Spiced Apple Pie Filling

pie filling line up

For a time when I was young, we lived in a house with a cluster of antique apple trees at the very back of our property. Thanks to this easy abundance, apples were one of the very first things I learned to preserve. In those days, my job was to help gather the windfall apples that seemed mostly whole until they filled a paper grocery bag. My mom did the rest, but I always stood by and watched.

apples for pie filling

Later on, I’d help peel and core the apples (I absorbed a lot while watching). Both my sister and I would offer opinions about how much spice to add to the pot on the stove and when the sauce was all done, we’d sit down with cereal bowls full of warm, spicy applesauce. When the rest of the batch was entirely cool, I’d hold open plastic zip top bags while my mom spooned in the sauce for the freezer.

sliced apples for pie filling

Later on, we added apple butter to our fall repertory, but never felt the need to venture beyond those two basics with our apples. Pie filling was most decidedly not on the agenda, mostly because pies happened just twice a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) and so there was no need to be prepared for a spontaneous pie.

blanching apples

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve added pie filling to my personal canning routine and I’ve found it’s a nice preserve to have on the shelf. This time of year, a batch of apple pie filling is an easy way to put up several pounds of apples and it has a surprising number of uses beyond a basic pie.

sugar, spices, and clear jel

It tastes good stirred into oatmeal. If you have one of these old stovetop pie makers, you can make yourself a toasted hand pie with two slices of bread and a little smear of butter (it’s an especially fun project with kids). And, if you live in a household with an avowed fruit pie hater, you can make yourself a teeny tiny free form crostata with leftover quiche crust and a pint of filling. Not that I’d know anything about that.

apples becoming pie filling

When making pie filling, there are just a few things to remember. The first is that you need to use Clear Jel, not cornstarch (and if you can’t find Clear Jel, it’s best to can your filling without thickener and add a little cornstarch slurry just before using it). The second is that no matter the size of jar you use, you need to leave a generous inch of headspace. Pie filling expands during processing and really loves to ooze out of the jars when they’re cooling. Proper headspace can help prevent that.

pie filling close up

Third thing is that when you put the rings on your jars of pie filling, you tighten them just a little bit more firmly than you do for most other preserves. Often, you’ll hear me raving about how you don’t want to overtighten those rings but in this case, a little extra twist helps keep your product in the jars.

Finally, make sure to follow the instructions in the recipe and leave the jars in the canner for a full ten minutes after the processing time is up. Turn the heat off, slide the pot to a cooler burner, remove the lid and let the jars sit. This slower cooling processing will help prevent that dreaded loss of product. Really, the hardest part about making pie filling is keeping it in the jars once they’ve been processed.

pie filling air bubbles

Oh, and one more thing. Notice those air bubbles in the jars? Pie filling is thick and really likes to trap air pockets. Bubble your jars as well as you can, but don’t kill yourself over it.

For those of you who make pie filling, do you have any unconventional uses?

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Upcoming Events: Hazon Food Festival, the Lehigh Valley Harvest Festival, and More!

All set up to record an online canning demo!

Hi friends. I have a handful of events coming up in the next couple weeks that I wanted to make sure you knew about!

I hope to see some of you there!

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Links: Apple Pie, Fermented Carrots, and Winners

Very late breakfast of pumpkin butter oats and tea.

To me, one of the markers of a good week is that I have enough time to cook through at least half my CSA share. This last week, I managed to cook five dinners and even got Scott to take leftovers for lunch twice. Truly, it’s the little things that thrill me. Other than that, things were wonderfully uneventful. Now, links!

Adjustable Microplane Slicer microplane slicer winner

We have winners! First up is the winner in the Microplane Adjustable Slicer giveaway. It’s commenter #948, Rachel Groat. She said, “I have a simple mandoline slicer, and I use it for tons of stuff, especially onions slicing. My two favorite recipes have been making curried carrot chips, and a lovely little appetizer with caramelized brown sugar onions and goat cheese on puff pastry rounds! I would love to upgrade my cheapy slicer one day, and this one looks awesome! Love your site bunches :).”

The Little Book of Home Preserving Little Book winner

It was a two giveaway week, which means we also have a winner in The Little Book of Home Preserving giveaway. It’s commenter #85, Debbie Bruster. She said that she was planning on canning applesauce and apple butter this weekend. Delicious choices!

Many thanks to Microplane and Rebecca Gagnon for providing their tools and books for giveaway, as well as to all of you who took the time to enter!

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The Little Book of Home Preserving

The Little Book of Home Preserving

On first glance, The Little Book of Home Preserving might not catch your eye. It’s a tiny book (truly, no bigger than the size of my hand) and could easily get lost in a larger display. However, missing this book would be a huge mistake. Written and photographed by Rebecca Gagnon (author of the blog CakeWalk), it is bursting with interesting, creative recipes.

intro to The Little Book

For a little book, this volume packs a serious punch. It opens with the basics of preserving, including safety tips, the equipment you’ll need to get started canning, and even instructions on how to strain whey from yogurt in order to follow the lacto-fermentation recipes in the book. Rebecca also touches on the inherent art of making preserves, which is a section I particularly like and relate to.

Persimmon-Vanilla Jam

Once you get into the meat of the book, you see that it’s organized by season. I’m hoping against hope that my CSA will still have a few ground cherries left next week so that I can make a batch of the Citrus Chai Ground Cherry Preserves. I’ve also got my sights set on the Grapefruit Jam with Vanilla and Poppy Seed (the picture of that one in preserve is so gorgeous).

The Little Book spine

Rebecca sent me an extra copy of her book to share with one of my readers, so we’re having a super special weekend long giveaway. One lucky person will win a copy. However, no matter whether you win or not, I highly suggest picking up a copy. It’s size makes it perfect for slipping into Christmas stockings and at $6.57 on Amazon, it won’t break the bank.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post and share what you’re preserving this weekend.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Sunday, October 13, 2013. Winners will be chosen at random (using random.org) and will be posted on Monday, October 14, 2013.
  3. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog, I cannot accept submissions via email.
Disclosure: Rebecca sent me two copies of her book, one to keep and one to give away, at no cost to me. However, my opinions are entirely my own. 

Good Things to Can in Autumn

apples at Three Springs

Over the last couple of days, the weather in Philly has shifted from unseasonably warm to wonderfully crisp and just a little bit rainy (which as a former Portlander, delights me). It’s got me thinking about all the lovely jams and preserves there are to make this time of year and so I thought I’d dig down into the archives and pull together a few of my autumn favorites.

weighing

Piles of green tomatoes are often a challenge this time of year. Make yourself a big batch of green tomato chutney, or pickle them on up.

pears

Pears are the best thing ever right now and there’s just so much you can do with them. Seckel pear jam with brown sugar and cardamom. Pear vanilla jam. Pear cinnamon jam. Red pear lavender jam. Pear cranberry jam. On the pickled side of things, make sure to try these pickled asian pears (it’s a recipe from one of Karen Solmon’s Asian Pickles e-books).

DSC_0001

And we can’t forget apples! Applesauce! Spiced apple butter! For something a little tangy, a batch of apple cranberry jam. For something a little spicy, try apple ginger jam or my beloved honey lemon apple jam. There’s also mulled cider jelly (which is great for holiday giving) and quince jelly (okay, not an apple, but still lovely).

cubed pumpkin

Finally, on the pressure canning side of things, there’s always pumpkin cubes. It’s a great way to preserve winter squash if you don’t have appropriate cold storage for them or if you want to have some homemade, shelf stable, ready to use pumpkin.

What are you making these days?

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Peanut Butter Banana Granola

speckled bananas (1)

We all have our ways of dealing with overripe bananas. Some make quick breads. Others freeze them for smoothies. Still others make up giant batches of waffles for quick breakfasts. I used reside firmly in the banana bread camp, but as I work to reduce the amount of sugar and refined grains I eat, a tempting loaf of quick bread just doesn’t seem like the smartest choice.

peanuts and sunflower seeds (1)

Still, as I stood in the kitchen earlier today staring down a pair of very black bananas, I knew I needed to do something with them quickly or surrender them to the garbage. Banana bread was tempting, but a batch of granola just seemed more sensible. Peanut butter banana granola.

honey, mashed banana, and melted peanut butter

I melted 1/4 cup of peanut butter with 1/2 cup of honey. Once it reached a boil, I whisked in two mashed bananas and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and then poured it over 4 cups of oats, 1 cup of salted peanuts, and 1/2 cup sunflower seeds. I stirred until the oats were entirely coated with the hot honey, peanut butter, and banana slurry.

mixing granola (1)

Once the ingredients were all incorporated, I spread it out on a rimmed cookie sheet and popped it in the oven at 350 degrees F for about half an hour. Granola is a tricky beast and needs regular stirring, so don’t stray far. If you prefer, you can also cook it at a lower temperature for longer, but I had an errand to run and so needed it to be done quickly.

tray of granola

Once it was done baking, I scraped the granola into a mound in the center of the baking dish and pressed with the back of a spatula to help encourage crunchy clusters.

top of granola jar

I am quite happy with the way this granola turned out. While it’s neither aggressively banana-y or peanutty, it’s got good flavor and is satisfyingly crunchy. I didn’t add any dried fruit, but will probably add a little palmful of raisins when I eat it to up the sweetness a little.

If you make yourself a batch, take care to let the granola cool completely before funneling it into a storage jar (my batch filled a half gallon exactly). I think I rushed it a little and I’ve found a few softer clusters. It’s certainly not going to stop me from eating it, but I wish I’d been more patient.

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