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Last weekend my fireman took me down the hill for a day trip to Apple Hill.  It was great, there were acres of apples to pick, tasty (hard) cider, the most sinful caramel apples I’ve ever seen, tarts and pies for miles, apple beer, pumpkin patches and apple fritters.  Tourist trap?  Yes.  Gleeful apple-picking fun?  Indeed.

Caramel apple covered in Heath Bar bits, it was the breakfast of champions…

This trip reminded me of all the wonderful things that you can make from apples.  As we took twenty pounds of them home, I thought I would try my hand at apple sauce and apple butter.  My obsession with all things canning is certainly linked to owning a copy of ‘Canning For A New Generation” by Krissoff, it’s full of great information for getting started canning and preserving safely (nobody likes botulism!) and incredible recipes.  It’s quickly becoming that cookbook with a worn spine and penciled in notes on every page.  That being said, I used Ms. Krissoff’s process for simple sugar-free applesauce and apple butter.

Canning anything is messy and time consuming when you’re a beginner, like I am.  But the tasty, tasty things you can make are worth every second you have to spend scrubbing blackberry pulp off your cabinets.  Before embarking on a canning adventure, it’s best to do a little research about how to prepare and process your food to make it shelf stable; as I learned, it’s much longer if you live at altitude.  Also, while canning is pretty easy to do, it takes a lot of ‘inactive’ time while things are bubbling and reducing and while cans are sterilizing, so set aside a healthy chunk of your day.

If you’re a canning virgin, I highly recommend the book I mentioned above,

(http://www.amazon.com/Canning-New-Generation-Flavors-Modern/dp/1584798645/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270921632&sr=1-1)

or checking out this basic guide by the nice people who make Ball brand canning jars.

(http://www.freshpreserving.com/guides/IntroToCanning.pdf)

If you notice that your finished cans are bulging or oozing throw them away, it could be infected with botulism which could make you very, very sick or very, very dead.

My pantry is filled with apple-love!

Simple as Sin Apple Sauce –This recipe will work for as few or as many apples as can fit in your pot!

Cost is entirely dependent on the price of apples!  I try to get them for $1 per lb or less.

Ingredients

  • Apples – I used mainly Newton Pippin apples, with some random ones we picked thrown in for good measure.

Special Equipment

  • Mason jars
  • Pasta pot
  • Food Mill or Ricer- optional, you just have to peel your apples before cooking them if you don’t have a food mill.

Core the apples and cut into 1 inch chunks, no need to be precise.  Put the apples into a pot and fill with water up to about half as high as your apples come up.  Heat the pot over medium heat and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the apples are mush, stirring occasionally.  Pass the apple mush through a food mill to remove the peels.  Now you have apple sauce!  It should last in the fridge for about a week.

If you want your apple sauce to be shelf stable you can process the apple sauce.   Return your apple sauce to the pan and simmer for another 5 minutes.  Fill your cleaned and sterilized canning jars with the apple sauce and submerge in boiling water for 15 minutes plus any additional time that may be appropriate to your altitude.  I process all my canned goodies in a pasta pot full of boiling water, it fits half pint (one cup) jars perfectly and I can simply lift out the perforated insert to drain the water and remove my cans instead of dealing with tongs or buying a special jar lifter.

As far as I can tell, apple butter is just a silkier, sweetened, spiced apple sauce.  It’s good for all sorts of things, like jazzing up any breakfast, (yogurt, oatmeal, spreading on pancakes or french toast…) adding into baked goods and incorporating into your savory dishes.

Home made yogurt with apple butter!

As I learned from the google box, apple butter is also a traditional American product, with roots in our colonial history.  I’ve never had or made apple butter before, so it was a very interesting watching the apple sauce slowly turn into something completely different.

Apple Butter

Makes about 8 half pint jars – costs approx $.83 per jar

Ingredients

  • 6 lb home made apple sauce ($6)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar ($.41)
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract – if you have a spent vanilla bean (i.e. you used the seeds in something else) you could totally put it in your apple butter, yum.

Mix everything in your slow cooker and heat on the low setting for 8 – 24 hours. (Mine took a full 24 hours!)  Leave the lid ajar or stick so that the apple butter can reduce, stir occasionally.  The apple butter should become smoother and change to a deep caramel color.  If you want a smoother texture, blend the apple butter with any sort of blender you have on hand.

Apple butter vs apple sauce. See the difference in color?

When it’s done, follow the canning and processing instructions above in the apple sauce recipe.

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