Fresh Apple Juice

Fresh apple juice, from the juicer. Just dump the apples in a sink of water, halve (or quarter) them so they’ll fit in the chute, yank out the stems, and push them through the machine. I had to scrub and rinse the inner filter 3 times while working through half a small laundry basket (is that a bushel?).

My half a basket of apples yielded 2 quarts of spicy, brown, slightly tart juice. These apples were ugly- spotted, wrinkly, small, and possibly worm-marked inside. I’ve already worked through three baskets (of the prettier apples) for fresh eating and pots of apple sauce. We need no more apple sauce, even Cocoa is slowing down on apple consumption, and we haven’t worked through last year’s apple butter. So two quarts is a great result from half a basket of apples that had no other purpose. (I started this adventure with 8 baskets of neighborhood apples, and could not find any more friends willing to come and get some. A friend moved suddenly and had to leave her harvest behind, lamenting that she’d only had time to can 40 quarts of sauce from her trees. Did I mention that she was an 8-month-pregnant mom of two little boys? Super Woman!!!)

One half basket left to get through… And I will have a house full of hungry, thirsty people one evening this week. I think I know where those last apples will go!

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Processing Apples into Sauce, Butter, and Pectin

From start to finish, this is how I process a crate of apples.  Most  years I get 2 or 3 crates of apples from my mom’s trees, and this year I got some extras from a friend who didn’t have time to process a few boxes of “seconds” apples before they went bad.

  1. Empty the crate into the sink, weeding out any moldy or squishy apples.  For me, I am entirely OK with holes and little blemishes that I can cut out, especially if I am going to be cooking it for days into apple butter.  But if a worm hole grosses you out, pitch it.
  2. Fill the sink with cool water, to wash the apples.
  3. Slice apples into halves (or quarters if they’re huge) and fill a large stock pot.
  4. Add a few cups of water to the apples in the stock pot, and set on the stove to bring to a simmer.  Make sure it doesn’t boil dry, and cook 5 or 10 minutes till the apples can be pierced easily with a fork.
  5. Working in small batches, run the apple pieces and cooking water through a Sauce Master.  IF you do not have one of these machines, you can either peel and core the apples before cooking them down into sauce, or cook the chunked apples down and then force them through a colander.  (The latter is easier to do if you have an apple peeler.)

making applesauce and apple juice

6. Throw away the refuse (peels, seeds, stems).  Put the apple sauce puree into a lined colander, over a large bowl or pot.  Let it drain.
making applesauce and apple juice

7.  If you started with a mix of ripe and unripe apples, the juice that drains out can be considered pectin- it will be a thick, silky liquid.  I’ve never cooked with it, but this woman has very clear instructions.  At the very least, it could be cooked down into a delicious glaze for desserts, sauce for ice cream, or used as a syrup with sparkling water to make apple soda.  If you started out with very ripe apples, there will have been very little natural pectin remaining, and the juice that you’ve drained off can be brought to a boil, decanted into hot and sterilized quart jars, and processed in a water bath for five minutes to seal.  You MUST bring the juice to a boil before you can it, to kill off any germs.  I like this juice best when I mix a few different types of apples.

making applesauce and apple juice

8.  The drained apple sauce can either be brought to a boil, funneled into hot jars, and processed for 25 minutes in a hot water canner, OR you can put it in a crock pot (with the lid ajar and heat set to low) for a day or two until it is thick to your liking.  I prefer to add a bit of cinnamon or other “pie” spices at the end, to taste.  It can be spooned into pint or smaller jars, and processed 25 minutes in a hot water bath canner.  I have never used sugar in either my sauce or my butter, and have always felt it was plenty sweet.

making applesauce and apple juice

 

9.  Let your jars sit overnight on a towel, then check to make sure the lids sealed, remove the rings, and rinse everything off before storing the jars away in a dark and cool place.

Harvest Season

Now that Fall is here, and it’s time to bring in the last of the garden, things are getting busy!

We had the 2 cases of peaches that were canned, and the one that was frozen.
huge red globe peace

 

 

Beets from the garden

beets, greens, and carrots from the garden

Oven-dried figs, from Mom’s tree.  I didn’t get a picture, but I’ve dried a few sheets of roma tomato halves as well- they’re stashed away in the freezer for this winter.  Drying is easy- cut the fruit in  half the long ways, lay them skin-side-down on a cookie sheet (I use a silicone mat, too) and leave them in a warm oven with the door cracked.  My tomatoes took about a day, but the figs were faster.  I literally have a “keep warm” setting on my oven- about 170 degrees.

oven dried figs

Orange tomato , basil, pesto sandwich- tomato from Mom’s greenhouse, basil from mine, and pesto…from Costco.  Heh.  These things just find their way home with me when I visit my parents!  Oh, and pickled beets.  Every sandwich needs a pickle.

basil and tomato sandwich on wheat oat bread, pickled beets

Here are the 25 quarts of canned peaches, plus a few pints of fig preserves.  Again, the figs are from Mom’s tree.25 quarts of peaches

Pickled beets.  So. Very Good.

pickled beets

 

6 quarts of apple sauce and 6 quarts of apple juice, courtesy of two crates of apples I took off my friend’s hands.  She was short on time and long on apples!  I have another case of apples in the garage, plus a few more trees that need harvesting in Mom’s garden when they ripen.

making applesauce and apple juice

Before the next week is over, I’m going to pull all the basil out of my garden and make a mondo batch of pesto for the freezer.  Now that fall rains have started, and the weather is cooling down, I’m going to harvest all my tomatoes and do what I can with them.  (Tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse, I’ll leave them there, and move in any pots I have- hopefully I can get a few more weeks of on-the-vine time, and I’m hoping the basil will last.)

We ate our first red tomato tonight with dinner, it was AMAZING, but I just know we won’t get many more.  There are a few that are pinking up, and I’ll let them ripen in newspaper.  I’ve been collecting green tomato recipes- I’ll load some gallon bags up for the freezer, to use them in curries this winter.  I’ll pickle a few quarts too, but that seems like such a leap of faith- the best recipe I could find on allrecipes.com says it takes 3 months for them to pickle in the refrigerator.  What if I don’t like the brine?  I had an AMAZING pickled green tomato from a friend a few months ago- she bought it at a store, so I can’t get the recipe.  But it had the funk of a good green olive, plus a little heat.  Oh my wow, it was good.  If anyone has a favorite pickle brine, please share!