Canning Apples

A few weeks ago, we got two bushels of Rome apples from the tree we rented from Earth First Farms. I’ve slowly been making my way through putting them up. About a third of our apples were pristine enough for fresh eating, so to maximize their long term storage we cleaned out the crisper bin in the refrigerator and filled it with apples. We think we’ll have fresh apples through at least January this way, and we’re excited to have fresh fruit on hand like this throughout most of the cold winter months. Apples with peanut butter and a bowl of oatmeal or square of coffee cake is a great wintertime breakfast!

The other two thirds needed to be preserved in some way. I’m about halfway there. The second weekend we had the apples, I canned the second third. I meant to do a step by step pictorial post, but canning with a new baby in the house presents a set of challenges similar to canning while nine months pregnant with a broken ankle – frequent breaks and interruptions. But no matter, the job got done in an afternoon, even though I had to hand peel all of the apples! I wanted to buy a crank apple peeler/corer/slicer but I waited to long, and for a good while there were sold out. By the time they were back in stock, I already had the apples and didn’t want to pay for rush shipping. It wasn’t too bad using the hand peeler, but I’m definitely getting the peeler/corer/slicer for next year, since it will make much quicker work of it, and be easier on my carpal tunnel wrist (thank you years of repetitive office work).

At any rate, I peeled the apples, sliced and cored them with once of the push-down apple slicers and dunked everything into a lemon water bath so they didn’t turn brown until all of the apples were done. Following the recipe in the Ball blue book (which is listed as “Apple for Baking”), I gently boiled them in water for about five minutes, then packed them into jars with the water and processed them in my water bath canner. Here’s the finished product –

I actually got nine jars, but one didn’t seal and is residing in the fridge. It’s been there about a week now, so I need to use it up or toss it out. Provided it still smells/looks okay today, I’ll be making a deep dish apple pie with it later this afternoon.

And tomorrow, I’ve got to tackle the last third of the apples, which are currently hanging out in a box in the kitchen. They seem to be holding their own, but I want to get them put up before they start to spoil.  I’m basically out of pantry space to accommodate more jars, so into the freezer they’ll have to go – I plan on cooking up some apple pie filling. And I’m going to use some of the peels to make apple peel jelly as well, so I’ve got to get an early start tomorrow in order to get it all done!

In the Works

Believe it or not, I’ve got projects going on! Our rental apple tree from Earth First Farms came in this past weekend, so I’ve got two bushels of Rome apples to attend to ASAP. If you’ve never seen two bushels of apples, think of two large moving boxes. Full. Of. Apples. Since we got everything off one tree we got a mixed bag, so lots of different apples for different uses. About a third of ours are pristine enough for long term storage for fresh eating. Being in an apartment without a root cellar for storage, I had to do something drastic and clear out our entire vegetable crisper bin in the refrigerator. They just fit! But now we have fresh apples for eating whenever we want, and these are tasty. As I always say, I’ll take food in the pantry over money in the bank any day.

As for the other two thirds… Saturday is the big preservation day here. I plan to do 14 quarts of apples canned in water so we have some plain fruit on hand that can be later used for savory dishes (apples ‘n’ onions, apples with roast pork, etc.) or turned into apple sauce, or even made into pie filling. If our filling supply runs out, because that’s what I’m doing with the rest of them – cooking them down into my apple pie filling for the freezer. Apple pies whenever we want them! Sounds like heaven to me.  It’s likely going to be a little more work than I had hoped – I waited to long to try to buy the apple peeler I wanted and it was on backorder for awhile. Now that it’s back in stock, I don’t have the time to wait for it to be shipped or the inclination or funds to pay for express shipping… so I’ll have to attack them with the hand peeler. But they don’t need to look pretty, so I think a quick hack job will be fine to get the work done. I did buy a new apple corer/slicer with ergonomic handles for five dollars, so that will make the bulk of that part go a lot quicker. It’s always the prep work that’s so time consuming. But now that I’m back on both feet and not pregnant, I think I can get through the entire endeavor without too much trouble. And it will be worth it!

In other news, we were able to clean up the garden the other week, as we intended. We took out the pepper plants and moved the thyme and oregano in those pots to move indoors once it starts to get really cold. I need to start keeping an eye on the forecast since we’re liable to get a frost any day now, and I don’t want the plants damaged. We left the chard in since it’s still growing a little bit and we want to wait until the last minute to take the last harvest from it. And we also left the tomatoes in since they had about half a dozen green ones hanging on, but I think this weekend I’ll just pick whatever (if anything) the squirrels have deigned to leave us and just do up some fried green tomatoes for lunch one day. With some black eyes peas and cornbread, it’ll be a tasty simple meal. And we left the cabbages in because husband thought they’re looking cool as they start to flower. May as well have a little plant decoration for a little while. And we buttoned down the hatches putting away all of the summer stuff, like the candles and pillows as well. It’s looking tidy and ready for winter. We do need to pull down the lanterns and get them under cover too. A mini project for husband this weekend? And the mum that we were given in the new blue pot is in full flower and looking spectacular. I just love mums in the fall. And I actually did remember to take pictures of the deck in it’s cleaned up state, but they got downloaded to husband’s computer so I’ll have to post them up a bit later when I can get them transferred to my laptop. Proof that things are happening over here!

Rent an Apple Tree!? Yes, Please!

I got a very interesting email today from Tasting Table CHI – it was about leasing an apple tree from Earth First Farms. What’s this you say? Well, Earth First Farms is selling shares of their apple trees – you can lease one tree for $50 for the season, and you get all of the apples that the tree produces. Their trees average 2-3 bushels, which is 80-120 pounds of apples! That’s a great amount for eating fresh as well as root cellaring, freezing or canning to tide you over through the winter. And $50 is a serious bargain!

You can either head out to Berrien Center, MI to pick your apples yourself (a great fall Saturday trip) or have them to deliver to one of several Chicago farmers market for an additional $10.00.  

Several varieties of apples are available for lease this season – Paula Red, Empire, Jonathan, Stark Crimson, Red Chief, Golden Delicious, Rome and Idared. If you’re worried that 2-3 bushels might be too many apples for you family’s own use, consider splitting a lease with a friend – this is exactly what we did. We purchased a lease on an Empire tree as soon as I got the Tasting Table CHI email.

I strongly encourage everyone to check out this program – we’ve purchased Earth First Farms apples and cider from the farmers markets for years now, and they grow and produce a quality product. They’re certified organic and family-operated. Lease programs like this are great for everyone involved – the farmer gets up front capital to manage the upcoming growing season, and you get dedicated produce. A lot of folks I know last season went to other farms for you-pick apples last year and the demand far exceeded the supply in most cases – by leasing a tree, you know that your apples will be there in the fall (nature cooperating). It’s a win-win situation. Earth First is set up to take paypal or credit/debit cards, so lease your tree while your favorite variety is still available!