Monday, September 14, 2009

Mother Nature's Bounty

We went apple picking a couple of weeks ago at Eckerts in Belleville. Honey Crisps. I think its my new favorite apple variety. We picked about 40 pounds of apples. Oops.

Believe it or not, in less than two weeks we have used each and every one of those apples. Many, many were eaten.

The rest have given me a chance to practice one of my hobbies. Canning. If you've never done it, its not really hard, and apples are an easy way to start. You need canning jars, of course. Around here, grocery stores and Walmart carry them. Treat them like an investment--the jars and the lid rims are re-usable. You only need to buy new seals for the tops of the jars.


Several years ago, I bought an "Apple Kit" by Ball that had jars, a funnel, a "bubble freer" (a plastic stick), a magnetic lid wand (for fishing metal lids out of boiling water), and a jar lifter. Plus recipes. All I had to add on my own was a boiling watter canner (a really big stock pot with a rack...you could use any stockpot large enough to hold your jars and enough water to cover them), and food.


Applesauce is about the easiest to make. Apples plus water. Sugar is optional (and with honeycrisps which are sweet enough, I didn't use any). I pulled the ugliest apples out of our collection for the sauce, since no one would see bruises after they were cooked.


Peel, chop, cover with water, cook, and mash. Really, that's it.


You don't want your food to spoil, so follow a recipe and canning directions closely. Its not difficult, but it is kind of time consuming. Personally, I love the process, but some people might find it tedious (for some reason, I enjoy tedious kitchen tasks...I know, I'm strange). I used the applesauce directions in The Ball (Blue Book of Canning), Canning for Dummies, and a few other pamphlets and recipes from Sure Gel and the Ball Apple Kit, etc.


Apple butter isn't much harder than applesauce. It is apples, water, sugar, spices, and a LOT more time. But its sooo yummy.


That Apple Kit came with "apple pie gel" which is a canning-friendly food starch. Homemade, canned apple pie. Great for a quick pie (its already cooked), or to use as a topping in a coffee cake, for ice cream, etc. I do need to figure out if I can buy that kind of food starch separate from the kit so I don't have to buy another one (though the kit isn't much more expensive than buying more jars..)

5 comments:

RAK said...

Wow, great minds? I was just thinking yesterday that my impending unemployment (Wednesday is my last day) would be a good time to learn how to can...and to make apple sauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling!

flatflo said...

Yum! My Mom brought me apples from her own orchard a couple weeks ago. Lovely tasting and crisp, and I know they are even organic! Which is part of the issue...fruit flies have now taken over our house. I've found a home remedy and they are finally on the decline, though.
What kind of starch is canning-friendly food starch? I know that Jay's International Foods on Grand Ave has lots of different starches in bulk, and I think you can find a bunch at Whole Foods, too.

Kristi said...

Laura--

I tried once to look up the kind of starch and remember hitting a dead end (I did this for the first time several years ago...like, pre-kids, yikes). I know its not regular corn starch (I did read that corn starch breaks down too quickly in a canner). I keep arrow root starch at home (from Penzeys, clear thickener good for glazes and oriental-ish sauces), but I don't know if it would work or not.

The ingredient list on the pouch read "Modified Food Starch", which may not be terribly organic :) But it does make lovely apple pie filling (and I can vouch for the remainder of the ingredients).

A quick google search brought up this article I'm sure there's more info out there.

Bethany said...

Hey,

Out of curiosity, why are your applesauce jars upside down? I try to can applesauce every year myself (it's really very easy and WAY better than from the store) but I've never turned mine upside down before. Wondered if there's some reason to. Canned 8 jars of marinara sauce for pizza making last weekend (yes fresh is better, but lazy usually wins and I wanted to be prepared).

Kristi said...

Bet--

There's not a good reason why the applesauce is upside down. Just the way I got them out of the canner ( combination of the jar lifter and an Orka silicone oven mit...man those things are handy for boiling water). I realized rather quickly that I should turn them upright so that as the jars cool the applesauce won't squeeze out around the rims and keep them from sealing.

I have heard older directions (from someone who was canning 20 years ago) for jams & jellies that involve putting the boiling jam into a hot jar, putting on the lid, and then turning upside down. But I also think those instructions didn't involve boiling the filled jars, which is contrary to all the books I've read the past few years. Probably still works, but not as safe as the extra processing time.