 quart is what I used). If you don't have a canning pot and wire rack, any LARGE MONGO pot will do. Just put a folded kitchen towel in the bottom.
  • Canning gadgets A jar funnel, magnetic lid lifter, jar lifter tongs--these just make life easier.
  • Canning jars, NEW lids, rings. The lids MUST be new. The jars MUST be for CANNING. I like the wide-mouth jars. Wash the jars and rings on hot cycle in dishwasher. You'll need the jars to be hot and CLEAN when you fill them. I'll tell you how to keep them hot later.
  • Wet paper towel (for wiping off top of filled jars)
  • Butter knife or frosting spatula (for removing air bubbles in jars)
  • Ladle and spoon (for filling jars)
  • Pots, pots and more pots for cooking your massive quantities of apples, and 1 small pot for heating the lids
  • Food Mill/Ricer I'm sure there is an attachment out there for the Kitchenaid mixer, but I don't have it.
  • Rubber spatula to clean out peels from ricer
  • Immersion blender it's nice to have for the apple butter part--but if you don't have one, a wooden spoon works too.
Ingredients: for ~ 32 half-pint jars OR 16 pint jars.
  • 15-20 lbs apples
  • Cinnamon (ground)
  • Cloves (ground)
  • Allspice (ground)
  • Salt
  • Splenda or sugar (I actually used Splenda and it turned out GREAT)
  • 1 gallon unsweetened apple juice or cider.

Step Three: Cut 'em up

The nice thing about making applesauce and apple butter is that you do NOT have to peel or core the apples (or even take off the stems). Just cut 'em up. I used my handy apple slicer thing-a-ma-bob.



Throw ALL of it into your pot--cores, skin, seeds, stems...EVERYTHING (there is a reason for this). The skins and core actually have a lot of natural pectin in them which is what will thicken up your final product quite nicely--without the need to add pectin.



 Step Four: Cook 'em
This is what 18 pounds of apples looks like. Yeah, that's right, every burner on my stovetop was going. I decided that cooking the apples in a mixture of apple juice and water would preserve their flavor. So I divided the gallon of apple juice between all the pots. If you really want, you could use ONLY apple juice or ONLY water. As you can see my apples weren't covered in liquid...that's because apples FLOAT. If you push them down, the liquid just covers them. Bring the pots to a boil and cook until apples are mushy (and slightly translucent)--about 20-30 minutes... occasionally stir them up from the bottom. Wow, my stove was actually clean, whadya know.

Step Five: Smoosh 'em

This is the elbow-grease part. Put the cooked apples in the mill and turn, turn, turn, baby. Discard the leftover peels/core bits. What you're left with is BEAUTIFUL applesauce --ready to be canned. And yes, you WILL get applesauce splattered all over your kitchen. It's just part of the process.

NOTE: to make apple butter you must first make applesauce. It's a law.

Step Six: Can it!
Oops, no photo 
  • You will be working with HOT jars, HOT lids and HOT applesauce.
  • To keep jars HOT...put them on a cookie sheet in a warm oven (150 degrees). Take out a few at a time (like 4).
  • Put lids in pan of water and bring to SIMMER (not boil). Leave lids in pan, take out one-at-a-time as needed.
  • Fill hot jar with hot applesauce to 1/4 inch from top of jar (no more than 1/2 inch from top). MUST LEAVE THIS SPACE  (it's called head space) to ensure lid seals properly.
  • Run knife/frosting spatula up and down a few times through contents of filled jar to remove any air bubbles.
  • Wipe top edge (lip) of jar with damp cloth. This rim MUST be completely clean or lid will not seal.
  • Seat lid on jar, twist on ring to just fingertip tight.
  • Place hot filled jars in wire rack and then gently lower into hot (not boiling) water bath in canning pot. Water should cover jars about 1 inch above top of jar. Do NOT put jars directly into boiling water or they may break. (don't ask me how I know this) *sigh*.
  • If you don't have a canning pot and wire rack...carefully place jars onto a folded towel on bottom of pot of hot water. Do NOT let jars sit directly on bottom of pot or they will break.
  • Bring to boil and hard boil for 10 minutes (20 minutes at high altitude).
Step Seven: Cool it.

Carefully remove the jars from the boiling water and place them on a counter or table (on a towel) to cool.

LEAVE THEM ALONE. REALLY.

You'll be tempted to press on the lids to see if they seal but don't do it or they may NEVER seal. As they cool a vacuum will form pulling the lid down to seal it. You may (or may not) hear them "POP" as they seal. When completely cooled (like overnight) remove the ring and test each lid to make sure it's sealed. Press gently on the top...there is a convex "button" on the top of each lid that pulls down during the cooling process to become slightly concave. If you can make the button "click" down by pushing it...it probably isn't sealed.  GENTLY try to lift edge of  lid with your fingers. If it doesn't come off, then it's sealed.

What to do if they don't seal: don't panic. Within 24 hours, you can re-can them. This means start by removing the old lid, wipe down the top of the lip again...place on a NEW lid on. Screw on the ring and basically repeat STEP SIX. The only difference is, you will need to put your jars in room temp water to start instead of hot since you're starting with room temp jars.

Step Eight: WHERE'S THE APPLE BUTTER????
Ok ok ok...I didn't forget. Honest.

For apple butter you take your newly-created applesauce and put it back on the stovetop in a big pot. Add the cinnamon, cloves, allspice, Splenda and salt. THIS IS ALL TO TASTE. And, yes, you NEED the salt or it tastes flat. Just add the spices, sweetener and salt until it tastes right TO YOU. Sorry that I can't be more specific. It didn't take much Splenda--maybe 1/2 cup for the whole pot. And salt...probably 1-2 tsp for the whole pot. Again...it is TO TASTE. 
Get over it.

Mix everything well and bring to a gentle boil (it'll look like the mud pots at Yellowstone). Stir frequently with the immersion blender (or with a wooden spoon). Be careful not to let it burn on the bottom. This is a thick mixture and can burn easily...so be attentive. 

Cook on gentle boil (medium heat) for 1-2 more additional hours. Yep...hours. During this time it will smooth out, thicken up and darken. Mmmm. Then you just pick up at STEP SIX and continue on.


Step Nine: ENJOY THE 'FRUITS' OF YOUR LABOR

Ok, to finish off the jars, I added a pinked-edge circle of calico fabric under the ring and attached a little tag with jute under the ring as well. It just looks prettier. I LOVE spreading apple butter REALLY THICK on buttered whole-grain toast. It's also great with peanut butter or poured over a brick of cream cheese dipping with crackers, 'Nilla wafers, ginger snaps, celery, pretzels...whatever.

You can store these (unopened) in your pantry for a year or two safely. Once opened though, keep it in the fridge.

Bon Appetit, you'all!

4 comments:

  1. Don't worry...I'm sending you some. Best part is it has NO SUGAR so Kerry can enjoy it too!!!! <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. So wish we could have done this together.... Now I'm all jazzed to make apple butter. Love ya!

    ReplyDelete
  3. hahahaha! It's yummy! And it's NEXT DOOR!

    Dian

    ReplyDelete

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