Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Start the Water Boiling - It's Applesauce Time

So, my canning season has started. I don't get fruit crops every year, depending on how our late Spring frosts hit, but this year have various apples, pears, Asian pears, plums, peaches, and red grapes. I dry a lot of my fruits, make bumper crops into hard cider, freeze some things, and can a bit. Canning a batch or two of applesauce is on my must-do list every year.

The birds and ground squirrels got all my Gravenstein apples (and most of the Italian prune plums). But the Freedom apples weren't far behind in the ripening schedule and for some reason haven't been as badly attacked (yet). I've hung junk CD's in the branches of most of my fruit trees, hoping the sunlight flashing off the shiny sides twisting in the breeze will startle the birds away, and Aries put up a pole for a whirly-gig too.

I pruned the tree quite a bit earlier this year to open up its shape, and thinned the fruit set while I was at it. So I have some nicely-sized fruit, easy to reach, and very little insect damage. The apples have a nice flavor and crunch for just eating out of hand, but are also supposed to be good for juice and sauce.

I had two half-pints of applesauce left in my pantry. Two days ago, I picked a couple big bowlfuls of the Freedom apples, and sat down in front of a movie on TV to quarter, core, and peel them all. I got them all prepped, soaking in a lemon juice solution, and then had to get ready to go work a tourist outing up at Lake Tahoe. So I put the whole pot into the refrigerator for the night. Yesterday, I drained the apples, put an inch or so of apple juice into the pan, covered it, and started them simmer/steaming. I'd already checked - I had plenty of lids on hand, so I got out a bunch of empty half-pints (the best applesauce size for the two of us), and got lots of jars and rings into my big canner full of water, and started that to heating.

When the apples were soft, I mashed them with a potato masher right in the pot (no sugar, no spices, just apples cooked in a bit of juice - I can always dress it up when I open up individual jars). I've cut notches in 2-pint increments into the handle of a wooden spoon. By standing that up in a pot of sauce I know how many jars it will fill. Even so, I don't put the lids into the hot water until after I have all my jars filled - no use prepping ones I won't need. I had enough for 16 half-pints. Hot jars are filled with hot applesauce to 1/4" headspace, rims wiped clean, hot lids and rings applied.

Our well water is a bit hard, so I always put a splash of vinegar in the water bath water. I process the jars, in the covered canner with water an inch over the top of the top layer of jars, for 10 minutes after the water comes back to a simmer. Set out on my cutting board, I leave them overnight to cool, listening for the lovely "plunk" (they used to "ping" - I think they've changed the thickness or center-shape of the lids in the past few years) as each jar seals.

This morning, all had sealed (yay!). The rings aren't necessary for storing sealed jars - I remove them and, once washed, keep them in a box under the counter. When I empty and then clean a jar, I put an old lid upside-down (to keep the old sealing compound from sticking to the rim) topped with a ring for storage - protecting the rim and keeping the empty jar clean (just hate dealing with boxes of dusty jars, with dead spiders in them). I give the sealed jars a quick rinse under cool running water, dry them off, and stick a little label with item and date on the lid (Mom just writes the date on the lid with a grease pencil). I don't have a big central canned goods storage area - each item has its own particular place. Nineteen jars of applesauce fit into the bottom of an old bread box in my little pantry - just about what the two of us will use in a year.


Anonymous said...

Your apples look fantastic! Our tree is very old and produces smaller, cooking apples <- not the official name, do not have a clue on that one! =)

Anonymous said...

Oh it looks absolutely wonderful!