Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apples...Mountains of Apples...

We haven't had dinner at the dining room table (or school for that matter) since last Friday.  See, last Saturday I went to the orchard and picked up 125 pounds of apples...a little extreme you may say, but a $15/bushel for seconds, I couldn't pass it up (and 25 pounds or so are for a friend so really 100 pounds of apples for 4 people isn't really all that ridiculous is it?)  This year the going rate for apples is $35-$40 per bushel...the lower end is pick your own...yikes!  I was hoping to make apple products for a year out of this much and now it seems like it may not be enough.

So on Sunday I began canning applesauce much like I did last year.  This year I got 18 quarts/bushel.  I also decided to make apple pie filling since my husband enjoys a flat topped apple pie (when you cook with raw apples it mounds the top crust and then the apples cook down and you are left with a large air pocket...when the apples are pre-cooked, this doesn't happen and the husband is happier.)
So since I posted last year on apple sauce and how I do that, this year I will attempt to show apple pie filling in all it's glory.

I have been looking at several recipes on line as well as in various books and have kind of agglomerated these into my own version using spices we like (love cinnamon!) and leaving out/ reducing quantities of what we don't (we don't use much ginger or nutmeg as the smell of the spices give me a bit of a headache.) Spices don't effect the canning time, but everything else does so I went with the longest processing time.  Since apples are high acid and I'm also canning using sugar (organic raw evaporated cane juice to be more specific...not grocery store white sugar, which would work equally as well, but I like the slight molasses flavor that this gives...sucant works as well if you  have that.)  So here it goes.

Homemade Apple Pie Filling
Makes about 6 quarts 
12 pounds of  apples (1/4th of a bushel)
Peeled, cored, and then sliced
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, allspice

Mix the water, sugar, lemon juice, and spices in a large pot.  Put the apples in and coat with the sugar mixture (if you want to be especially tricky, put the apples in the pot and then pour the mixture from another container.)  Heat over medium and carefully (as not to break up the apple slices) stir the mixture.  Once the mixture starts to get hot, cook for about 10 minutes until the apples are firm, but starting to cook.
In the meantime sterilize your quart jars and prepare the lids.  Ladle the apples into the quart jars, pour the syrup over the apples adjust the head space to 1/2 inch, adjust the lids and process in a water bath for 25 minutes.  

Now that you have the jars of apple filling what do you do with them?

  • Well first you can make pie...just like you would otherwise with raw apples, but the cooking time will be slightly reduced.
  • You can make apple crisp...just pour the contents of a jar into the baking dish, add your favorite topping and bake.
  • Warm up and enjoy over ice cream (or just eat as is warmed up...maybe sprinkled with a little granola for a quick pseudo crisp)
  • Make mini pies in muffin pans for those school lunch treats (or for breakfast...much healthier than poptarts.)
  • But first, before anything, admire them on your shelf and know how wonderful it is to have all your apples preserved in one way or another for the coming year.

And for cost analysis...much like the applesauce, it is much cheaper to make your own pie...
At the local grocery store a (conventional) pie goes for about $8.99.  
One quart of apples costs $0.62 ($15/bushel divided by .25 divided by 6)
Sugar 3/4 lb is approximately 1.5 cups at 1.25/lb it is $0.94/6 is $0.16
Lemon juice and spices call it $1.00 for the batch $0.17  
So in total it is less than a dollar per jar ($0.95)
To make a pie crust  it is about $0.50
So for about $1.50 I can make a pie.
That is if I want to...
I may just eat some of it straight up.

(Using "natural" apples, and all else organic.
Also, by buying from the farmer, I help keep the money local.)

I'll be submitting this to Punk Domestics...cause it's fun.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


The past two nights I have gone to do the last check on my 8 year old  (which I am slightly ritualistic about and have been doing now for...well...8 years) I have been met with a beautiful sight.  She, squeezed tightly but surprisingly joyously into her twin bed with her 4 year old sister.  They share a room (even though they each have their own) and they share a bed (even though there are two beds in that shared room).  I guess years of co-sleeping wear off hard.  They both love the company of each other in that tiny bed.  But wait, I digress.  Moving past just the lovliness a mom experiences watching her children just sleep after a long and crazy day, my 8 year old has, is it?, yes, tucked under her drooly face, .........a book!  It has happened.  That moment when reading becomes a joy, a passion, an addictive behaviour.  When she walks around with her thumb tucked into the spine and retreats upstairs for some quiet time to finish those last couple chapters in her hammock.  I am so quietly happy for her and her new found love.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The wrong tomato...

Every Spring, Doug Oster hands out seeds like candy.  And these are not just any seeds, but they are tomato seeds he is helping to resurrect from heirloom obscurity it is the Limbaugh Legacy.  It's how he goes about it that is strange...he hands them out for free with one little must send back the seeds from your first tomato from the plant that the seeds grow...then you should save the seeds from you second tomato for yourself and hand out any seeds from other tomatoes...or just eat the tomatoes and enjoy.  While this is a noble cause, there is one problem...people unfamiliar with tomato growing may not know how to read the description and know what type of tomato it is...
The description is a large bright red tomato that is late developing that grows on a potato leaved plant.  The tomatoes that grew from my seeds were large...and they were late developing...and the plant was definitely potato leaved...but they were not I got another Black Krim/Purple Cherokee (and if anyone can tell me a definitive way to tell them apart I would be grateful.)
So since I know the difference, I will not be sending my seeds back in, but will instead be saving my seeds for next year and in the meantime, I'll turned my first (and only since the chickens got the rest...) into...
My favorite sandwich (well that's a tie with a #17 from Zuchinnos... or maybe the Thanksgiving Sandwich...How I love the sandwich.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

...and I'll laugh

I get my morning coffee and cut open a biscuit that I made yesterday.  Upon it I have put the dredges of strawberry jam put up in June, a bit of rose hip jelly put up over a year ago yet it is still as sweet and full of citrus flavors as it was the day it was canned, and some locally made butter, sweet and deep yellow as only butter that had a grass loving cow behind it can be.  But then something distracts, phone calls, quarrelsome children, or the realization that it is almost time to go hither and yonder for one program or another. I'll remember how many little old ladies stop to tell me to savor the times when they're little for it goes too quickly. 
And so is life.  

Enjoy the simple pleasures while you can; savor them for their time is fleeting.  I try to enjoy the most mundane of tasks...feeding the chickens, baking fresh bread, making applesauce...for their time is fleeting too...the chickens will peck and go play in the rain, the bread will be consumed, the applesauce will be canned for a dinner in January where picking apples with friends will  be remembered and laughed about.  C. will tell of how she picked so many apples that she broke her backpack...W. will tell of how he ate so many that his baby teeth wiggled...and laughter will be savored as well as dinner and I will try...I'll try to remember these fleeting days that hurriedly I tried to pack a whole fall into jars, freezer bags, and cupboards...I'll try to remember W's jack-o-lantern smile and the quivering stuck out lip of C.'s dismal realization that her backpack burst at the seams with apples... 
...And I'll laugh.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Early in the morning...

The phone is's 6:26 am.  I look and see a number I don't know...and then I remember, it's the post office.  Yesterday I told them any time after 5:30 am was an okay time to call me.  I rouse myself out of bed, one that's been taken over in the past 10 minutes by eight kicking and hitting restless arms and legs and simultaneously vacated by a larger set of arms and legs.   It's time to rise and shine everyone must get dressed quickly we have to go on a little journey to the post office before the postmistress gets a headache.  
We all get into the car somewhat dressed and clean, ready to start the day.  C. has decided on a pair of pink polar fleece pants with a short sleeved red dress over the top.  I let it slide...she looks cute and it fits her quirky little personality.  W. asks if Jack Frost has come to visit yet.  He has not, but he will be here before long.  We drive with a few yawns and whines of "Please turn up the heat..." and "I'm so hungry I could eat a bear without salt." (A quote from Little House that W. has grown to love.)  I reassure that our package is very hungry too and we can all eat breakfast together.  We watch as the school bus we have been following turns down a friend's road...W. comments that his pal must be going to school.  
Finally, we arrive at the post office.  The lobby doors are open 24 hours so people can get to their P.O. boxes and there is a wooden door that the postmistress told us to bang on loudly.  We do.  She comes with peeping box in hand and chats about what is in the package and asked the kids if they are responsible.  W. decides to hold the box as we leave.  He tries to move a corner of the box aside to peek in, but cannot.  
We arrive at home and unload.  Now the sun is up and it is becoming warmer.  We fill up a mason jar with warm water and a touch of sugar.  I pick each body out of the box, dip its beak in and put it upon straw under a heat bulb and is fall, and the time of year we get our chicks. 

 I know it's an odd time, most think Easter and spring chickens, but we prefer the fall.  That way, they will start to lay in the early spring when we have been deprived of freshly laid eggs.  We order early since many hatcheries don't sell in the fall, and then share in the surprise as we receive that phone call..."We put them in the mail this should be getting them tomorrow..."
5 Red Stars and 5 Easter Eggers arrived today in the mail...small but strong.  Two of the Easter Eggers are especially beautiful, one is chocolate brown and the other is silver grey.  
W. enjoys the Red Stars...the quintessential yellow ball of fluff.
 Our older birds are not laying as well as they used to.  They will become the old ladies living at our chicken retirement home and we will slowly introduce the new girls to them.  More on that subject when we get there.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In awe of sisterhood...

Friday I spent my knitting class watching a set of sisters.  I can't get the images out of my head and I have been reflecting upon them all this week.  These sisters with similar strained expressions upon their faces while trying to eek in a needle when they pulled a stitch too tight...making crazy comments about who had a more difficult time with their hair...
"We have the same type of hair, I'll show you what to do with it."  The older sister takes the younger sister to her door-less bathroom where she proceeds to dampen, blow dry, and brush the younger sister's hair.  Being adults now, this seems silly, but the older sister is determined and the younger sister allows it...similar to when they were young and the older sister would braid the younger sister's hair into crowns around her head.  The younger sister warned the older sister that it was not going to work, but the older sister insists and continues to make an attempt to tame the unpredictable hair of the younger sister.  After a while the older sister puts down the brush in defeat...the younger sister's hair is in a massive tangled mess, wild and standing on end to make a massive mess of stuff  somewhat resembling hair upon her head.  The younger sister within seconds pulls out a ponytail holder and whips the mess into her regular messy bun hairstyle.  The older sister then says, "maybe we don't have the same hair after all..."
The younger at the point of tears looks at the older sister for reassurance, but what she finds is even better...the older sister is making horrid faces at an attempt to purl for the first time.  The sisters' have faces of rubber able to flex into all sorts of bizarre and ridiculous expressions.  Realizing that her older sister is not perfect gives the little southpaw a new lease on knitting...she picks up her needles and hand dyed yarn, ready to take on the world...
The scene is a hotel room, on an annual family vacation to celebrate Granny's birthday.  The older sister rolls over on her bed and sees the younger sister on her bed, most likely reading.  The older sister watches for a minute and then says, "It's like you are becoming a real person."
The younger sister is taken aback for a moment and thinks...what was I before?  Then she decides to take it...validation is worth it especially from someone as cool as your older sister.  
Later that day I see the sisters, sitting next to each other talking like best of friends...which strikes me as odd since they are 5 years apart, and at their ages, it may as well be light years...They have hit a place in their relationship which my sister and I only hit after we both were mothers, finding common ground in our children and both conforming to and rebelling against, at the same time, to the way we were raised, the way most parents do, realizing why your parents did the things they did, and adding your own spin to things.
  I am in awe of both sets of they grow together making memories and finding special moments in life.
Here's to you sister.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Roasting sauce

I was making roasted tomato sauce a bit ago, and mentioned it here.
 I have gotten several requests for how to make roasted sauce so here it goes.
First get a lot of tomatoes.
A dear friend of mine offered to let me buy discounted tomatoes from her CSA (community supported agriculture) share, so I had a full bushel of beautiful paste tomatoes.
I washed those red orbs very well and then cored and cut them in half.
Then I removed all seeds that were readily available (not necessary but makes things go quicker.)
Yes, I left the skins on!  No standing over the hot stove with boiling water.
Then, the larger tomatoes were cut again into quarters and left the smaller ones in halves and placed them skin down in a glass baking dish.
I learned the hard way, make sure they are in the top 2/3 of the oven which is preheated to 350.
Put them in and let them cook for about 45 minutes to an hour.
At this point you have lots of juice and wilted mushy tomatoes.  Drain the liquid off (you can put this through a few layers of cheese cloth and preserve the little bits if you want) and put the remaining shriveled tomatoes into a pot.
Using a stick blender (you could run it through a food processor or blender before putting into the pot, but I am in love with my stick blender) puree the tomatoes and you have tomato sauce...mine was thicker using this method than if I skinned and left it to reduce for hours over the hot stove.  I just heated it up in the pot and let it boil for about 15 minutes so that it would reduce a touch and be hot for canning.
Continue to can/freeze as you normally would tomato sauce.
Salsa, Traditional Tomato Sauce, Roasted Tomato Sauce

(I did the lemon juice and pressure canner method found in the Ball Big Blue Book of Canning.)
One note about this method.  I did tomato sauce both ways (roasted and the traditional remove skins core and remove seeds puree and boil for hours upon hours) this year.  I found this.  After canning, the traditional method continued to be smooth and uniform looking after canning, but the roasted ones separated a little bit and had a chunkier look.  I think this may have been avoided if I had pureed the tomatoes a bit more, but I enjoy some tomato chunks in my reminds me what it really  is...TOMATO sauce.
While I had tomatoes on hand, I also made up a year's supply of salsa...the zesty salsa recipe from the same Ball book, but I put in about half of the hot peppers that the recipe called for...okay so some not so zesty salsa...but for our family it was perfect...
I'm thinking of adding some corn and black beans to it once opened for a special treat one cold and snowy day in the future.
Did you do tomatoes this year?  If so, how?
(Linked to Simple Lives Thursdays)