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!

 

 

How to Can Peaches

To get set:

  1. Load your dishwasher full of quart jars, and rings, and start it running.
  2. Fill your canner half full of water, and put it on the stove to boil.
  3. Take a case of (FREE STONE!) peaches, and put as many as you can in your sink, and fill it up with cool water.  (Elbertas, Hales, and Red Globes are all favorites.)
  4. Put all the sealing lids you’ll need in a saucepan, cover with water, and just barely simmer (to soften the sealing compound.)

Next to the sink, you will need:

  • a cutting board, chef knife, and paring knife
  • scrap bucket
  • big bowl of water, treated with a few Tablespoons of lemon juice

huge red globe peace

Start peeling and pitting your peaches, then chop them into slices, or pieces, or halves.  I like pieces, because I can fit more in a jar, and there’s less chance of getting air trapped in there.  As you finish, throw the skins and pits in the scrap bucket, and put the peach pieces in the treated water.  This will stop them from browning.
When your jars and canner are ready, start loading your jars with peaches!  Bang them on the counter, on a towel, every so often to make sure they settle down into the jar.  When the jar is about 3/4 full of peaches, pour in 1/3 cup sugar and fill the jar with peaches up to about half an inch from the top of the jar.  Fill with water (leaving half an inch of head space on top) and run a knife around the inside of the jar, pressing against the fruit a bit, to find any errant air pockets.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet cloth to get any sugar or fruit off, put a lid on, and screw a band on just finger tight.  Keep going until you have enough jars to fill your canner.
Load up the canner, and make sure they have at least an inch of water covering them!  Bring the canner to a hard boil, and boil for 25 minutes (or 20 minutes if you used pint jars.)
Let cool, undisturbed, on a towel for a day.  Take all the rings off, rinse the jars, label them, and squirrel them away!  (Any jars that didn’t seal, store them in the fridge and eat them.)

25 quarts of peaches

These are absolutely delicious- my husband will eat a jar in one sitting, if he can!  In my experience, a case of peaches (about 22 pounds) makes 10-12 quarts of canned peaches.  Obviously, this depends on if you had to throw away any bad fruit, etc.
A note about peeling the fruit- you can dip the peaches into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them into ice water- this blanching will let the skins slip right off.  In my experience, ripe peaches aren’t hard to skin at all, and blanching isn’t much faster than just peeling them outright.  Plus, blanching can make a big watery mess.

Canning Season Starts

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I never had a summer harvest this year- my tomatoes are all hanging, green, on the vine. Tomatillos are still small and supple-skinned. Ground cherries have given us just a few ripe fruits. But across the mountain range, Eastern Washington has sun! I spent yesterday canning two cases of Red Globe peaches (a steal at $12 a case, from Mott’s in Sultan). The husband is mighty pleased at the prospect of 24 quarts of home-canned peaches!

I also had 2 pounds of fresh figs from Mom’s trees- I combined them with a quart of figs I’d put up before to make a fast jam. Family tradition, from our Alabama family, has always dictated whole figs in a thick syrup. The recipe, as I heard it from my Great Aunt was to take a bucket of figs, dump in a bag of sugar and let them sit overnight…and then can them. I’ve always loved them, but an entire fig smashed onto a biscuit is not a sugar load to be taken lightly!! This year I used the Ball recipe, and chopped them first to help corral the portion size.

While on a recent family trip I helped my sister get stuff ready for the freezer, too. I came home with 6 pounds of blueberries, and twenty pounds of peaches, all frozen. I’m looking forward to smoothies, pies, and cobblers this winter! (These peaches were Elbertas, from Bill Pace fruit stand.)

What to do with Green Tomatoes

We have a bumper crop of green tomatoes this year.  They were the only crop I managed to plant in a sunny spot, against an east-facing wall, and they grew like mad.  The romas destroyed their flimsy wire cages, they were so heavy with fruit.  The yellow pear and sweet 100’s made little grape-clusters of fruit, and the Early Girls made gorgeous round fruits.  We just didn’t have enough sun to ripen more than one or two of the slicers, and about 10 cherry tomatoes a day.

With the start of Fall, we’ve had lots of rain and cloudy weather.  If it weren’t for the rain, I’d leave the fruit on the vine to ripen as long as possible (until the first frost) but they’re so wet that anything that ripens just splits wide open, and fruit is starting to develop brown patches of rot.  The plants in the back, with weed cloth, are doing better because the water is mostly getting shunted away, but there’s not enough sun to ever ripen the fruit back there.

I’ve given away 2 big grocery sacks of fruit (I’d guess about 13 pounds each) to people planning on canning chutney and other sauces, and a few little sacks to folks who wanted some for their next stir fry.  I go out every other day or so and pull off any fruit with a hint of color, to let it ripen on my counter.  But the plants look terrible, with droopy, browning branches.  Definitely the end of the season!

We made this green tomato and potato curry last week, and it was good.  I don’t care for the garam masala in my cupboard, so next time I’d use my own curry paste, and would take care to mash ALL the tomatoes because the texture was a little weird.  But stir-frying these is definitely an option!  I’ll probably throw some, cubed, in the freezer for dinners this winter.

I have a “pickled green tomatoes” recipe I want to try out, from the Ball canning book, but I’m trying to think…if I made those pickles, would anybody eat them?  Seems like I should be able to find a recipe for salsa verde that uses green tomatoes, too.  Their flavor and texture is so similar to tomatillos, seems like that would be a great use for them!

What else would you do with green tomatoes?