Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Utility Sauce

Welp, my godfather gave me 1/2 a bushel of apples. That’s a lot, in case you were wondering.
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They were utility apples, which means they weren’t perfect or pretty enough to sell. Some had odd lumps on them, some had gouges, some were bruised, some were ENOURMOUS. They were all delicious, however, and perfect for applesauce.

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Step 1: prep the apples. I chose to peel and chop because I don’t have any nifty devices to sift out the peels after the apples cook down. I gouged my finger pretty well with the peeler, but it’s healing up nicely. I also did not get any blood on the apples, so hooray for that.
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Step 2: cook the apples. I split mine up between the crock pot and my stock pot. I could have put it all in the stock pot, in retrospect. Oh well! I set the crock pot on high and the stock pot on medium-low. It took over an hour to cook down adequately, but I don’t remember how long anymore. One thing I learned from this process is there is no set way to do it. The thing that confused me most was organizing time, but I think I worked it out pretty well for myself.
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Step 3: Bring canning water to a boil. That’s the huge pot on the right. My grandmother gave it (and the canning rack that holds the jars inside) to me. I boiled the water early because it was filled to the top line (below the handle) so it was going to take a while. When I needed it boiling again later, it didn’t take nearly as long to get going. The small pot has my lids in some water, so I can boil those later.
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Step 4: Make a mess. This is mandatory.
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Step 4a. (Optional) Blend the applesauce so it is smooth. I should have taken a picture pre-blending. The applesauce was really chunky because the different types of apples cook down at different rates. Mashing it with my plastic whisk was not enough (I am not cool enough to have a potato masher), so I blended it in my Ninja blender, in batches. Having two pots (crock and stock) was very helpful for this. I ended up putting most of it back in the crock pot to keep warm (kept it on the low setting because it’s supposed to be hot when it gets canned).
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Step 4b. (Also optional) I only added cinnamon to mine. Add whatever you like! Pumpkin pie spice would probably also be good. This is another “winging it” moment: you add “to taste”, aka. to your liking, aka. till it’s effing delicious.
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See step 4.
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Step 5: Put the sauce in jars. Okay, I skipped a step somewhere. After the sauce was cooked, I put my jars & lid rings in the dishwasher and washed it on with the Sanitize option selected. This is important for the longevity of the applesauce, so it doesn’t grow bacteria while it hangs out, waiting to be consumed (I mean, it keeps for a year or two, probably longer, in a pantry, so you want it to be clean). Once sanitized (you can also use the oven to do this, or boil them, but I didn’t have enough pots/patience to make that work), use a funnel of sorts to spoon the hot applesauce into HOT jars. They must be hot so the temperature difference doesn’t break the glass. DON’T TOUCH INSIDE THE JARS. Keep them clean! And don’t burn yourself. Use a spatula to get any air bubbles out of the top section of the jars. They should be filled to about 1/2” of the top rim. I use the threads as a reference.

Step 6: Process the jars. First boil the lids for 10 minutes. Use sanitized tongs or a magnet on a stick to pick up the lids and place them on the jars. You’ll probably want a tea towel to put the rings on, so you don’t burn yourself. Make sure not to touch the underside of the lids so that they stay clean! The rings don’t have to be tight, just enough to make a seal. Lower them onto your canning rack (see above photo) and into the water. I think the water should come up to just under the rings, but I couldn’t find specific information on that. I had to spoon out some water so it wouldn’t flood the jars (didn’t’ want to take any chances, but it probably would’ve been fine). Timing is available online. When dealing with large jars like I was, you process for at least 15 minutes. I think.
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Step 7: Admire your creation. Or eat it. You can see there was some excess liquid that separated upon removing from the canning bath. That’s fine/normal. If I’d cooked the applesauce longer before canning, there might have been less separation due to lower water content, but whatever.

My photos are actually from two different canning sessions. The first time, I made 3 1/2 12oz jars worth. The second time was the rest of the apples (what you see in the drawer photo), which made almost 4 quarts. The back left jar is 2/3-3/4 full. I learned that it’s probably best to have an assortment of jar sizes ready in case you end up with an odd amount. With all that open air space, the applesauce is less likely to keep (more space for bacteria). I’ll probably save that one for myself, but the rest are gifts for Christmas!

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