Monday, September 14, 2009

Canning Week Begins: Apples to Apples

One of my favorite things about fall is going down to the orchard by my in-laws' house and buying a bushel of perfect, delicious apples. Seriously, these apples are always crisp and wonderful. I love getting them and preserving all their amazing goodness for the rest of the year - and one of my favorite ways to do so is to make a few quarts of apple pie filling.

Making apple pie filling is a beautiful thing for so many reasons. Not only do you get to enjoy the taste of straight-from-the-farm apples any time during the year, but it's also crazy-convenient. Feeling like having an apple pie? Whip up a pie crust (easier said than done - for some reason, making pie crust unnerves me. Things can get pretty ugly when I get frustrated with a pie crust - I even broke my favorite pie dish on Thanksgiving because I was so angry. Okay, moving on...), open a jar of filling, pour it in the crust, top with a crust (or you can skip the crusts altogether and make apple crisp), and bake. So easy - maybe a little too easy....

To get started, you'll need:
Six quart-size Mason jars
Lids and bands
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
5 1/2 - 6 lbs. of tart apples (I used Honeycrisp, but other good varieties include Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Jonagold - click here for a complete list)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
15 drops of yellow food coloring (not a huge fan of fake food coloring, but it does make it pretty. Plus, 15 drops is hardly anything.)
The first step is to peel, core, and slice all the apples. This is the most time-consuming part. I like to put the sliced apples into a big bowl of water (with some lemon juice) just so they don't turn all brown.

Next, make the syrup. In a large saucepan (I like to use a really big pot - it makes getting splashed with boiling sugar water less likely. I have many a canning scar, so take my advice), mix sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir in 10 cups of water. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add lemon juice and food coloring.

The next step is to pack the apples into hot jars. You can either run your jars through the dishwasher or wash them in really hot water right before you pack the apples. Since my dishwasher was full, I chose the sink.

Fill the jars with the sliced apples. You want to pack them so you leave an inch of headspace (click here for helpful visual). You also want to pack them so they're full, but not too tight.

Using a ladle or spatula, distribute the sugar mixture among the jars. This is where a canning funnel is really, really useful. I always like doing this part of the process and watching the syrup fill in all the empty space. It has a sort of lava lamp effect on me.

The next step is to top the jars with lids and adjust the bands. This part is really important. I'm a little obsessive about it, but it saves time in the long run (almost all of my jars seal the first time). You want to heat your lids in some very hot (but not boiling) water - this gets the sealing compound around the edges ready. While you're waiting for your lids to heat through, wipe the mouth of the jar (this is where I get obsessive) so that there's no syrup on the edges. Since you'll be using a wet rag to do this, also make sure that you don't leave any water on the edge of the jar either. It should be nice and dry when you put the lid on - you don't want anything getting in the way of that seal. Once the lid is in place, secure it with a band (not too tightly).

Process the jars in water-bath or steam canner for 20 minutes. For complete instructions on how to use your canner, read the instructions that come with it carefully (I would give them all in detail here, but I'm only experienced with the steam canner. Plus, it would take a while. Just read the instructions - they'll explain it best). After 20 minutes, move the canner from heat, let it cool for a few minutes, and then remove jars. If you can press down on the center of the lid and it doesn't give, the jar is sealed. Be sure to label the jars (you can get all creative and make fun, personalized labels - or you can just write on it with Sharpie, like I do, uncrafty as I am.) with the contents and date. Then enjoy the satisfaction of putting up your jars of apple pie filling (which are quite pretty, in my humble opinion) on your pantry or cupboard shelves until you feel the craving for delicious, homemade apple pie.

Next up: All about jam -- and a sweet giveaway.

1 comment:

Abz said...

Holy cow! Those look so good!!!!! Nice work! I had no idea it would be so easy either. Sweet :)

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