Friday, October 19, 2012

Ode to Apples

It is the season when cool weather, warm drinks and crisp apples are all I want to think about!  I love this time of year.  Apples are at their ripest and cheapest, so let’s take advantage!  We wanted to give apples the credit they deserve, so this post includes how to can apples to have on hand all year long and a collection of our very most favorite apple recipes.

Canning Apples

Canning apples is the easiest thing to can and, in my opinion, tastes the best.  It is simple but time consuming, which is why you should can with a friend!  Amy M and I have spent many hilarious hours canning crap.  Trust me, can with a friend, it's way more fun.  Aside from having a blast with a friend there are many reasons to can apples.  They are so healthy and you can adjust the simple syrup recipe to be low calorie, and the end result is like candy, but healthier.  I purchased my apples from a local farmer that sets up a tent in the grocery store parking lot.  Amy M bought hers from a farmer's market.  We both bought half a bushel and it was less than $20.00 each. We both used Golden Delicious, but any variety would be great, get what you like.

What you will need:
1/2 a bushel of apples
12-16 quart size mason jars and lids
8 1/2 cups sugar or sugar substitute (ie: Splenda)
1 Container Fresh Fruit Anti-Browning Powder
Water bath canner
Whole cinnamon sticks (optional)

The Method:
First things first, get your water on the stove.  Water bath canners are pretty affordable, usually around $30.00 at almost any store.  Fill it up to within 6 inches from the top, put the lid on and crank the heat to high.  It takes a long time to get the water boiling in a pot that big.

In another very large stock pot mix your simple syrup and turn the heat up to high on it as well.

Recipe for Simple Syrup:
2 1/4 cups sugar or sugar substitute
5 1/4 cups water
*Be prepared to quadruple this recipe for canning half a bushel of apples.  You can mix it all at once or do half and half.

While everything is heating up prep your apples.  You have to peel them and halve them or slice them.  Amy M and I have a great little device that peels/cores/slices apples all in one step.  I bough mine from The Pampered Chef and I've had it for 12 years and it is as good today as the day I got it.  

Amy's slicer is a little different because instead of having a clamp to attach it to the side of the counter hers has a suction cup.  It works just as great and came from any kitchen supply store.  Look at all those apple peels, I'm not saying the process isn't messy, I'm just saying it's worth it.

The apple spring is what you end up with after you've run it threw the apple peeler/corer/slicer.  My kids love these, although they are very skilled at not actually getting any apple in their mouths when they play with them.  Cut your springs in half and, viola! Beautiful apple crescents ready for the jar.

Once your apples are peeled and cut take the extra few minutes to keep them from browning by filling a large bowl with water and adding about 3 tablespoons of Fresh Fruit anti browning powder.  You can find it in the canning isle of any grocery store.  Just put a handful of apple slices in the treated water, let it sit for a few seconds, remove and put directly into your simple syrup, which should be boiling by now.

Let your apple slices simmer in the simple syrup for about 3-5 minutes or until heated threw, turn off the heat and then using a slotted spoon pack as many apple slices into the jars as you can get.  
*You can absolutely can apples without cooking them in the simple syrup first, and that's what Amy M and I did.  Just prep your apples and put them in the bath to stop browning and then put them directly into the jars.  You still need to heat the simple syrup for the purpose of completely dissolving the sugar, but if you're using a sugar substitute that dissolves easily you don't even have to heat it.  However, you can fit more apples in the jars if you cook them in the simple syrup first.

Once all of your jars are full use a ladle and ladle the syrup into each jar to within 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.  If you like to flavor the apples with a little cinnamon, simply stick 1-2 whole cinnamon sticks into the jar after it is full of apples and juice.  Remove the bubbles by running a butter knife along the inside of the jar, and adjust head space again if necessary.  Wipe the rim of the jar and screw on your lids finger tight.  

By now your canning water should be rolling pretty furiously.  Place your filled jars into the canning basket and carefully place the whole thing into the water in the canning pot making sure the jars are completely submerged but the water is not over flowing.  Put the lid on and process (fancy word for let it boil) for 20 minutes for both pint and quart jars.  After the time is up, remove the canning lid and wait 5 minutes and then remove the jars and allow to cool.  Amy M and I forgot the 'wait 5 minute step' and ended up with jars that oozed syrup a little.  After they are cool the lid should be concave.  If it is not, it did not seal properly and you should eat those suckers immediately.

The last step is cleaning up the massive amounts of apple juice and guts that are now, undoubtedly, covering every inch of your kitchen.  Did I mention this is a messy process?  Messy but worth it.  

Check out the creepiest and most hilarious thing, Amy M accidentally canned a bug in her apples.  We didn't notice until we pulled the jar out of the canner to cool.  At least it was on the edge so we could see it.  We don't recommend canning bugs with your apples...silly Amy...

Eat your canned apples all by themselves, put them over oatmeal (there is a link to a great recipe for oatmeal on this very post!), or use them in any of the excellent recipes we have collected for your enjoyment....

<3, Sharla and Amy M