Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Home-can Apples for Pie and Apple Crisp

Years ago (we're measuring in decades, here), I did a lot of gleaning around the countryside. At that time there were lots of old, abandoned farmsteads that still had producing apple trees. Oh, the apples may have been kind of scabby, but that didn't matter. They were free and they suited my purpose, which was putting them up for the winter. The kids and I would gather half a pickup bed full and head home to start production.

We dried a lot and made gallons of apple juice and applesauce, but I was constantly stymied when I tried to can apples like the canned, pie-sliced apples I bought at the store. Invariably, when I put them in a water bath, the apples would swell and the jars would never seal.

A master canner told me the secret of how to can apples for apple pie. I've never seen this in any book about canning, but it has never failed me. Here's how you do it:

Peel and slice your apples. You can use the peeler-corer-slicer machine or do it by hand. I like chunkier pieces, but that's my own preference. As you fill a bowl, sprinkle sugar over the prepared apples--probably at about the rate of 1/2 cup of sugar to every 5 apples.
Cover the bowl with saran, foil, or a dishtowel, and let it sit overnight. The sugar will draw juice out of the apple.

The next day, sterilize the jars you're going to use. I used pints here, but that's because that's what I had on hand. When I had a family at home, I always put them up in quarts. One quart will do one apple pie.

When I'm ready to can, I stick my clean jars in the oven at 250 degrees while I'm getting everything else ready. I also put my lids in a pot of simmering water on the stove. I don't know if this is scientific or not. It's the way my mom did it, and so it's the way I do it. I never have a problem with a seal.
I fill the jars to within an inch of the brim with apples and spoon in some of the juice in the bottom. I use hot water for the rest of the liquid, put on one of the lids from the pot on the stove, and screw on the ring, making it finger tight. When I have a load for the water bath, I run them through and continue filling jars. The rest can wait on the counter for their turn in the water bath.

For pints, I process them for 20 minutes at a gentle boil; quarts go 25 minutes.
When I take the jars out, I invert them, leaving them upside down until they're cool. Like I said, it's the way my mother did it, and they always seal.

Use the apples as you would fresh apples in apple pie and apple crisp. Just decrease the sugar in the recipe by 1/4 to 1/2 cup.

I don't know if you know it, but for more than a decade I had a wholesale bakery supplying pies (made from scratch) to restaurants in Whatcom and Skagit Counties. Next week I'll share my world famous apple pie recipe--and no, it's not the one I used when I blogged about the apple pie service project. This one is way better--unless you're trying to involve a bunch of teenagers. In that case, the simpler one works.

So, if you want to make sure you get that apple pie recipe, follow this blog! Click on the 'follow' button on the left hand sidebar.

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