This blog was not written by me but by our mommy friend Meagan. She has 2 kids and I am still in awe that she got this much done. You should catch more of her writing by visiting her at her blog Life Unshelved. Enjoy reading – I know I did! ~Heather
Summer is breathing it’s last breath around these parts, and harvest is here. I planted twenty tomato plants this year, so I was prepared and excited to can. Lucky for me, I also received a bounty of fruit from my family and friends: crab apples, pears, plums, and apples upon apples. It really was the year of plenty and I was thrilled! The last few weeks have been a cycle of gathering, prepping, canning, and cleaning it all up.
I hadn’t really canned much before this year. Just a few batches of jam here and there, and even then, most of it was freezer jam. (Which is amazing. Seriously, next June, buy some strawberries and make this.) So this year, I readied myself for the adventure. I was excited. I love learning something new!
Here’s what I have to show for all my work:
a callous on my right pointer finger from chopping up stuff
a food-bombed cooktop
Plus, this photo doesn’t include all the dried fruit and bags of applesauce, tomatoes, and tomato paste cubes in the freezer.
I’m proud of myself. And because I received most of what I canned for free, it seemed all the more smart and worthwhile. I felt this almost innate urge to use all the food I had grown and been given. Is this primal? My husband just watched in hesitant curiosity. Despite the motivation, I had a BLAST doing it, which is the most important thing!
This year, I really wanted to do something else besides make applesauce with my apples. You could make apple pie filling, but I just don’t make that many pies and wanted something a bit more universal. I was thinking of a preparation akin to canned pears, but apples. I knew I’d have to cook them a little first to soften them, which also makes for a better quality product in the end.
So, here’s how you do it.
HOW TO CAN APPLES
What you need:
apples (19 lbs or 57 cups chopped) for seven quart jars (~10 pounds if using pint jars)
jars (I used quarts)
lids (buy NEW)
Note: All cooking times are for altitudes of 1,000 ft or less. If you live above 1,000 ft, you’ll need to add more time. Google is your friend.
Before cutting up the apples, I prepare my canner, jars, lids and syrup, as it does take some time for the water to boil and jars to sterilize.
Also, I like to put a towel under everything to protect my work surface counter and make clean up a lot easier.
First, SANITIZE the jars:
My method of sanitizing the jars is to boil them for 10 minutes in the canner. Alternatively, you can wash the jars in your dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. I chose to hand-wash the jars with hot soapy water and then put them into the canner to sanitize. Just fill up the canner, making sure the jars are fully covered with water (1″ over their tops). Put on the lid, wait until the water comes to a rolling boil and then start the timer for 10 minutes. If the jars are finished sterilizing, and you haven’t finished the food prep, leave the water at a simmer, covered, while you finish.
SIMMER the lids and rings:
Throw your rings and your brand-spankin’ new lids into a pot of water. Bring it to a boil, and then leave at a simmer.
Make the SYRUP:
A simple syrup is just sugar dissolved in water. You don’t need to add sugar to the fruit, as apples are acidic and can be canned without pH concerns. You could top the jars with hot, pre-boiled water without any sugar. But I like a little simple syrup for taste. The sugar to water ratio depends on how sweet you like. Regardless, you need to pre-cook the apples in some kind of liquid, syrup or water, before canning them. Make one pint (two cups) of liquid for every one pound (three cups) of chopped apples. I do a light syrup – one cup sugar for every four cups of water. Just heat it up to dissolve the sugar. That’s it, done. I also added a spoonful (heaping tablespoon?) of cinnamon to the syrup. Because cinnamon + apples = bomb.
Set out another large pot of water to BOIL and simmer:
You’ll be cooking the apples in this before canning them.
Next, the APPLES:
You can choose to leave on the peels if you like. I peeled them. If you have a designated apple peeler or one of these, use them! They will make quick(er) work of the process. I don’t have either, so everything was done by hand. I know a lot of people love the peelers, but the ones I’ve used remove much of the flesh as well as the skin; I’m not fond of them. By hand, this took a long time. I wish I had taken a photo of the peel pile! As I went, I tossed the apples into a pot filled with water to help with browning. You could add some lemon juice or Fruit Fresh to the soak to help with browning, but I didn’t.
|Swiper, no swiping!|
|Obviously, sanitation isn’t a critical issue at this point.|
Next, core and CUT UP up the apples into bite-sized chunks.
PARBOIL your apple chunks:
Here begins the detail work. Bring all your stuff over to the stove. For me, this is the most important step: having everything set out. Below you see, from left to right: the covered pot in the back is the syrup simmering, the pot in the foreground is the apples boiling, in the middle is all the cut up raw apples, and to the right is a large bowl to put the pre-cooked apples inside. My cutting board is on top of it to keep the apples warm. You can also see my utensils, including the spider to the right – very handy for taking the apples out of the hot water.
This method is called Hot Packing. Meaning you partially cook whatever you are planning to can. It helps draw the air out of the fruit, creating a better-tasting, longer-lasting product. And it softens the fruit too, which was what I was looking for. I boiled the apple chunks at ~5 minutes at a low boil. Just watch them though. I wanted them soft, not mushy. The time may be less or more, depending on the apple variety.
Here’s the rest of the set-up: my canner and my lids, simmering, waiting…
FILL the jars:
Once all your apples have been parboiled, it’s time to fill the jars. Clear away all your hot packing pans and bowls, and clean up your space as best you can.
a clean, wet cloth (for wiping the jar rim)
magnetic lid lifter, if you’ve got it. Or check your tool box. We used one of these.
ladle or something similar – I used a large measuring cup
wooden skewer, or some other narrow, non-metallic utensil
Slowly, take your sterilized jars out of the canner. I take them out with my jar lifter, and pour out the hot water inside them into another pan, in case I need to add it back into the pot again. Place the empty jars on a towel on your counter. You don’t want the hot jars to touch something cold (granite, in this case), which might mean breakage. Once the jars are out, they begin to cool, and you want everything – the jars, the filling, the syrup, the lids – to stay as warm as possible during the process. You’ll want to work quickly, but carefully.
|To the back left, you can see the cinnamon simple syrup, uncovered.|
Fill all of your jars with the warm apple bits, and pour the syrup over the top, leaving 1/2″ headspace (about at the bottom of the threads). This measurement is pretty important, but you don’t have to be über-precise. It’s better to have more headspace, than less.
Take your wooden skewer, chopstick, plastic baby spoon, or whatever utensil you have that is non-metallic and RUN IT AROUND the inner outside edge of the jar and press in toward the center of the jar. This releases any air bubbles that may be trapped.
WIPE the rims of all the jars with your clean, wet cloth. You don’t want any food particles to interfere with the seal between the jar rim and the rubber on the lid. Make sure the rims are clean.
Put on the LIDS and RINGS
Using your handy dandy magnetic thingy, pull out the hot lids and carefully place them on the jars. Twist on a ring over top of it, but just until finger tight – meaning just until you have to really exert force to tighten it. Don’t over-tighten. If you do, you risk buckled lids and breaking jars (been there). To make a vacuum seal, some of the air inside the jar has to escape during the canning process.
Carefully lower the filled jars back into the canner, making sure none of the jars are touching each other. Be careful, because the jars will be hot. Once all the jars are in the canner, make sure there is at least 2″ of water covering the jars. This may require siphoning off some of the water, or pouring some of the aforementioned hot water back in later if needed. I have yet to master this part of the process.
Cover the canner, and return the water back to a boil. Once at a boil, set the timer for 20 minutes; this is your processing time. At the end of the 20 minutes, turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let the jars sit inside the canner for five minutes more. This prevents boil over that sometimes happens when the hot jar hits the cool air outside of the canner. After the five minutes is up, carefully pick up the jars with the jar lifter, holding them upright, and place them on your towel. Over the next few minutes to hours, you’ll hear the happy “PING” sound that is the lid sealing down on the jar. Sometimes it will even happen while I’m lifting the jar out. That means your jar is sealed, and that you done did good.
After 24 hours, take off the rings and check the seals on the jars. There should be no lifting of the lid at all. Wipe the jars with a clean, damp rag, label the lids, and squirrel away your bounty, preferably in a dark, cool place.
|Red Wine Spiced Pears|
|Crab Apple Jelly – the kids absolutely LOVE this|
|Annie’s Salsa – We’ve already burned through two jars|
|Good Ole’ Plain Pears|
|A good day’s work, and a day’s good end.|