Monday, September 21, 2015

What did we do with all of those apples?

I mentioned before that some friends of ours gave us roughly 100 lbs of apples, and we turned many of them into hard cider.  Well, a day or two after I posted that, we had more people offer us free apples, for the price of picking them, because once again they weren't going to get around to using their apples and just didn't want to see them go to waste.
Enter another 50 lbs or so of apples, when we still hadn't quite finished processing the rest of the first batch.  By that point, we were feeling a little bit overwhelmed by apples.
The best ones got picked out for eating fresh and we noshed on apples for days as we contemplated all the hard work involved in preserving them through various means.
This time was not wasted.  I'd also gotten to pick as many tomatoes as I could from a friend's garden, and those would go bad first.  So I spent several days over pots of tomatoes and the canner, ending up with 19 pints of diced tomatoes and 13 pints of tomato sauce.

Just some of the tomatoes I picked, in all their glorious variety.

Reducing for tomato sauce.  By the time it was ready to can it was
down to only one pot.

Finished tomato sauce, sitting next to the jars of brandied cherries 
in red wine, which I made at the same time to take advantage
of the already-hot canning pot.

I chose diced tomatoes and tomato sauce because those are the two types of canned tomatoes used most in our house.  We do use tomato paste, but unless you've got the right variety, a fair amount of time on your hands, and an overabundance of tomatoes, I don't find homemade tomato paste to be worth the effort.  I did, however, cook down the tomato sauce enough that we shouldn't need to add much, if any, store-bought tomato paste when we use it.
Finally, we had to tackle the apples.  We started with my mom teaching me how to make applesauce.  I've made it a few times before but it always came out burnt and just...not so good.  I ate it, but mostly because I didn't want to waste the food, so it usually got baked into something (like muffins) to mask the burnt taste.
My mother, on the other hand, is a master applesauce maker and I wanted to learn her secrets.  Turns out, it's really not that hard.  Chop the apples (and peel them, if desired, but save the peels for another use!) and put them in a big pot with just enough water to keep them from burning.  Adding the water, a little bit at a time as needed, as the apples cooked down, was the true secret, I found out.  Before I'd just added some water at the beginning and thought the juice from the apples would be enough after that.  Nope.  We added water, 1/4 cup at a time, until the apples were all cooked down and the applesauce was the proper texture, thick and with small bits of apple chunk still in it.  If you want it more like purchased applesauce, put it through a food mill or into a food processor or blender, and add more water.
Other than that, we're applesauce purists.  No added sugar, and just a bit of cinnamon.  We came away with 8 quarts of applesauce, some of which was put in the fridge for eating and six quarts successfully canned.  Three of those will be going to our friends with the new baby.

Cooking down the apples.

7 quarts of applesauce.  One can didn't seal, so it's in the freezer.

I said in my previous post about the apples that I made scrap apple jelly, and scrap apple vinegar.  Some of the jelly was indeed used for waffles (yum!) one morning, and the vinegar is fermenting away.  It will take a couple more weeks before it's truly ready, though I've taken out the apple bits and am letting the "mother" grow.  It's quite fun to experiment with fermentation, and I can see how so many people have begun making their own saurkrauts and such.  So I made more.  Lots more.  I have quarts of this stuff fermenting away in the bottom of a pantry.

I put a smaller canning ring in the jar to hold down the apple
scraps, beneath the water level.  Otherwise the apple parts 
sticking out just go moldy.

HusbandX racked over his own fermenting project, the hard cider.  By that I mean, he filtered it somewhat, and took a small taste at the same time.  It's delicious!  It needs a bit more time, and bottling, but those will happen soon and we know now that the finished product will be well worth the time and effort we put into it.
The bulk of the apples this time, however, went to make sweet cider.  The press came into action again and once it was all done, the juice was boiled for ten minutes to kill any microbes and prevent wild fermentation.  Some was stored in the fridge for drinking immediately (that one's gone) and the rest was stored in the chest freezer, in a washed-out milk jug.  All in all, we got about a gallon and a half, and we still have one bag of apples left to press for cider.  (Soon.)
Now that most of the work is done, we're feeling less overwhelmed and more grateful once again.  We're enjoying the fruits (ha!) of our labors, and with the variety we've created there are lots of different ways in which to do so.

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