As promised, I am sharing my apple preserving adventures with you from my first free apple picking! Wow, can't beat that deal! I've read that some late freezes up north have really devastated the apple crop, so my heart goes out to those of you who didn't get a harvest this year.
I'm not sure what kind of apples I picked as the owner didn't know either. Though, at that price, I didn't really care! I picked two milk crates' worth. Not a lot to many of you, but I wanted to start out small in case I couldn't keep up with all of it. Especially being 5 months pregnant, I don't want to commit to a major project right now because even daily tasks are sometimes too much. My first pregnancy I could have run a marathon, canned an entire orchard of apples, processed an entire field of pumpkins and still had dinner ready in time! Baby number 3...not so much. I am just hoping I survive! Lol!
I started every batch out by soaking it in vinegar water. This batch looks pretty good.
Many of the apples had a lot of bad spots in them though. These are perfect for applesauce! I keep the peeling on my apples for applesauce. It's easier, keeps more of those yummy vitamins and fiber, and adds a beautiful color to the final product. I cooked 2 batches on the stove in a bit of lemon water and canned them in a water bath. I don't add sugar either. These apples were so sweet, I wouldn't have needed it anyway. I don't have a pressure cooker yet, so I am limited on what I am able to can, but apples are good for the water bath method!
Next I tried my hand at Apple Pie Filling. I didn't use the Clear Jel because I didn't have any and found differing views on whether it's safe or not to use any other type of thickener in canning, so I just left it out. I can thicken this when the time comes to use it. Since I didn't put in thickener, I was able to make a double batch of this recipe all at once. (All the gelling/pectin type products I have used so far warn against making double batches due to the chance of the final product not gelling up correctly.)
I found a recipe on simply Canning Apples, so I gave that a try. I should note that I don't have an apple peeler either, so the paring knife and I had a lot of bonding time in this process. After the kids went to bed, I set up shop in front of a movie with a pan of lemon water, a bowl for the good scraps, a bowl for the yucky scraps and peeled away until my hand fell off! It took me two sittings to get all the apples done for the apple pie filling and the canned apples.
I used the light syrup method in the above recipe. Since then I discovered you can use plain water for apples also, but no one in this house is going to complain about a little extra sweetness! I haven't decided how I want to use these apples yet. As time goes on, I'm sure recipes will present themselves.
While I was working on all the above projects, I had some Apple Butter cooking in the crock pot. As you can see, I keep the peeling on for apple butter too. For this and the applesauce, I use an immersion blender to grind up the peels. Granted, I will still find a good size piece of peeling sometimes while consuming these yummy foodstuffs, but I don't mind. Oh, and can you guess what else I don't have? That's right, I don't have a food mill either! Hey, I'll be the first to admit, my cabinets may be full, but my kitchen is totally under stocked!
My first batch of apple butter barely yielded 4 pints even with a full crock pot! So my second batch, I piled it high then added even more apples before I went to bed. Alas, for some reason I didn't get a picture of the final product! Rest assured, it is deep brown and tasty. Mmmmm!
So, after all my hard work, I still have this to deal with. Yowzers! Just had to show this because I like to be real! As you can see by the dates, I left this overnight. Yes. I. did. That's the power of being the head of the kitchen! HA HA HA HA!!
Now I have have 2 1/2 gallon bags of yummy scraps in the freezer to make Apple Scrap Jelly. (I threw even more in the compost pile from rotted and/or nasty scraps.) I tried this recipe last year and couldn't get my jelly to set up. Since then I have read that as apples ripen, the pectin in them decreases. Also, the scraps had turned brown by the time I used them, so I wonder if that affected the amount of pectin in them as well. This year I haven't decided if I want to try this same recipe or use the one out of my box of pectin. Either way, this is a project I saved for another day. I also just read the other day that sometimes it can take several days if not a week or two for jelly to gel up. So perhaps if I had left last year's product alone, it may have set up on it's own. I remember my biggest problem is that I couldn't get the liquid up to temperature. I used a pot four times bigger than I needed, but it still boiled over terribly before it hit the temp I needed. Have you tried this method? Let me know in the comments how it went for you. As a noob to all this, I'll take all the tips I can get!
I also took a few apples, cored them, sliced them thin with my mandolin and put them in the dehydrator for apple chips. I forgot to save some apples for more batches, so I ended up with just one small bag's worth, but it will work for a couple of snack times for the kids and I. Plus I hope to get my hands on more apples now that I have ventured into the world of apple preservation and feel more comfortable with it.
Well, I hope you are having as much fun preserving your harvest as I am. It's such hard work, but the rewards are exponential. Plus it makes me feel like a pioneer to learn how to do these things. I love digging into my roots and learning the ways of old. I am sure many of our ancestors didn't have the nice equipment we have today. I try to think of that when my hand feels like it's going to fall off after peeling my 100th apple! I wonder how many apples my great-great-grandmother peeled by hand in a season...
I welcome any recipes or tips on apple preparation and preservation in the comments. I'd love to hear about your experiences as well!