Thursday, October 16, 2008
Can it =)
My blogs are supposed to touch primarily upon traveling adventures, tradition, and culture. Today I've decided to tackle something that would qualify as a tradition and part of our unique LDS culture: canning season.
Now before you start groaning, let me just state for the record, that canning home-grown produce can often be a source of inner peace. (I was going to say, "pride" but we all know that word is evil, so I won't go there.) There is a certain sense of satisfaction that settles deep within when you see the end result of all of your hard labor. Trust me. ;)
Earlier today, I bottled\canned apple pie filling, using apples from that tree I was talking about earlier this week. I thought I would walk you briefly through this process, using pictures I took as I processed these apples this afternoon. But first, perhaps we should discuss why one would want to endure this hard work when it's so easy to run to the store and purchase whatever you need\want. NEWSFLASH: the economy tanked recently. It might not always be feasible to buy everything from the store. Also, when you can food items, you know exactly what is going into whatever it is you are processing. And it's a cool tradition---our grandmothers would be proud to know that their offspring are following in their footsteps . . . to a certain degree. These days, if you are careful and follow the latest guidelines established by the local county extension office, you can avoid things like food poisoning. ;)
A couple of months ago, I took my trusty pressure gauge in to be inspected (from my pressure canner---in case you were wondering) by the county extension office and I bought the latest guidelines for canning tomatoes and fruits---I like to keep abreast of any new developments. It's just a good idea to stay on top of things with regard to food processing.
So far this fall I have canned: mustard pickles, pickled beets, chokecherry juice, salsa, basil tomatoes, pears, & apple pie filling. When I've finished with all of my apples, I plan to can jelly from apple juice, grape juice, and chokecherry juice. I don't think I'll be bored any time soon. =)
We planted a garden earlier this spring, and it produced quite bounteously. We harvested red potatoes, carrots (I washed, sliced, and blanched 32 pints to put in my freezer this year. These will come in handy for stews, soups, roasts, etc.), onions, beets, garlic, peas, & zucchini squash. Not bad for an area renown for early frosts and snow. ;)
I just feel better when my pantry shelves are full of food. Plus, it's a great way to share the joy when my college kids need supplies. But I digress. Back to canning apple pie filling.
Reasons why I like to can this product:
1) It makes tasty pies, cobblers, and apple crisp.
2) It looks cool on my pantry shelves.
3) It makes me feel useful in my old age.
4) It uses up lots of apples so they won't go to waste.
5) It's easy to do. Time consuming, but easy. ;)
Hokay, as my youngest son is fond of saying, first you pick the apples, either off the tree, out of the box you bought from a fruit stand, or off the display table at the local store. Wash said apples, remove the stems, and peel. I use a handy-dandy apple peeler I purchased at a cool store in Logan, Utah called "Kitchen Kneads." I think it cost around $20.00---well worth the price when you consider how many apples will be peeled with this fine product.
This particular apple peeler can slice the apples, as well as core them for you---but it cuts the slices very thin and I prefer my apple pie filling to be filled with good-sized chunks of apples. So after peeling the apples, I use an apple slicer. This is an inexpensive item you can purchase anywhere they sell cooking supplies. You merely hold it over the middle of the apple, press down, and behold, it separates the core and slices the apple into cool pieces that will look great in the pie filling.
After trimming off the odd bits of apple skin still attached, I throw the apple slices into specially prepared water to soak until I'm ready to fill the jars. Since apple slices tend to brown quickly, it's a good idea to either mix something acidic like lemon juice, or that powdered substance you can buy at the store: Fruit Fresh, into the water to keep the apples looking nice.
After you've peeled a ton of apples and your arm feels like it's going to fall off, it's time to start the filling portion of this canning adventure. I use the following recipe:
Apple Pie Filling
(Makes enough for 7 quarts)
4 & 1/2 Cups Sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 Cup cornstarch
10 cups water
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
Mix all of the dry ingredients together inside of a good-sized kettle. Then add the 10 cups of water and stir well over medium heat until thick. Add 3 tbsp. lemon juice. Fill jars with sliced apples. Pour filling over sliced apples in sterilized jars. Seal. Process in water bath canner for 30 minutes. (If you live in a lower elevation, you can process the jars for 20-25 minutes, depending on your region. Check the guidelines for where you live.)
I like this recipe because it always turns out and it's delicious. =) And here's what the finished product looks like:
Way cool, eh? This is an extremely handy item to have around. If you learn company is coming over and you're not sure what to fix, grab a bottle of this stuff and throw together a quick and easy apple crisp. And pies are a snap. Mix up your favorite pie dough recipe, throw a bottle of this inside, bake, and wala---scrumptious pies. As for cobbler, you can either use a cake mix, or mix up a cake from scratch. Open a bottle of this wonderful pie filling, put it in the bottom of the pan, throw the cake mix on top, and bake. Instant crowd-pleasing dessert.
Are you excited to can things now? =) It's not hard. It does take time and a bit of elbow grease, but it's well worth the effort. The best part: the end of canning season. Then you can bask in the glow of a job well done, and enjoy tasty treats your family will love. ;)
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