Thursday, October 25, 2012

apple sauce, apple butter, apple jam

One day, I dream about living somewhere with apple trees, where I can walk through the rows of small trees, crunching on leaves and fallen apples, reaching up to pick a sweet, incredibly crunchy apple straight from the tree. I know people grow and eat apples all over the world, but to me, they just feel like such a Canadian food, full of childhood memories of apple juice and the first recipe I learned how to make: apple crumble. This year, those usually abundant apples are much more precious, after an early frost meant Ontario apple farmers lost up to 90% of their crop. I'll be savouring each apple that much more.

Here's what you can make from a half bushel of apples. It's about 25lbs of apples, which is around $25 at most markets. All but one of these recipes is from Food in Jars, an amazing preserving website with an equally amazing book

The first three of these recipes are can-able. Instead of explaining the canning process here, I'll just direct you to the official USDA canning site. Alternately, you could freeze any of these recipes instead, or just eat them fast - they'll all keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 weeks.

If you want to read more about canning, there's lots of useful websites. Well Preserved is a Canadian site with lots of canning recipes, plus dehydrated food and booze infusions. Another useful one is the very official National Centre for Home Food Preservation. Canning Across America is great, and of course, don't forget Food in Jars.

spiced applesauce with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon
From this original recipe, makes 4 pints.

4 pounds apples
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
sugar (I used 1/2 cup of honey. Add anywhere from 1/4 to 1 cup of sugar, honey or maple syrup, depending on your taste, and the tartness of your apples.)

Quarter and core the apples. Don't bother peeling. Put in a large pot with water, cover and bring to a simmer. After 15 minutes, mash with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. Keep cooking until it reaches the consistance you want. You can either fish out the skins with tongs, or put your applesauce through a chinoise or food mill. I did this, and it created a great, silky smooth apple sauce. If you are straining the sauce, return it to the pot after straining, and add the spices and sugar. Proceed to canning! Process 15 minutes for half pints and pints, and 20 minutes for quarts.

apple, honey and almond conserve
From the Food in Jars cookbook, makes 2 half pints. 

4 cups peeled and chopped apples
3/4 cup grape juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup chopped, toasted almonds

Combine apples and grape juice in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer, covered, for 10-20 minutes, until apples have softened. Mash the apples with the back of a spoon or a potato masher until you have a chunky sauce. Add honey, sugar and cinnamon, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Stirring often, cook for 10-15 minutes, until mixture is thickened. Add the almonds. Proceed to canning - process for 15 minutes.

tart apple cranberry butter with maple syrup
Adapted from this recipe, makes 8 half pints. I reduced the sugar slightly, because I looooove tart food, but go ahead and add up to 1 cup of maple syrup or sugar. This, just like the applesauce recipe, is a safe recipe to adjust the sugar levels, because the acidity levels are so high.

7 cups (1 1/2 lbs) fresh cranberries
5 lbs. apples, cored and quartered
1 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup or sugar

Combine apples, cranberries and water in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Simmer for one and a half hours, stirring every 10-15 minutes to help move around and break down apples. Now, put your apple mixture through a mesh strainer or chinoise to remove the skins. At this point, I moved my butter to a crock pot, where I left it for about 8 hours on low heat, stirring every hour or so. Alternately, you can cook down butter on the stove. Make sure you have it on the lowest possible heat, and in a wide pot, only partially covered - more opportunity for evaporation and reduction. It will take quite a few hours. Basically, just cook it until it's reduced to your liking - you're going for a dark, thick and spreadable butter. Finally, proceed to canning - process 20 minutes for a 1/2 pint.

pumpkin and apple butter with warm spices
From the Food in Jars cookbook. I reduced the amount of sugar. Usually, you should stick to official canning recipes, because they have been tested for PH levels - only highly acidic food is safe for water bath canning, hence why you can't can soup or meat unless you have a pressure canner. But, since this recipe is not suitable for canning (pumpkin is low acid), and going to be frozen, it's fine to play around with the ingredients. Makes 5 half pints.

5 cups applesauce
3 cups pumpkin puree (I used a mixture of pumpkin and butternut squash)
1 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Combine apples and pumpkin in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a simmer, then cook at low heat for 1 hour. Add sugar, lemon juice and spices, and cook for another hour or two on low heat, until it's reached a thick, spreadable consistency. Alternately, you could cook this in a slow cooker. Just add the sugar, lemon juice and spices after an hour of cooking, and cook on low heat for a couple of hours.

Again, this recipe's not safe for canning, so either freeze it, or keep in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

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