Tuesday, October 25, 2016

As easy as apple . . . sauce!

My friend June made her annual stop at a nearby orchard and brought me a bushel of apples for $16.  This time of year, local apples are abundant and inexpensive (not to mention delicious!).

Applesauce might very well be a sort of a gateway drug for future canners, because applesauce is so easy.  First of all, the ingredients of applesauce are minimal:  apples, plus a tiny bit of water.  Second of all, all the cooking that goes with applesauce happens when the weather is cool, so (unlike in August when the tomatoes and peaches are steaming up my kitchen) heating up a pot of hot apples makes the house feel better, not worse.  And finally, the actual making of the apple sauce is surprisingly simple, especially if you like including the peels in the applesauce (like I do).

The steps of making apple sauce are basic: chop them, heat them, and mash them.  To cut them up, I've used an apple peeler corer in the past, but this year decided just to cut each apple into eighths and then remove the core (triangled wedge).  N-son, with his growing confidence because of his culinary arts training, started on this even before I got home from church, and we worked happily on this together while listening to Chris Thile make his debut as the host of Prairie Home Companion.

We tossed the cut-up pieces into a pot with a small amount of water (about a half-inch, enough to prevent scorching the apples), and then heated up the apples until they got soft.  I used a potato masher, followed by a stick blender that I scored at one of our annual Bad Gift Exchange parties.

At that point, the applesauce was done!  To summarize, all you do is chop them, heat them, and mash them.  No extra ingredients (aside from a bit of water) needed, no special thermometers.  So it's a really quick and easy food to make.

To can the applesauce, you put the applesauce in jars and then boil the jars for 20 minutes (if they're quart jars) or 15 minutes (if they're pint jars).  You'll need actual canning jars and jar grabbers, but that's the only special equipment you need -- you could use a spaghetti pot for canning, if it's deep enough that the jars can be completely underwater.

For us, this past weekend, canning 19 quarts of applesauce took three-and-a-half hours: that's the time from opening up the bags to putting away the freshly-washed pots.  If you start with fewer apples, of course this will take you less time, and there's no reason you need to do so many at once -- you could can just one pint of applesauce if you wanted.

My favorite step-by-step site for canning directions is here.

Canning apples was so easy, that I decided to try my hand at making my own apple cider vinegar as well -- this will be my first attempt.  Basically, I just put the apple scraps (cores) in glass jars with water and a bit of sugar, and I'll wait a month or so and vinegar will magically appear.  Or something.  I'm mostly following the directions from the PrairieHomestead site (no relation to Chris Thile, as far as I can tell).  Advice is welcome.  

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