Tag Archives | apples

Practical Preserving: Strawberry Applesauce

strawberries and apples

When I first started canning, each project was its own nice, neat, contained experience. I would shop for produce, make a recipe, process it in appropriate jars, photograph it, and share it here. However, over the course of the last five years, my approach has shifted a little bit.

While I do still occasionally pick out a recipe, buy the ingredients, and work my way through the steps, the bulk of my putting up these days is more utilitarian. I spend a lot of time looking at the contents of my refrigerator or fruit bowl and wondering, “What’s starting to decline*? Is there something I can breathe additional life into by applying heat, sugar, or vinegar?”

strawberry applesauce in jar

This strawberry applesauce is the result of one of those calculations. My friends at Beechwood Orchards** recently gave me bunch of apples that they’d had in storage since last fall and there were about three pounds worth in the crate that had no more than 48 hours of life left in their current state. I also had a pound of strawberries leftover from another project (more about that next week) that had been in the fridge for ages and needed to be used.

Though apples and strawberries rarely get paired together (I imagine mostly because they rarely share a season), my thought process went something like this. Apples and rhubarb have similar flavor profiles. Strawberries go beautifully with rhubarb. There’s really no reason why they shouldn’t also go well with apples.

taste of strawberry apple sauce

So I went with it. I peeled, cored, and chopped the apples. I hulled the berries and cut away any truly bad spots. And then I threw them in a pot with about 1/2 cup of water and let them cook down over very low heat for nearly two hours (mostly because I forgot about them). When I finally remembered to check the pot, the fruit had softened and all it took was a little work with a potato masher to turn it into a chunky puree.

The resulting sauce is pleasingly pink, plenty sweet without so much as a hint of sugar or honey, and just a bit tart. I’ve been eating it with a scoop of plain yogurt and some toasted walnuts for breakfast. I didn’t can it, but both apples and strawberries are high enough in acid to make them safe for canning, so one could.

How are you saving your produce from the compost pile these days?

*You will often hear that you should only use perfect produce that is in its prime for canning and preserving, but sometimes, the techniques of jamming, saucing, roasting, or pickling can also take aging produce and give it a new lease on life. That said, do steer clear of anything that is has started to turn or is truly rotten.

**The plan was that I’d make the rosemary apple jam from the new book to sample at the Headhouse Square Farmers Market a couple weeks back, but I didn’t manage to do it. Once again, my intentions were grander than my capacity to execute.

Comments { 17 }

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?

Continue Reading →

Comments { 94 }