After getting some advice from the roommate and a little free shipping from an Amazon Prime trial, I was soon outfitted with everything the modern canner needs to create delicious preserved fruit products for her friends and loved ones that won't give them botulism. (I'll admit, the primary reason for this post is to share the re-surging art of home canning, but the not-so-subtle secondary goal is for those readers who will be receiving said wedding favor to know that they probably won't be fatal.) After some serious research, I decided my fruit of choice would be apples (being the only thing really in season significantly before the wedding date), and my chosen spread would be apple butter. This was something of a relief as apple butter is a fairly forgiving concoction. You don't need to worry about pectin or anything having to thicken or gel. In fact, if you have a slow cooker, all you really have to worry about is peeling and coring the apples, and the rest of the work is done for you.
I've done my first two batches now (and learned conclusively that 6 pounds of apples yields 18 4-oz jars of butter), so I'm ready to post about what I've learned. My first batch was something of a learning process, and I'm still a little amazed that after following all the directions, my jars actually did seal properly. In the second batch, all but one of the 18 jars sealed properly, but that's actually something of a good thing because it means I get to eat the failed jar (which I've discovered is excellent on cornbread). I also learned the amazing utility of an apple corer. How have I never owned one before?
At any rate, without further ado, here is how you make and can apple butter:
|The blurry ingredients. Rest assured, this is the only cell phone photo in the batch. For those who can't distinguish ingredients other than the apples, there is also: sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice.|
|The apples once cored, diced, and cut into 1-inch pieces.|
|I thought this would look more artsy and dream-like than it turned out looking.|
|Normally, I eschew attempts by my photographer to include candid photos, but I want to document that this is in fact homemade lovingly by us.|
|The home canner's tool kit.|
|Filled and ready to be lowered!|
I've discovered I really enjoy the process of canning. It makes me feel very self-reliant. Like some combination of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Laura Engalls Wilder, and maybe a little Ted Kaczynski. The book I got on canning for the modern kitchen has seasonal recipes, and I'm really looking forward to the farm share starting up next year, so I can try some out. After all, in the summer certain vegetables are in abundance, and I get pretty sick of them. And yet now, in the harsh reality of winter, I could really go for some tomatoes (or, I guess, preserving limitations being what they are: tomato sauce) or eggplant and wonder how I could have so taken them for granted during the times of plenty.
Don't worry, friends and loved ones, my canning energy is currently engaged in all of this apple butter making, so you don't have to worry about getting overenthusiastic offerings like jars of pickled turnips for Christmas this year. But know this: by next May, there may just a jar of upstate New York orchards' finest at your place.