Archive for September 27, 2015

An Apple (or Bushel) A Day

August and September brought an abundance of apples. Off of our two little trees planted only two years ago, we harvested 21 pounds of Miniature Red Delicious and Wolf River varieties. I specially planted the Wolf River to honor my Great-Grandmother Mabel Crook who wrote in a family heritage narrative to describe the many types of apples growing in their apple orchard in Green Lake Wisconsin, “There were Snow, Talman Sweet, Jonathan, Wolf River, Greening and Macintosh.”




In addition to the apples we picked from our yard, a friend gave us all the windfall apples they could pick too. Needless to say, we had enough apples for lots of WWII style creative storage!


First up, washing everything. I used a sink full of water mixed with a cup or two of distilled vinegar to rinse the apples.


I started out with canned Apple Pie Filling.  It’s best to start by making the syrup. While it cooks you can core and peel the apples…lots and lots of apples.



When I had the jars stuffed full of the apples, I poured the syrup into the jars and then processed.



This recipe will need cornstarch added when I open the cans and use them. Cornstarch is not canning stable, according to the USDA.


Once I had finished a full kettle of Apple Pie Filling, I switched over to Applesauce. I added brown sugar to the apples and boiled them down. Next, I put them through my mill and added a little bit of leftover syrup.



Even after all of the canning, I still have leftover syrup. I’m saving it in my refrigerator to add to apple juice in small batches to make spiced apple cider.




Apple Pie Filling

  • 4 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch ground cloves (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 pounds apples, peeled and cored

In a large pan over medium heat, mix sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Add 5 cups water and mix well. Cook and stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.

Stir frequently, boiling until mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

Fill jars  halfway with sliced apples. Then pour liquid into jars to about one inch from the top of the jar. Ladle the syrup over the apples, then add more apple sure to leave at least 1/2 inch of room between the filling and the jar top to allow for a little expansion.

Slide a thin plastic, silicone or wooden knife around the sides of the jar to remove air bubbles, then put the lids and rings on the jars.

Add a few cups of cold water to your boiling water bath to equalize the water temperature to the temps of the filled jars and place jars in the boiling water, making sure there is enough water to cover the jars with at least a 1/2 inch of water.

Bring canning water to a rolling boil. Once the water is at boiling, let the jars sit for 25 minutes.



Put about six cups of cored and peeled apples into Dutch Oven. Add about a cup of water or apple juice. Add juice of one lemon. Add 1/2 cup of brown or white sugar and about 1 T of cinnamon (to taste). You can also add ground cloves, allspice, or ground nutmeg — whatever you like! Stir the pot well and then cover for about 25 minutes.

At this point, you may be done! Or, you may want to put your apples through a mill or blender…whatever you prefer. Decide if you’d like to eat it right away or in smaller batches throughout the next year by processing in a water bath.

You Say Tomato…I Say Sauce

Another week has gone by and the counter has filled up with more good things from the Victory Garden.  IMG_20150828_143714529

I planted two types of tomatoes in the spring — Better Boy and Cherry. Both types were planted from seed, something I haven’t tried before because it takes an incredible amount of patience to wait for tomatoes to come up while the ones in the store are about to turn red even before frost is over and all you have to do is plop them in the ground. But, the funny thing was the seeded tomatoes I planted were ready to pick the same week as the store-bought in other people’s gardens.

Now that the sun is baking the yard every day, I am picking about three Better Boys and a dozen Cherries every day.  Every. Day. That’s about 2 dozen large tomatoes by the end of one week and let’s just say roughly a million small ones in the same time.

So off I went to track down some good canning recipes. Salsa and Whole Tomatoes made the short list, but I settled on Spaghetti Sauce and Tomato Cocktail Juice.

For the Spaghetti Sauce, I used the Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce recipe from the Ball Canning website. Key is to use lemon juice or citric acid in the recipe to keep it from spoiling during storage. I also learned I didn’t cook it down long enough. I simmered my recipe for an hour, but I should have gone 2-3 hours. As it cooled in the jars, it separated and became watery; still good, but not nice and thick like the really good stuff.


For the Tomato Cocktail Juice, I used a trusted recipe from Oscar, a dear family friend of my Aunt Carol. He shared his very best recipes and tips with Carol before passing away a few years ago.

Here’s Oscar’s recipe:

1 Kettle Cut-Up Tomatoes

2 Stalks Celery

1 Bay Leaf

2 Onions

1/2 Green Pepper

Parsley Flakes

2 T Salt

2 T Sugar

2 T Lemon Juice

Cook until tender, about one hour. Put through a strainer and reheat. Bring to a boil again for about 30 minutes. Put into jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 30 minutes. Keep water hot, but not at a rapid boil.

Carol adds carrots as well.

The best part about this recipe is that it used up both types of tomatoes. I boiled both down really well and then ran through my Omega juicer (one luxury of convenience I wish my grandmothers could have had!!).  The juicer removed the seeds and skins completely, leaving juice and a fair amount of pulp.

While I’m being honest about my shortcut here, I’ll also confess that I did not cook down the onion, green pepper, celery or carrots. I juiced them after I ran the cooked tomatoes through. I’ve never tried juicing an onion or green pepper before, but it turned out fantastic and cut a lot of time off my finished recipe. I had been at the tomatoes for three hours by the time I got to the Tomato Cocktail Juice. So, if you wonder how I could stray off my WWII rules…yeah, don’t ask!

The end result is amazing. I am picky about tomato sauce. The only brand I buy is Hunt’s. The Tomato Cocktail Juice comes so close to the taste of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce that I’ll likely use it instead of Hunt’s and enjoy the added value of the other vegetables.

Drink Their Tomatoes