It’s been a while since I’ve made any sort of preserved item, so I figured, gol dang it all, I’m going to can something this year! I wanted to try beets, but then I got paranoid about botulism risks in low acidic foods, and since I didn’t have a pressure canner I nixed that idea. (Alana has since quelled my fears by pointing out the fact that *pickled* beets should be just fine in a hot water bath, so I’ll try again next year).
Next on the docket was…apples! I had only apple butter in mind, but that quickly got out of hand when I visited the place where I purchased my apples….
On my way back home from a work trip in southern Alberta, I took advantage of my rented wheels and decided to pick up ~12-15 lbs of apples from a U-pick. I found a site on kijiji that was advertising apples for 50 cents a pound (um, can we say CHEAP?). I pulled into the driveway of the place (located south of Ellerslie road on the outskirts of Edmonton). No one was at the house, so I poked around the garage. Inside was Mario—a man in his 80’s with a thick Italian accent—and he was surrounded by boxes upon boxes of apples. I told him I needed around 12 pounds for apple butter and he gestured towards the apples and told me to have at ‘er. “But first,” he said, “come with me; I’m going to make some apple juice for a neighbor.”
We walked around to the side of the house, where he had a make-shift operation set up to press any sort of fruit for juice, cider, the makings of wine, you name it. He first needed to empty out the press, which was full of cherries destined for a wine bottle or two. Then he took one of the boxes of apples and tossed them into what I can only describe as an….apple chipper? I’m sure there are new, fancy, commercial varieties of these chippers but this thing was old school. I had to take a few steps back to avoid being pelted by unruly apple bits.
Mario scooped bucketfuls of apple pieces into the press (which he had made by hand) and turned the crank. Out flowed amber-colored deliciousness. He handed me a plastic cup and told me to try some. So I put it right underneath the spout and filled it up. I don’t think I’ve had fresh-pressed apple juice since my kindergarten class took a trip to an apple orchard in 1990. I still remember the orchard-worker telling us that it “took four strong daddies to work the press.” Mario grabbed a cleaned-out 2-liter Pepsi bottle and filled it with apple juice. “Here you go,” he said. “Make sure you keep it in a cold place otherwise it will ferment.”
Fresh pressed juice pour moi? Yes please!
He had to fill up the rest of the bottles for his neighbor, so I went back to the apples and decided I’d leave with more than I came for. I picked out roughly 25-30 lbs worth. Mario took one glance and suggested….
Me: “SEVEN DOLLARS???!!!”
Mario: “Oh, is that too much?”
I told him that was not nearly enough but he wouldn’t take a penny over $10. So there I was with 30 lbs of apples and 2 liters of fresh apple juice, all for $10. Awesome. Mario was such a great guy with amazing stories—I will definitely be back there next year for cherries and saskatoons.
On to the cooking...
I don’t even remember the recipes I used, but I ended up canning apple butter as planned, spiced apple rings, apple jelly, and regular apples.
Apple butter The butter was by far the easiest and cleanest canning experience of the whole lot. The recipe was easy to prepare (just wash and roughly chop the apples, cook them, put them through a chinois sieve or food mill, cook some more w/ sugar and other stuff) and it was super easy to can.
Spiced rings I began the apple rings by coring the apples with a knife. I got through two that way and then said eeeefff that. The next day I bought an apple corer and that was the best decision I made all week.
When cooking the apples, I realized I sliced them too thin for my taste. This experience was a bit messy when transferring the apples to the jars. Lots of sticky, sugary, apple syrup got…well, everywhere.
Regular apples I cooked these guys a little too long. They taste fine, but are softer than I’d like them to be. Again, lots of sticky syrup to clean up!
Jelly The jelly was a bit annoying to transfer to the jars because it started setting immediately after I removed it from heat; I think I cooked it too long. (Note to self: stop cooking your apples too long!) Also, next time I make apple jelly I’ll be sure to use tart apples. My jelly tastes good, but is quite sweet and I like tart jellies. I knew this going into it, but wanted to try it out anyway.
In all, though, it was a success! I had a few burns to contend with, lots of syrup to clean up on
everything, and some timing issues with cooking apples vs. sterilizing jars, but I ended up with lots of canned apples.