Monday, April 16, 2012
I feel very accomplished this morning. Yesterday, I canned Apple Butter. In the past, I had helped and watched folks can various products but I had never really paid attention, and had never undertaken the process by myself.
Since Apple Butter is universally loved in our home I figured it was the perfect product to try first.
I used 9 pounds of organic apples(3 different varieties, because I had no idea which would be best)
Sugar(Imperial brand, is not processed with corn, or is C&H)
fresh lemon juice and zest from 2 organic lemons
cinnamon(reduced amount by half- a new friend told me it is considered high histamine,so I could not leave it out, but I reduced)
Apple Cider vinegar
That is it!
I browsed through a ton of different blogs and websites and decided I should do it the old fashioned way. On the stove instead of crockpot and by cooking the whole apple(cores and skins too)in water and some apple cider vinegar, the smell was not pleasant at this point and it made me just a little anxious about why in the world did I think I could can!! LOL
You quarter all the apples and cook till soft. With the amount I did I simmered for about 40 minutes. This was easiest part!
Next, I had to put the soft apples through a sieve.(a funnel that looks like a fine grater)you have to mash the cooked apples down and around to get the pulp to ooze through the sieve- simple enough, but 9 pounds of apples took a lot of smashing and smooshing! LOL This was by far the most physical part of the process. Out in my collected canning supplies I do have an electric strainer- note to self-next time I will use it! LOL. You are probably wondering, well why did she not peel and core them before cooking? Much of the flavor and pectin is in the skin and core of the apple. Pectin is what makes fruits thicken. In the case of Apple butter, since you reduce it, it would have been fine without, but since I made this a "learning" experience, I figured I should try to do as much as I could to gain more knowledge. I have read that green apples are one of the highest in pectin. So picture below is of the mess from this first step!
Now the easiest part- you mix everything into a pot and start simmering to reduce your apple butter;FYI- I followed the amount of sugar a number of recipes recommended- I wish I hadn't- it really only needed about half the sugar they recommend...(and we are sugar junkies!)
The reducing part is a couple hours give or take...I am always fearful of "burning" anything that has sugar, so I keep the temp pretty low and did a lot of stirring to help with the evaporation process.
Now about halfway ready to can-
Now is a good time to turn your HUGE pot of water on to bring to a boil- my pot was kind of thin and it took forever to bring that much water to a boil! I had scrubbed jars the night before and they had gone through the short cycle in my clean dishwasher, so I turned on the "dry" cycle to make sure they were hot and sterile and ready for hot apple butter.
NOTE- All of my canning supplies I inherited from a Great Aunt. I am not a huge recycle fan when it comes to trash, but when it comes to treasures I am all in! I have hundreds of adorable canning jars. You have to check the rims very very carefully to make sure they are in perfect shape-believe me I learned that later in the process. Some of the really old jars(I suspect some of these date back to the 50's)just won't seal anymore.. believe me I tried! LOL Of course I had to buy new bands and lids- I bought both Kerr and Ball thinking they would fit differently depending on the brand- but old jars were old jars. Some did great, some did not. The did nots have been added to my craft supplies!
Another lesson I learned: The lids should NOT be boiled to sterilize them, it will ruin the seal. Hot soapy water well rinsed and dried with a clean towel works, or running them in the "heat" cycle of the dishwasher after you have washed them works well too. Thankfully, I had bought more lids then I thought I needed because I kind of figured I would make these type of beginner mistakes! LOL
Thankfully, I had some great funnels to put the ripping hot apple butter into the jars with... I also found my ove gloves to come in very handy handling super hot jars! The most important parts to filling, are do not fill all the way up. 1/4 inch to 1/2 and up to an inche depending on what you are canning- for Apple butter 1/4 inch was fine. Make sure that rim is SPOTLESS- keep lots of clean towels to wipe the rims- I double and triple checked.
Then when you put them in the boiling water bath use a handy pair of jar tongs(everywhere you buy canning supplies). Keep the jars at least 1 inch a part, and make sure they are covered by the water by at least 1 inch.. I saw recommendations from 10 minutes to 20 minutes- so went with 15- pull them out and put them on the cutting board- they are to be left alone and not moved for at least 12 hours..
It is pretty easy to tell a sealed jar from a not sealed, in a way I am almost glad I had a problem so I could easily learn the difference. When sealed, the very center of the lid goes a bit concave and when you push it is tight with no give. If it isn't sealed it is almost like a button you can push..
It was a BIG project and I was tired by the time I got it all cleaned up! Today I get to label the jars. A few months ago I was in Michaels craft store and in their dollar bins found super cute Apple Pie stationary-When I was looking at the jars last night trying to decide if I should print labels I remembered I had a drawer full of the stationary. I cut one of the apple pie slices out and put the date and ingredients on the tag.
Oh, and when the girls smelled that spicy apple aroma they came to sample it.. It apparently was a delicious rich apple sauce! They each scooped out some and put some as it was in the fridge for their eating pleasure before it had reduced! LOL
Lastly, they make plastic reusable jar lids for after you have opened a jar. Much easier then the lid and band once it has been opened to eat.
Despite aching arms and legs this morning, and serious dishpan hands from the amount of scrubbing I did before,during, and after I am already trying to decide what is next! It is such a pleasure to know this is real food and safe food for Abby- 1 down, and a million others to go! One of my best friends was recently talking about pumpkin butter.... Clearly, it was worth it if I am thinking about yet another "butter" after all the work!