Oh, what to do with an abundance of apples? It has been the year of fruit here in Massachusetts. The trees are weighted down with peaches, pears and apples. There are so many that I’m receiving whole cases as gifts from people who have more than they can eat or preserve. So what to do with this gift from the trees (and from desperate neighbors)?
First of all, if you have your apples in a root cellar or cold storage, you have time to process. It’s not like tomato season!
Options abound. I have already pressed 120 pounds into cider. Next up will be canning. I want to do sauce but I also want to do pie filling. On a cold winter’s day, I can get away with a pot of soup for supper as long as I have a hearty dessert. I do NOT have a family that considers a bowl of soup supper otherwise. If the filling is sitting in a jar the whole thing takes minutes as I keep rounds of pie dough in the freezer waiting for the night I need a great dessert or a pot luck contribution. So let’s make pie filling today.
Wash apples well, then peel, core and slice. I have a great apple peeler that will peel and core. I then use the small corer, slicer to get uniform slices. You need 6 quarts of apples to fill 7 quart jars. While it best to use a firm, crisp apple like Stayman or Golden Delicious for canning,
I use whatever apple I have. If the apple is too sweet I add 3/4 cup lemon juice for each large batch. I prefer a hot pack for fruit as cold packed fruit tends to float.
I cut right into water treated with lemon juice or citric acid to keep the apples nice and white. Drain well and put in a very large bowl.
Mix 2 ½ cups cold water with 5 cups apple juice and pour into a large pot. Mix 1 ½ cups Clear Jel with 5 ½ cups sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of nutmeg in a separate bowl and then add to the cold water/apple juice (and lemon juice if you are using it).
You can process this without adding the Clear Jel and add cornstarch to thicken the filling when you bake the pie but you cannot put up pie filling if you’re using cornstarch or flour. The starches will go bad in the jar! Clear Jel is the only product the USDA endorses.
Cook the mixture over medium heat until it starts to boil and then add the apples. I keep this mixture over very low heat long enough to heat the apples. You can also blanch the apples before adding to the sauce. Now fill your quart jars with the hot mixture, release any air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust lids and process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. (Need to know how to process your jars safely? Check out Ball’s Blue Book.)
This is the kind of job that is easier with extra hands. The kitchen smells so spicy and fabulous that finding help is not usually a problem, especially if you save out a bowl of filling and serve it warm with a splash of cream. I am not above bribery.
The apples keep coming! Friends stop by with the beds of their pick-up trucks completely filled with apples. We are happy to swap some of the bounty with them in exchange for the use of the apple press but it’s hard to keep up. Today, I also had two canner loads of sauce going, the dehydrator filled and the steam juicer making juice out of the cores and peels and left over bits and pieces. I found another sack of grapes in the vegetable bin that I forgot about so I tossed those into the juicer too. The resulting grape-apple juice is a lovely color. I was going to make jelly out of it but I decided to can it as juice. We have jelly overload here and one family can only eat so much.
It’s in doing apples that I most appreciate my helpful gadgets. The Victorio Peeler/corer/slicer makes mighty quick work of the apple slices destined for the dehydrator. When I do sauce I have found it easier to use the corer/ slicer as I like the color of my sauce when the peels are left on. The steam juicer is perfect for getting the last bit of flavor and color from peelings and cores that might otherwise go to the pigs. Any small bits I do have left have gone into the worm bin. Nothing is wasted. My goal of 50 jars of sauce, 20 jars of juice and 2 gallons of dried apples in well within reach. I smell a bit like cinnamon and applesauce but there are worse things to smell like. (Come visit after we clean out the pig pen!)