"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Canning Apples

 My jars are sterilized and ready to go in the waterbath canner

In the last post I mentioned picking a giant bushel of apples.  What did I do with those apples, you may ask?  Well, truth be told, we ate most of them fresh.  My kids can pack away fresh apples like nobody's business.  BUT, I did can some.  That's right.   I canned them.  Good old fashioned Mason Jar type food preservation.  You can can too.   Little play on words there...anywho, on to the tutorial!

There are really two big rules in home canning.  1. Plan before you can and 2. When in doubt, throw it out.  Keep those two things in mind and you will do just fine. 

Apples are an easy starter food to get your foot in the door to home canning.   They are fairly acidic so they can be canned using a waterbath canner instead of a pressure cooker, they generally hold up well to processing and they are versatile.  

Step 1 in the canning process is gathering your supplies.  You will need:
  • Several sterilized quart sized mason jars with new lids and neck bands
  • A peeler
  • An apple slicer  *this isn't "necessary" but it is helpful and makes the job go much faster
  • A waterbath canner
  • A jar lifting tool
  • A spatula 
  • A saucepan
  • About 30 apples (to get around 3 quart sized jars)
 Tip: keep the lids in a pot of simmering water until you are ready to use them. This softens the adhesive on the lids and makes for a better seal.

 Step 2:  Make your syrup.
  • You can choose to make either a medium or a light syrup.  If you are going to be mainly eating them straight from the jar, I personally like a medium syrup.  However, if you are going to be using them for applesauce or baking, then I prefer a light syrup.  In this case I used a light syrup.  For a light syrup I use 3 c. of sugar to 6 c. of water.  For a medium syrup I go with 4 c. of sugar to 6 c. of water.  Heat the sugar water to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar completely dissolves.  Reduce the heat to low to keep warm but don't allow it to boil down.  
Step 3: Prepare your apples
  •  Peel your apples and then core and slice them.  If you are worried about discoloration you can use citric acid or a fruit preserve powder, both of which you can find in your canning aisle at your grocery store.   Just follow the directions on the package.  Personally, I don't really worry about a little browning, that's me.  
Step 4: Packing the apples
  • Apples are a hot pack process.  That means that you cook the apples a bit before processing them in the jars.  Add your apples to the syrup and bring them both back to a soft boil at medium-high heat.  Boil gently for 5 minutes.  Pack the apples into the hot sterile jars using a slotted spoon, leave 1/2 inch head space (that part is important so check the chart below to see how to determine head space). Pour syrup of the apples, still leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Using your spatula, press the apples around in the jar to remove air bubbles.  Wipe down your jars, especially around the rim, center the lid and place the band.  Twist the band until just tight.

Step 5:  Process the jars.
  • Place your jars in the water bath canner and fill the canner with water 1 in. above the tops of the jars.  Process your jars in boiling water for the amount of time specified for your altitude.  Don't start timing until the water is actually boiling.  If you are at sea level, boil for 20 minutes.  Add 2 minutes for every 1000 feet above sea level.  So, for example, 1000 or less feet above sea level=20 minutes, 1001-2000ft above sea level=22 minutes, 2000-3000ft above sea level=24 minute and so on and so forth.
 Step 6: Allow your jars to cool
  • I sit my jars on a folded towel on the counter to minimize heat damage.  Allow them to sit for 24 hours.  You may begin to hear random pinging/popping noises...don't be alarmed, that's a good thing.  After 24 hours check your jars for a good seal.  If your jars have sealed properly the center of the lid will not move, or have any "give", when you press on it.  If all goes well, your newly canned jars of apples will last about 12 months, IF you can keep from eating them for that long!

Change is in the Air

It has been unseasonably cool this summer, not that I'm complaining or anything, but it has certainly felt more like fall than summer.  Even as I'm typing this I'm sitting with an afghan I made a few years ago wrapped around my shoulders.  I have a couple of windows open and the chill is working it's way through the room.   Tonight would be a good night for a warm glass of tea. 

Today was filled to the brim with hustle and bustle.   First it was check-ups at the doctors office for two of the four munchkins, then swim lessons and a workout at the Y, then home to make dinner and clean.  Our upstairs shower and toilet have been less than perfectly functional for the last two weeks or so and we are finally getting a plumber in to take a look at it tomorrow so the upstairs bath needed a good scrub down.   After that it was out to the orchard in the late evening to pick a giant bushel of apples before the last bit of sun was gone. 

With the cooler weather my thoughts have been turning to those of sweaters for the youngsters.  Oldest needs a couple of new ones as does Middle and the baby.  I have been spending much of the precious little downtime I've had lately scouring the internet for cute patterns to try.  I may break out the knitting machine and work a few up on it this year.  It might be fun.   I also need to be working on a warmer blanket for DS number 3.

It seems like lately I have more projects than time.  I'm going to have to slow down eventually.  I'm already tired just thinking about everything that still needs done.  The apples need put up, the sweaters need made, the house needs cleaned, the laundry needs washed, I need to start getting the kids ready for schooling, then there are the dinners to be made, the shopping to be done, the bills to be paid, and on and on it goes. 

This weekend we are making a trip to the zoo with the kiddos.  It will be a much needed distraction and break from the daily grind.  I think stepping back, even just for a day, will do us all a world of good.   I love this lifestyle, I've been doing it for many, many years.  The country is gorgeous.  Life is "simpler".  We work hard and we sleep well.  But even something as well loved and as wonderful as the simple life can become overwhelming if you don't take a break now and again to regroup. 

Blessings be unto you and yours until next time.