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: Sauce

Sunday morning's pickings
Sunday morning’s pickings (9/9/2012)

Sunday morning I began my quest to create and preserve applesauce.  I’d spent Saturday creating apple butter and apple chutney.  I just wanted to use as many apples as I could to provide space for even more apples that needed to be picked from our tree.  I had baskets, boxes and counters covered with apples.  The best way to make more room was to reduce them to mush.

First dozen for apple sauceI began peeling, coring and slicing apples shortly after sunrise.  I got into a good rhythm, finishing an apple every couple of minutes.  After I finished a dozen apples, I transferred the chopped remains to the stockpot, which I had on a medium-low heat to begin the mush-down.  I stopped at four dozen apples, and about ninety minutes after I started, I could finally sit down and give my back and feet a break.

Four dozen apples in a pot, simmeringI decided to stick to the basics and followed the applesauce recipe found at the Ball Fresh Preserving web site.  The only change I made to the recipe was adding a dozen apples, because some of the apples from my tree are less than medium sized.  I turned the heat up to medium on my stockpot and sat down to write a couple of blog posts, while the pot thickened.  Muhahahaha!

Bottles warming and mashing applesAfter a couple of hours, I took a potato masher to the simmering apples.  I also moved the stockpot to the back left burner to make room for the waterbath canner on the front right one.  I placed the recently washed pint jars in the room temperature water in the canner and turned that burner on high enough to get it boiling.  I returned to mashing my apples into a warm pulpy mess.  Strange how satisfying something so simple can be.

Blender works much better than masherI didn’t want my first batch of applesauce to be of the chunky variety, so I gave up on my potato masher and switched to my blender.  I’m glad I insisted on buying one with a glass jar.  I prefer glass whenever possible (as you can see to the left).  When my first mixer died (decades ago) I kept both mixing bowls that came with it because they were made of heavy glass (see above).  I’ve also kept a Lipton Sun Tea jar I bought in the 80s because it is a true gallon sized jar and despite being dropped more than once since, it bounces and remains unbroken.  Very heavy when full of iced tea, but I love that glass jar.

I pureed the boiling hot mashed apples in my blender and made a note of how many ounces on the side of the jar before pouring them into my mixing bowl.  After three or four trips through the blender, I reached the bottom of my stockpot.  I totaled up my ounces and had one hundred and eight ounces. Dividing that total by sixteen got me just short of seven pints.  Rats.  I should have peeled, cored and sliced up another dozen apples so I would have had at least eight pints.  I made note for future reference so that the next time I do this, I’ll use more apples.

Filling jarsI poured the pureed applesauce back into the stockpot and turned the burner down to a low heat to keep it simmering.  I reviewed the recipe for the amount of sugar I needed to add, but first I took a sample spoonful to Terry to taste.   I asked if it needed sugar and he agreed it did.  First, though, I took a fresh lemon and squeezed it to put a quarter cup of lemon juice into the sauce.  I took another spoonful to Terry to taste test.  Better, but no sweeter.  I then put in the suggested three cups of sugar and had Terry taste again.  Too sweet.  Argh!  He suggested that next time we taste after adding one or two cups and then tasting.

I had lids warming up in a small saucepan and the jars ready to be filled.  Let the preserving assembly line commence!

Almost ready to boilAccording to the Ball applesauce recipe, I needed to leave one-half inch of head space at the top of the jar.  Using Terry’s measuring tape, I made a note of where to fill each jar to and began processing the sauce into jars.  Before long I had seven jars capped and in the canner.  I took out the two spare jars and replaced one of them with a half-pint of apple chutney left over from the day before.  I cranked up the heat and returned to my laptop to write yet another blog post while waiting on the unwatched pot to boil.  The recipe required twenty minutes at full boil, so as soon as I saw steam, I set the stove’s timer and relaxed for a bit.

I cleaned up the kitchen to make room around the stove for a cooling rack and so I could move the canner off the front burner once the boil time expired.  The jars rested in the canner for a few minutes before I removed them to the rack to cool for twenty-four hours.  Just as before, as I removed the jars from the canner and placed each one on the rack, I could see and hear the lid popping as it sealed down.  Three batches and not a single unsealed jar yet.  Not bad for a rank amateur preservationist.

Cooling. Don't touch for 24 hours
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