Friday, September 14, 2012

Apples In Jars

Two bags of apples go a long way.

Last weekend, we were fortunate enough to pick some free apples.  I'm not sure of the quantity; we didn't weight them and we gave some away, but by the time I started working them up, there were still enough to fill most of a large insulated frozen food bag and about half of a typical reusable shopping bag:

Two kinds of apple - Granny Smith and perhaps Gala?

I started by washing the apples in water with a splash of vinegar, then giving them a quick rinse in plain water.  I bought and used one of those table mounted gadgets that peel, core and slice them all in one go.  That worked for a while, but I began having trouble with the coring part of the gadget, so I just peeled the rest and cored and sliced them by hand.

I wanted to can pie filling, but without Clear Jel starch (and no quick way to get any since it's not sold in typical stores), I decided instead to can apple slices in a spiced light syrup.  I ended up with 13 quarts, which I'll just thicken whenever I want to make a pie.

Sliced and spiced.
The mound of apple peelings and cores was huge and I hated to see it all go to waste, so I decided to use about half of it to make apple jelly, and compost the rest.  I took the portion I saved and put them in my largest stockpot and added just enough water to cover them.  I also added a half a bag of frozen cranberries, a few cinnamon sticks and some whole cloves for color and additional flavor.  I simmered it all for about half an hour in the evening, then turned off the heat, covered the pan and let it all sit overnight.

The next morning, I strained off 10 cups of juice and made cran-apple jelly, ending up with 16 half-pint jars of pretty pink jelly. 

Blush pink cran-apple jelly.

Although I hadn't really planned on making anything other than jelly, I  decided to pressed all of the cooked peels and cores through a food mill.  In the end, I measured 9-10 cups of what was essentially unsweetened applesauce.  We already have a large supply of applesauce on hand, so I decided to make apple butter instead.  The pulp was already very thick, so all I needed to do was add sugar and spices and heat it all to a boil.  The final yield was 14 half-pint jars of cran-apple butter.

Not as dark as commercial apple butter, but it tastes better.

I'm glad that I only kept half of the peelings to make spreads, because we'd be up to our ears in the stuff if I'd cooked them all down.  As it is, the jelly and apple butter will last us a very long time.

Besides, I'm out of half-pint jars now.
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