Apple Harvest!

Fall time here in the North West means apple harvest time. I have 2 nice big apple trees that seem full of fruit this season. My daughters and I have our eyes peeled for when the apples start dropping. That is the sign for us that they are ripe. Then we have to work hard to collect all the apples before the deer get them!

After the apples are collected it is time to start processing them. I have done many things over the years with my apples. One of the most common things I do each year is make applesauce.

I was blessed several years ago by my very sweet sister-in-law with a Victorio Strainer. This is a great little device that hooks the table. You put your cooked apples (unpeeled and seeds still there) into the top funnel and start turning the handle. Out of one spout will come applesauce and out of the other comes the peels, seeds and fiber. It is a huge labor saving product. You can see a picture of one and read more about them here: http://pleasanthillgrains.com/tomato_strainer.asp  The brand name is different but the product the same (mine is like the second one the page). I have also used this for straining seeds out of berries.



For years before I had one of those strainers I did it the old fashioned way. I sat down at my table with a cutting board and sharp knife in front of me, my box of apples next to me and pan to receive the peels and seeds and bowl full of water (with a bit of lemon juice added) to receive my apples.
 

Here is how I make applesauce:



I get a large pot to hold my apples. I put a little water in the bottom to keep the apples from scorching. I fill with the apples and set them on the burner on about medium heat. I let them start cooking. As they cook they breakdown and soon have the look of applesauce. This can take a bit of time. If your temps are too hot you will scorch the apples. So turn down the burner if you need to and stir often. Once all the apples are well cooked and look like they should I test the applesauce to see if it needs to be sweetened. Sometimes I have used apples that were so sweet nothing else was needed. Sometimes I have had tart apples (I know there are types of apples better suited for sauce than others but typically I am just thankful for whatever type they are and work with it from there! ~smile~).

If you find you need to sweeten your apples I recommend a natural sweetener. I have used honey before and am always happy with that. One year I added a can of apple juice concentrate to my big pot of sauce and it sweetened everything up just perfectly.

The last added touch is optional but something we enjoy and that is a bit of cinnamon. I can’t give you amounts because I have no idea how many apples you are working with. Even if I did, I probably still could not tell you because I just sprinkle, stir, taste and don’t worry too much about it. Remember when adding any spices, “less is best”. Add a small amount and test. You can always add more but you can’t take it away.

Now you can either freeze your sauce or can it. If you are going to freeze it put it in zip type bags or reusable freezer containers (glass or plastic) and put in the freezer. If you want to can your sauce then you will need canning jars (pints or quarts), new lids and rings and a pot large enough to hold your jars and cover them with water.

For canning, fill about half full your canning pot with hot water and put on a stove burner to heat up. Wash the jars and fill with hot water to sterilize and heat the jar. When your sauce is ready fill hot jars with hot sauce to within one inch of the top of the jar. Apply a brand new lid and a ring (you can reuse rings). Screw down the lid and using a jar lifter put the jar of sauce into your pot of hot water. After all jars are full (or your canner has all that it will hold), fill the canner with hot water and bring to a boil. Cover with lid and let the jars boil in the water for 15 minutes for pint jars and 20 minutes for quart jars. If you are at higher altitudes you need to boil for longer periods (for altitudes 1000 -3000ft add 5 minutes (to the original times given), for 3000 -6000 add 5 minutes to pints and 10 minutes to quarts and for 6000+ add 10 minutes to pints and 15 minutes to quarts).

When the time is done, lift out the jars and let them cool to room temp. You may hear pinging and popping sounds as each jar is sealing. When the jars are cool you can touch the lid and to make sure it feels tight and well sealed. Remove the rings, wash and dry them for later use. You can store the jars in a cool place and enjoy through the winter!
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Another way that I have preserved apples is to make apple pie and freeze it. I then have apple pies ready to go all through the winter months. This is such a great treat. I freeze them before baking them. This way the aroma of freshly baked apple pie will fill your home and make your family’s mouth water in anticipation!

Our Favorite Apple Pie
(with freezing instructions at the end)
 


5 to 7 tart apples (5 cups)
1 9-inch unbaked whole wheat pastry shell
½ cup cane juice crystals or Sucanat
3 to 4T whole wheat pastry flour (use the higher amount for juicy apples)
¾ tsp. cinnamon

Peel and core apples and cut into slices. Put them in a large bowl and sprinkle the remaining ingredients over the apples. Toss carefully to coat the apples slices without breaking. Pour this into the pie shell. Top the pie with crumb topping (recipe below).

Crumb Topping
1/3 cup cane juice crystals or Sucanat
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
6 tbsp butter

Mix cane juice crystals and flour together. Cut in butter.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until apples are soft when poked with a fork. If pie browns too quickly, cover edges with foil. Cool and enjoy!

Would you like to freeze these pies for a special treat through the winter?

 Make your pies in disposable pie pans and before baking wrap well with plastic wrap and then with foil to keep them from getting freezer burned. When you want to bake one, take from the freezer, remove foil and plastic wrap and cover the top with foil to keep from getting too brown. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, maybe longer. Make sure you check often. Towards the end of baking time remove foil so the crumb topping can crisp up.
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If you don't want to make and freeze the whole pie you can make and can Apple Pie Filling!

Apple Pie Filling in A Jar
Crystal Miller

24 cups of peeled, sliced cooking apples
2 1/2 cups honey
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg optional
1 tsp. salt
10 cup water
1 ½ cups Clear Jel
(not the instant clear jel)
 (http://www.kitchenkrafts.com/product.asp?pn=IN0900  )
3 TBS lemon juice

In a large saucepan combine honey, cinnamon, nutmeg salt and water. Heat on medium heat until hot but not boiling. Slowly add Clear Jel using a whire whisk to mix and stir until smooth. Add lemon juice.

Place prepared apples in a very large bowl and pour syrup over them. Gently stir apples and syrup together.

Fill jars with the apples/syrup mix leaving ½ inch of head space at the top of the jar.

Wipe the jar tops with a clean cloth and put a new lid on the jar. Put a ring on the jar and adjust to finger tightness.

Can in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. This recipe will make 7 quarts of ready to go apple pie filling that will fill and 9” pie plate. For an additional options you can also use this to make cobbler.

 

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While you have apples in abundance and you are peeling and slicing you can make this little treat up for the kids (and the adults too! :)




Caramel Apple Dip
1 8oz pkg. cream cheese, softened to room temp
½ c Sucanat
½ t vanilla

Put soft cream cheese, Sucanat and vanilla in a bowl and mix with electric mixers (or use a Kitchen Aid or Bosch type of mixer for this). Beat this very well, stopping to push the cream mix back into the center. The Sucanat does not dissolve very easily and will leave the dip looking a little ‘dotted’, but that is ok! It tastes delicious!

Set out crisp apple slices and a bowl of dip for a special sweet treat!
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Drying Apples
 


If you have a food dehydrator or your oven can be set to 140 degrees then you can make dried apples. 

You will need to peel and core your apples and cut them into slices or rings. As you are working you can pre-treat the apples by placing them in a bowl of lemon water. You make lemon water by adding 1 cup lemon juice to 4 cups water, double or triple as needed.

When your apples are prepared you lay them out on the shelves of your food dehydrator and turn it on. Let the apples dry until there is no moisture left in them and they are still pliable. Store them in air tight containers.

If you have an oven to do this in then the apple slices can be laid directly on the oven rack. Or you can lay a piece of cheese cloth or light cotton cloth on the rack first. Dry your apples at 140 degrees, making sure you prop your oven door open slightly with the handle of a spatula, a rolled up pot holder or a wooden spoon. You need the moisture to escape. Drying time could take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.
 

Dried apples make great snacks and they can be cut up and added to granola or trail mix.  They can also be stewed to make a great winter breakfast!

Maple Stewed Apples
Crystal Miller

8 oz. dried apples
1 cup orange juice
1 cup water
½ cup maple syrup
1 T lemon juice

Place dried apples in a crockpot. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Serve warm.


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Enjoy your apple harvest this fall!!
 

 

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