Saturday, August 27, 2011

Therapy in Jars

For most of my life I've had a fondness for canning and preserving.  When I was too young to participate, I still loved to be in the kitchen at my grandma's farm watching her or studying what Dad was doing from the dining room at our house.  Canning is sort of a family tradition.  So now when I'm in the kitchen making jam or jelly or trying some other preserved endeavor, it seems to ground me and connect me to my family.  Dare I say - I believe it's therapeutic.  I know it's, at the very least, comforting.

Peaches in ginger syrup.  One of my new favorites.
Dad and I went to Flamm Orchards on Thursday and picked up half-peck crates of peaches and apples.  The intent was just to get peaches for a cobbler that evening, but the apples were calling to me as well.  Since I didn't use all of the peaches for the cobbler, today's therapy session included more peaches in ginger syrup (after trying these I had to do some more!) and brown sugar-cinnamon applesauce.  I still used the raw-pack method on my peaches despite the fruit float, but this time cubed them into bite-sized pieces.  The ginger syrup I used was more that was left from a previous candied ginger craze.  I just couldn't bring myself to pour the left-over syrup down the drain.  I'm so glad I didn't!

The applesauce was a recipe put together from Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'em Up! and the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  I took a little I liked from each recipe and put them together.  And doubled the recipe.  While doubling hasn't worked out well for me previously, I wasn't disappointed today.

I started by scrubbing a little over six pounds of Gala apples.  As I wanted to finish this canning project before dinner, I chose not to peel the apples.  I'm still undecided about this.  I like the fact it keeps more fiber in the applesauce, but have concerns about the texture.  After they cool, I'll crack open one of the processed jars for evaluation.  (That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)  Some leave the peels on for the color, but these weren't spectacularly colored apples and didn't impart much in the way of color. 
I quartered, cored, then halved the pieces before tossing them into the pot with a cup of water, one-quarter cup lemon juice and two small cinnamon sticks.  To keep the ones on top from browning, I occasionally jostled them around a little bit.  Not that I get too excited about browned apples when I'm making applesauce.  If you're adding cinnamon - which I did - it's going to be on the brown side anyway.


Both recipes said to run the cooked apples through a food mill.  I don't happen to have a food mill (yet) so I used the food processor, being very careful not to overfill it and send screaming hot applesauce flying about the kitchen.  I could see that scenario quite clearly in my mind. 

Jars ready to be processed
After processing the apples, they were returned to the pan with some brown sugar.  Following the Ball Blue Book, I used one-quarter cup of sugar for every pound of apples.  This came back to a bubble to dissolve the sugar and then I added a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.  This was ladled into hot half-pint jars and processed in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.  I ended up with enough sauce for 11 half-pint jars.

I'm not finished with my canning projects by any means.  There are still three pounds of frozen peaches waiting for me and while Dad was here we found an amazing deal on apricots and now I have about six pounds of apricots in the freezer as well. But I do have to interrupt my therapy to cause myself some more stress.  I'm committed to doing a small wedding cake and cupcakes for a reception next Saturday.  So while I'd like to be canning, next week will be devoted to all things cake.

(As a post-script to Dignity in the Face of Adversity, my dear aunt succumbed to her cancer early last Saturday morning.  Dad and I were able to be with her the Thursday and Friday prior.  For that opportunity, we will both be forever grateful.)

Brown Sugar-Cinnamon Applesauce
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 small (3”) cinnamon sticks
6 lbs apples (peeling optional)
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract

Have a water-bath canner and 11 – 12 half pint jars and lids prepared.

Add the water, lemon juice and cinnamon sticks to a large (at least 6 qt.), heavy stock pot.  Peel (if desired), core and cube the apples, dropping them into the pot as you go.  Stir occasionally to coat all the apples with the liquid.

Cover the stock pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 – 20 minutes, or until the apples are softened.  Run the cooked apples and cooking liquid through a food mill or process in batches in a food processor.

Return the applesauce to the stock pot over medium heat and add the brown sugar.  Stir to dissolve and bring to a slow boil.   Add the ground cinnamon and vanilla extract and stir well to combine thoroughly.

Ladle the hot applesauce directly into hot, half-pint jars.  Wipe the rims and seal with lids and bands.  Process the jars 10 minutes in the boiling-water canner.  Remove the canner from the heat; remove the lid and allow the jars to sit in the water for five minutes before removing to a rack or towel to cool.  Let the jars cool 24 hours before testing the seal.  Refrigerate any jars that did not seal.  Store sealed jars in a cool, dry place for up to one year.

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