Thursday, September 27, 2012

Canning Apples

Sense of Home Kitchen

We picked apples at my in-laws this past weekend, there were more than they thought there would be so we were able to bring several boxes home.  I canned apples in a simple syrup to be used in pies, crisps, breads, muffins, or even to be eaten right out of the jar.  When trying to decide how to preserve these apples I had a few things to consider.  Our fruit and vegetable freezer is jammed full of the summer's produce and our meat freezer will be full as soon as we pick up the beef that was taken in a week ago, the apples would not fit into either freezer.  These apples do not keep well, even in a cold storage room, we have tried in years past.  I had already made enough apple juice to supply our needs, so I had only two methods in which I could preserve these apples through the winter, can or dehydrate, I did both.  I used the last 14 quarts I had available to can these apples and then I began dehydrating. The remainder will be made into applesauce and canned in the last of the pint jars.  I also shared a couple of boxes with family and friends.

This has been a productive canning season.  I had received several boxes of old quart and pint jars from a friend and am so glad I did, I have used every one of them.  Our pantry is full, I will share a photo later.  I love that much of our food is from our garden or other gardens and trees in our area, free, or at a very low cost of seeds or plants.  My time and effort are worth something, but this has been a worthwhile way to spend it, the benefits will be noticed in both the budget and convenience of not having to go to the store.  I have also been making my own dish washing soap and laundry soap, but that is a post for another day.

My mom's apple peeler and slicer came in very handy, saving a lot of time and preventing a sore hand.  The apple slices were placed in lemon water immediately to prevent them from discoloring.

A brief time in some boiling light syrup and right into the sterilized jars, packed down and syrup poured over the top. Lids and screw bands placed on top and into a water-bath for 20 minutes (sea level).  I use the instructions found in the book Putting Food By when canning.  There is also a fifth edition, out in 2010, available.    After 12 to 24 hours of resting on the counter I check to make sure they have sealed, take the screw bands off, wipe down the jars, label them, and place them on the pantry shelf without the screw band.  I personally prefer to store them without the screw band as it can hold moisture, causing it to rust.  If you take care of your canning equipment, including screw bands, they will last and can be reused for years to come.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Preserving Garden Herbs

Sense of Home Kitchen

I have been preserving my garden herbs for years and have found that a variety of methods work well, it just depends on the herbs I am preserving.  Tarragon flavors vinegar wonderfully and then can be used on salads with a little olive oil for a tasty and inexpensive salad dressing or added to a sauce for chicken. Just place one cup of fresh tarragon and two cups vinegar that has been heated to just before boiling (do not let it boil) in a very warm, sterilized container, bruising the tarragon a little as you do so, cover and leave set for two to three weeks, strain, place in a clean container, cover and store until ready to use.  The type of vinegar you use is your choice.  Regular white vinegar is fine, white wine or Champagne vinegar is very nice, but more expensive, or try a coconut vinegar as I am using this year.

Several of my garden herbs are dried in my dehydrator.  The house smelled wonderful as I was drying tarragon and parsley, a light licorice smell was released from the tarragon.  Once completely dry they are placed in glass spice jars, the parsley being crushed slightly first.

Some herbs are better pulled up root and all and hung upside down to dry.  I do this with thyme because the small leaves would slip through the screens of my dehydrator and be a challenge to gather together after they dried.  Once the leaves are completely dry I will strip them off their stems and place them in small glass spice jars like the ones below.

Sage and basil leaves are dehydrated, crushed and placed in their glass jars, supplying enough for another year's worth of cooking.

Some herbs I have had success with transplanting to a pot and bringing into the house.  Rosemary I have kept alive for over three years in the past (though this year I have a new plant) and parsley I have been able to keep over the winter and sometimes into the next summer.  So these two I dug up, potted and brought into the house to be used fresh.  I have not had good success with keeping basil or thyme alive for more than a month or two so I dried those and the other herbs from my kitchen garden.  If I have a good supply of one herb from the previous summer I do not plant that one in the garden so some of these herbs are on an every other year planting and some herbs I plant in the kitchen garden every summer.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / In the Garden / Kitchen and Pantry

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Making and Canning Crab Apple Juice

Sense of Home Kitchen

My parent's apple trees did not produce well this year, perhaps a late frost damaged the blossoms, so we were not able to make our usual apple juice, however, we were able to obtain a large number (this is about half) of crab apples and the juice is just as tasty.  This left the few apples I got to be used to make an apple pie and can applesauce, which I love to eat mixed with plain yogurt for breakfast.

This is the steam juicer I use and it works great for making and canning juice, very simple to use.  If it ever wears out and I need to purchase another I will go with this stainless steel steam juicer.  The washed apples go in the strainer at the top, with these small apples I did not even cut them.  There is no need to core either.  Just wash throw them in the top, fill the bottom container with water and heat.  The steam does the work and the juice lands in the middle section, ready to fill sterilized jars.  Once the jars are filled with the scalding hot juice I place a lid and ring on the top and within minutes I hear that familiar ping, meaning my jars have sealed.  If I had a cold press juicer I would heat the finished juice to a simmer, ladle the steaming liquid into prepared jars and place the lids and rings on top.  They seal themselves and there is no need to process in a water bath or pressure canner.

Usually I put about 1/2 cup of sugar in the top with the apples and I get about 2 1/2 quarts juice.  I found that even though the apples I was using were crab apples I did not need more sugar, we prefer our juice a little tart rather than too sweet.  The crab apples made beautiful juice that is full of flavor.  I mixed the juice with a little water when we were ready to drink it since the flavor is so concentrated, stretching the 32 quarts of juice the apples produced enough to, I expect, provide us with juice for an entire year.  This week I will be making and canning chicken stock.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry