Wednesday, December 17, 2014

When life hands you apples

I usually buy apples by the half-bushel from Cook's Orchard, for baked goods and applesauce. What varieties I use depends on what is available when I visit their little store. This year I wound up with a half-bushel of Macintosh and a half-bushel of Jonagold. I also purchased a half-bushel of Enterprise and Gold Rush from Bender's Orchard. I keep the apples in the garage until I get around to using them, not always the best idea. This year I lost quite a few Jonagolds to rot before I could get around to them.

My method is to wash the apples, quarter them, cook them until soft, then put them through the sauce maker (after they have cooled a bit). While reheating the applesauce, I heat the water bath with the jars in the water (saves a step). When the water starts to boil, I remove the jars from the water bath, VERY CAREFULLY dumping 3-4 quarts of water into a spare pot, in case I need to top up the water bath. Some of the boiling water is poured over the new jar lids (another saved step). Then I fill the jars to within 1/2 inch of the top, wipe the rims, add the lids and bands (finger-tight). Then CAREFULLY place the jars into the water bath rack and lower them into the water, topping with the saved water if necessary so that the jars are covered by at least an inch of water. Once the water returns to a boil, I start timing (20 minutes for quarts). When time is up, I turn off the heat and wait about 5 minutes before removing the jars and placing them on towels on the kitchen counter. They sit there for 24 hours before I remove the bands, label the jars, and put them away.

(Note to self: my "8-quart" Farberware pot holds what resulted in 6 quarts of applesauce, from about a half-bushel of Macintosh apples. A full half-bushel of Enterprise and Gold Rush yielded seven quarts.)

A couple of weeks ago I processed the Macs. I added 2 c. water when cooking down the apples to prevent scorching. The resulting applesauce was tasty but kind of watery; each jar had about an inch or so of liquid at the bottom with the applesauce floating on top. (With tomato sauce, the liquid rises to the top.) With subsequent batches, I added only one cup of water (you can also use cider), but I think some apples are just more watery than others. The following day I processed the Jonagolds. They have a really greasy feel to the peel, especially if they are overripe; this waxy layer helps provide protection from pests. I baked a couple of the Jonagolds for dessert and they were rather flavorless, but the applesauce is quite tasty. Maybe something in the processing releases more flavor?

Last week I finished by canning the Enterprise and Gold Rush (the latter is also rather waxy). Even though the two varieties were mixed in the bag, I separated them for processing, just for fun. Since there was little delay between purchase and processing, I lost none to rot, ending up with five quarts of Enterprise, one quart of Gold Rush, and one quart of half-and-half.

A little surprise I noticed this year is the different colors of the applesauces. The Macintosh and Gold Rush are brown, while the Jonagold and Enterprise are pink. I don't add any sweeteners or spices when canning, as I like applesauce just as it is. One of my favorite snacks during the winter is a half-cup of applesauce sprinkled with about a half-ounce of raw pecans.

Canning applesauce takes a certain amount of effort. I have not calculated whether it saves money, but as with knitting, that is beside the point. I have to ignore the little voice in my head that tells me this is a waste of time; it is simply something I enjoy doing. Besides, what else would I do? Watch "Dancing with the Stars"?