Friday, September 11, 2009

How 'Bout Them Apples???

I spent today canning & drying apples and making venison jerky. Mom made pickled & frozen peppers.

Putting up the apples came from three thoughts.
One: "I'd really like some dried fruit to go camping with."
Two: "Gee, I'm tired of paying for corn syrup in my applesauce!"
And Three: "Wow, those apples on the hill look REALLY good... am I too old to climb a tree? Te-he-he!"

And so, with pack basket and garden rake in hand, I traveled up the cat path, fought through the lilacs, tromped down the golden rod and made my way to the glorious apple tree!
After picking what I could reach, I hooked a few branches with the rake & gently shook.
After shaking off the lower ripe apples I hoisted myself & said rake up into the tree and hooked & shook some more.
With basket full and very little gone to waste I again fought my way through golden rod, rose bushes & lilac's back down the cat path to put the rake away & begin the long day of cooking & canning.

(Mom says the apples are "strawberry apples" or "sheep's nose", they are a very old variety. If you bite into one the taste screams "APPLE!!!"). They are prone to worms & seed rot, so you can't just cook them, you have to cut them in 1/2 and core them. The cores tend to be crooked, so have a paring knife handy.

Dried Apples
Use fresh, pesticide free apples. They should be very flavorful or tart.
Cut out any bruises, rotten spots, worms, etc. You can leave the peels on if you like. You can even leave the cores in, just remove the seeds. They have to be really perfect.
Slice 1/4" or thinner.
Soak in citrus water (orange, lemon, lime, etc. will work great).
Put in a food dehydrator & dry according to the directions in the booklet, or dry in the oven on 150 for 5-12 hours.
Check every 3 hours, turn over for even drying. Remove from heat once they are dry. Some may take longer than others.
Store in a sealed container at room-temp, in a dry place.

--I'll be lucky if any of them make it to the Eastern. I'm replacing candy with these things. And 4 or 5 slices are a perfect snack.

Core apples (peeling optional)
Boil in water & 1 tbsp. lemon juice about 20 minutes.
Put through Foley Food Processor to remove peels, or just mash to leave peels in.
For every 2 lbs of apples, Mix:
1/4 cup sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
Refrigerate over night to serve that week, or can to serve all year.
See below for canning instructions (they aren't the best, check out some other directions).

I think there's something you can do with the peels, but honestly, I just tossed them.

Apple Butter
Any apples, peels, cores that are OK. No seeds.
Boil in water (just enough to cover apples) for about 20 minutes, remove from water & put through "NEW Foley Food Processor!" to remove skins & other hard-bits. (Or you can use a spoon & colander like I did the first time... it's a pain. Get the food processor.) Set aside.
For every 4 lbs of apples combine:
2 cups brown sugar (make sure it's all natural).
1 cup water that you boiled the apples in (or apple cider if it's all natural & no preservatives... just use the water, it's there, it doesn't cost more.)
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
3 tbsp lemon juice or juice from 1 lemon + zest.
-Mix it all up & cook on low heat for a long, long time (about 1 hour for each 4 lbs). Stir a lot to keep it from burning on the bottom. Get a book & prepare to be burned several times in the last 30 minutes.
-Or you can do like Betty & instead of stirring like mad for 2 or 3 hours, you can put the whole mix in a crock pot on 200 overnight, and only stir once in a while. I think Betty is super-smart.
-When it glops & stands up on it's own (like when you dip your spoon in it and it doesn't slide off without shaking it, it's done). It will reduce by about 1/2.
-To can it: Pre-heat your lids & jars, have your water for hot-packing ready to go.
-Put the yumminess in the jars 1/2" from the top with a canning funnel.
-Wipe the rim & tighten the lids on the jars.
-Put jars in the water bath & heat to boiling. Boil 10 minutes, let sit 5-10, remove & cover with a towel overnight. Check the seal on the jars the next morning. Anything that isn't sealed must be frozen or eaten soon.
-Wash your sticky dishes so you don't get ants & put that huge mess you just made back where it belongs.
-Remember to share the goodness with your friends, but don't expect your little jars back.
(yes, these last two instructions are part of making apple butter).

Apple Butter was a Colonial American favorite. It was traditionally cooked in an huge cast iron pot over an outdoor fire with a lot of people helping. They used a HUGE paddle to stir the pot.

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