Apple Harvest Preservation: Strawberry Jam and Slightly Spicy Sauce

Photo1714.jpgIn addition to all the applesauce I created last weekend, I tried my hand at some strawberry jam.  I selected a recipe that used apples as well as strawberries, and a bit of lemon (and lemon seeds).  Here’s a link to the blog post where I found the strawberry jam recipe:  “Through My Kitchen Window: Strawberry and Apple Jam.”  I doubled the recipe, but should have refrained from doubling the water.  It took hours to reduce the strawberries, apples and water down to the proper jam consistency.  I also added a bit of low-sugar/no-sugar pectin, when I began to wander if the jam would ever, well, jam.  An entire afternoon spent babysitting the stockpot resulted in four half-pints of strawberry jam.  I guess I’ll find out later if all the effort was worth it.

Unlike the previous two Saturdays, I didn’t immediately jump out of bed yesterday and begin peeling, coring and slicing apples.  Instead, I threw myself into de-junking our garage.  My husband snagged some new(er) garage doors this week, rescuing them from death row and a permanent burial at the local dump.  Compared to our existing garage doors, they look nearly brand new.  With the time-table on the garage door project drastically moved up (we had planned to buy new garage doors next year, probably during the summer), we needed the front half of the garage cleared out.  Terry scheduled the installation for next weekend, and before then he needs to paint the doors to match our trim color.

I gingerly opened the southern side garage door, hoping it would hold together well enough to roll up and not fall on my head.  I needed that door open so I could get to twelve years worth of accumulated junk, some of which had not been seen or touched since we moved into this house in February 1999.  I set my camera up under my large oak tree in the front yard so I could take some time lapse photos of this endeavor (click photo below for slideshow):

Dejunk South Garage Bay

After spending all day on my feet, to the tune of over 15,000 steps (according to my pocket pedometer, which I accidentally reset by bending over and lifting too much), I decided I needed to stand around some more, this time in a dark field gazing up at the stars and planets.  I even invited my dad to come along for the ride to Powell Observatory (more on that outing in an upcoming post).

I laid my head on my pillow some time during the one o’clock in the morning hour.  I did first warm myself up in the hot tub with Terry.  I wanted to be able to feel my fingers and toes again before I fell asleep.  My back and knees thanked me, at least while I stayed in the hot water.

Sunrise brought stiffness and soreness.  I took it easy, brewing some Irish Blend tea to help wake up my brain.  Terry had been up all night, visiting the hot tub two more times thanks to his back.  Since he was up, I whipped up some sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast.  He attempted to watch the Singapore Grand Prix race, but soon succumbed to a food coma and retired upstairs to sleep it off.

With Terry upstairs, I could move freely about the kitchen without worrying about making too much noise (and waking him up).  I began peeling, coring and slicing all the apples I had in the kitchen.  I filled my stockpot up about halfway when I ran out of already picked apples.  I grabbed my large basket and went out to forage for fresh apples.  I came back in with a full basket and selected eight or ten large good ones.  I set those aside to be used in the second apple pie of the harvest.

I prepared another dozen or two apples and filled the stockpot up nearly to the top.  I moved it from the front right burner to the back left burner, so I could put the water bath canner on the large front burner.  I selected nine pint jars and placed them in the canner.  I  began filling the pints with distilled water and then continued filling the canner with distilled water until all the jars were immersed and covered with at least an inch of water.  I turned the burner up to medium high heat to begin the long process of heating the water and jars to nearly boiling temperature.

I let the stockpot simmer for a half hour or more, taking the chance to relax, read part of a book and write a blog post.   I transferred hot mushy apples to the glass blender jar and pureed them four cups at a time.  When I reached the bottom of the stockpot I had nearly twenty cups of applesauce.  Success!  I had enough to fill all nine pint jars in the canner!  I returned the applesauce to the stockpot.  I squeezed a fresh lemon and added the juice to the stockpot.

I planned to spice up this batch of applesauce for my kids.  Derek and Rachelle both love cinnamon apple sauce.  I began with two tablespoons of cinnamon.  After I stirred in the spice, I tasted it, but couldn’t really taste anything different.  I took a spoonful to Terry and he agreed I should add more cinnamon.  I added another tablespoon and tasted again.  I got a hint of cinnamon.  I took Terry another taste.  He thought there was enough spice.  I added a half cup of sugar and tasted again.  There, I could taste the cinnamon with the aid of the sugar.

I processed all the pints in the canner, filling them as recommended, leaving a half-inch of head space.  I cranked up the heat to high and put a timer on for ten minutes.  When the alert sounded, I checked the canner’s interior to confirm a roiling boil, then added another ten minutes to the timer.  At the next beep, I turned off the burner and removed the canner from the heat source, leaving the lid off to help cool down the contents gently.  I came back an hour or so later and placed the jars on the rack to cool overnight.

Nine Pints

This week I plan to make at least one apple pie (the second one of the harvest season) and more apple butter.  I only have four pint jars left, but several half-pints are waiting to be filled with either butter or chutney.   My daughter called to let me know she tried the chutney with some pork and loved it.

The apple tree still has plenty of apples ripening on it’s limbs.  I’ll keep picking them until the tree is bare.  Unless I buy another dozen pint jars, though, I’m probably done making applesauce this harvest.

Apple Harvest Preservation: Butter

Moss Apple Tree
Moss Apple Tree (click image to see rest of album)

By the end of the first week of September, our apple tree had dropped several dozen apples.  Everyday I went out to glean fallen ones and to pick fresh ones right off the branches.  I had to do a bit of research to learn the proper way to pick an apple.  By placing an apple gently in the palm of my hand and then twisting my wrist over, back towards the branch, a ripe apple would easily pop off the tree.  I had six or seven dozen apples in baskets and other containers by the time I got home from work Friday evening.

Terry made a trip to our local Kmart to purchase the Ball Canning Kit with 21 Quart Waterbath Canner And Accessories plus a dozen Kerr quilted crystal jelly jars (half-pint size).  It started raining when he left the store, so he called to tell me he didn’t want to also do the grocery shopping.  Good thing I got home a few minutes earlier than normal Friday afternoon.

I called my mom and asked her for her Apple Butter recipe.  I looked through my old, dusty metal recipe box, where I thought I’d last seen her recipe.  I looked through hundreds of yellowing recipe cards but couldn’t find the one I wanted.  She couldn’t find her copy in her recipe box either.  She would have to call me back.  While I waited, I washed a couple of dozen apples to being peeling and coring in anticipation of receiving the recipe from mom.

First dozen for apple sauceYears ago, soon after we moved into our current home, I attended a Pampered Chef party and purchased several kitchen gadgets, including their Apple Corer/Peeler/Slicer contraption.  For at least ten years, it has languished in the  bottom of one of my kitchen drawers, underneath an old electric an opener and electric knife.  I used it perhaps once or twice, but discovered that you can’t use it on store bought apples.  Only fresh apples will peel, core and slice successfully.  Terry helped speed up the process by manually peeling a few, which I would then afix to the gadget, retracting the peeling part so that it only cored and sliced the already peeled apple.

Mom found her recipe and finally called me, but the amount of spices listed for the amount of apples seemed a bit over the top.  I modified the recipe somewhat.  I already had two dozen apples chopped up and in my large crockpot, planning to slow cook the apple butter overnight and do the canning first thing Saturday morning.

Angie’s Apple Butter

  • 16 c. thick apple pulp
  • 1 c. vinegar
  • 8 c. sugar
  • 14 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (optional)

I asked her twice about the cinnamon.  I thought that was way out of proportion to the other ingredients.  I ended up changing the above a bit, and if I do this again, I’m going to further refine the spices and sweetening.

Revised Apple Butter (first batch)

  • 16 c. thick apple pulp
  • 1 c. vinegar
  • 4 c. white sugar
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 8 tsp. cinnamon
  • 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (it’s what I had on hand in my spice rack)

Since Terry stays up most nights until three or four in the morning, I asked him to stir the crockpot every hour or so.  By the time I woke up before six o’clock Saturday morning, the apple butter was thick and ready for canning.

I didn’t head off to bed right away though.  I finished reading a book I started the previous weekend and then stepped outside to check the quality of seeing for astronomical observing.  The evening was cool and clear so I decided to drag out Dob to search for Neptune.  I somehow knocked the finderscope alignment out of whack and could not get it dialed in (something I need to do today during the daylight).  I still managed to find the Andromeda Galaxy near the constellation Pegasus and M13, the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules.  I tried, again, to find Neptune, sailing with the Water Bearer, Aquarius.  Frustrated once again by the light pollution, I realized midnight was just minutes away.  Time to hit the hay or the apple butter might boil away before I got it canned.


I lazed around in bed until after dawn.  I checked the apple butter in the crockpot, using a whisk to smooth out the texture of the thickened mess.  I placed the waterbath canner on the largest burner on my stove top, which probably only covered 75-80 percent of the bottom of the canner.  I filled it half full of water and turned the burner on to medium-high heat.

Sanitizing JarsOnce the water warmed up a bit, I took the freshly washed half-pint jars from the dishwasher and slipped them into the canner.  I turned up the burner a bit, to start a low boil.  I placed the lids (but not the bands) in a separate smaller sauce pan and turned the high to medium-low.  Per the instructions I read at Ball’s Getting Started web page at the web site, I didn’t want to boil the lids as that might damage the seals before attaching them to the jars and securing them with the lids.

I used the jar lifter accessory to take the jars out of the canner, dumping the near boiling water back into the canner before gently setting the jar on the counter.  I used the funnel accessory that came help get the apple butter into the jars.  I used the magnet lifter to get the lids out of the small saucepan.  I put the band over the lid and tightened it snugly, but not overly tight, per the instructions I read earlier.

One of Eight Half-PintsI filled eight half-pint jars and got them evenly spaced around the inside of the canner.  I removed the extra jars I didn’t need and let them cool down on a rack before putting the extra lids and bands on them for easy storage and future use.  I cranked up the burner to high and waited for a roiling boil.  Once the canner began boiling, I could set my kitchen timer to ten minutes and take a short break.

The timer buzzed and I turned off the burner.  Using two pot holders and most of my sorry muscle power, I heaved the canner off the burner to the opposite corner of my range top.  I removed the lid and set another timer for five minutes to allow the water and jars to start cooling off enough for me to remove them to the rack.  I reviewed the post-processing directions (again) and made sure not to touch these jars for twelve hours.

First batch of apple butter
First batch of apple butter (click image for rest of album)

As I pulled them out of the water and placed them on the rack, most of their lids popped audibly.  When I returned to check on them in a couple of hours, all eight of them had properly sealed.  None of the lids would move up-and-down when I pressed on them.  Success!  My first ever effort to preserve something a complete success.  And easier than I thought it would be.

Next post I’ll discuss processing another dozen or so apples into chutney.