Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Apple Update!

Okay, a quick apple update is needed here…right after I produced my apple cranberry jam, I noticed a post on Tigress in a Jam’s website ( for Ancho Apple Butter…my taste buds snapped to attention! After my summer success (obsession) with the Chile Blackberry Syrup from 101Cookbooks, the thought of fall fruit jazzed up with the heat of an ancho chile - one of my personal chile faves - well, nothing would do but to whip up a batch! It’s a quick easy recipe, so a good one for a little evening project…I produced 6 - ½ pint jars in a couple hours!
Ancho Apple Butter - from Tigress in a Jam
5 LBS apples - stemmed & 
quartered, skin & seeds intact
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 & 2/3 to 2 cups raw cane sugar
9 allspice berries
1 to 2 teaspoons ground ancho chiles
1/2 pint or pint mason jars
food mill

yield: approximately 4 - ½ pint jars (like I say - I got 6…so have some extra jars and lids ready just in case)

1. Place apple quarters and 2 cups cold water in a non-reactive stock pot and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until apples are soft - about 20 minutes. (I used this timing and it was just right)
2. As apples are cooking prepare canning pot and jars for processing. Jars should be warmed but no need to sterilize.

3. When apples are soft all the way through take off the heat and pass them through a food mill. Discard the skins & seeds and return the apple flesh to pot. Add sugar, ground ancho, wine vinegar, and whole allspice. Place the allspice in a cloth tea bag, metal tea ball, or cheesecloth so that it is easy to fish out later.

4. Cook on medium, stirring regularly until butter thick - about 30 minutes (I found that mine was ready in about 25 minutes). As it thickens you will have to stir more often to prevent sticking. You'll know it's done when you can place a dollop on a plate and the sides don't leak.

5. Fill jars to 1/4 inch head space, tap the jars gently on the towel covered counter to get rid of air bubbles. Run a plastic chopstick around the inside rim if air bubbles are persistent.

6. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I think this will be off the hook served with corn bread, but in the mean time I have found that toast, finger, spoon, cracker…work just fine!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apples = Fall...

As all the lovely summer fruit starts to fade from the farmer’s market, a cook's fancy turns to apples…could be the beginning of some odd cooking novel…but the truth is that apples do make it feel like fall. Could the connection be from back in the dark ages of grammar school, when it wasn’t yet fashionable to ‘eat local’, and fruit wasn’t shipped around the world so the concept of what was in season was a fact Jack,
from September to – it seemed like forever – the fruit serving in my home packed lunch was…an apple! A-h-h fall…And now there are so many wonderful varieties showing their pink, yellow, green, red, and variegated faces from the over flowing bins. All those flavors and textures, sweet, tart, crisp, soft. Old favorites like Jonathans or Pippins and some newer favorites like Honeycrisp or Pink Lady beckon us to overfill our shopping baskets. Well, last week I got into the swing of it and decided to first, make some apple sauce and then for fun, some apple cranberry jam…I purchased about 12 lbs of Honeycrisp apples (my current fave ) and lugged them home. The first order of business was apple sauce. As I began peeling the apples I truly yearned for one of those little gadgets that peels and cores apples! It’s been a while since I have prepared that many apples and I actually got a cramp in my forearm! But a little cramp has never slowed me down…The apple sauce I like is a pretty straight forward affair, apples, water, sugar, cinnamon and a touch of nutmeg for good measure…
Apple Sauce

9LBS. Apples

2 ¼ C Sugar

1 ¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 ¼ tsp Ground Nutmeg

Wash, core, peel apples and cut into quarters. Cook approximately 10 minutes in a covered saucepot with just enough water to prevent sticking. Put apples through a food mill or food processor. Return apples to the saucepot and add sugar and spices. Bring applesauce to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking. Maintain at a boil while filleing jars. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, put on two part lids and place jars in water bath canner. When water is boiling process both pints and quarts for 20 minutes.

Next came the apple cranberry jam, although after making it I think it should more aptly be called cranberry apple jam – next time – more apples, but it is REALLY yummy none the less. Sort of like a really flavorful cranberry sauce in jam form. I have figured out some way to enjoy it almost every day since it’s creation…
Apple Cranberry Jam – adapted from Ball Bluebook Guide to Preserving

2LBS Cranberries

3LBS Apples cored, peeled and chopped

1 Orange seeded and chopped

3 C Sugar

2 C Water

½ C Honey

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil gently almost to gelling point - about 35 minutes. remove from heat, skim off foam if necessary and ladle hot preserves into hot jars. Leave ¼ inch headspace, remove air bullbles and put on two part lids. Place in water bath canner. When water is boiling process ½ pint jars for 15 minutes.

Everything was beautiful and yummy, and the house smelled of apples and spice. It really is fall now! My next task is to try some Ancho Apple Butter that I saw a recipe for on the Tigress in a Jam blog! That just sounds to good to pass up and after my success with the Chile Blackberry Syrup last summer the spicy/fruit thing is very appealing…I’ll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

These Gals are the Bomb!

Just a quick bee update...we did the final honey harvest for the year, removed two boxes from the top of the hive and then closed up the hive for the winter.  The girls have 45 lbs. of honey to keep them well feed until about March when they will again be able to find flowers on which to dine...But to our good fortune the girls made 20 additional lbs. of honey for us!  They are truely awsome! Especially when you consider that the bees have to hit two million flowers and travel about 55,000 miles to make 1 lb. of honey!  Thank you girls...see you in the spring!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


It’s that time of year again…and what time is that you ask…tomato canning time! Back several years ago a girlfriend and I thought we would can some tomatoes, I think it was 20 lbs. …straight up, canned tomatoes…we thought we were canning mavens! Needless to say, what with soups, stews, marina sauce, etc. we each blasted through our share of those tomatoes in no time. The following year we upped the ante…40 lbs. what were we thinking?! You have no idea just how many tomatoes you go through in the tomato ‘off months’…so last year being the wise women that we are, we decided that what we really needed to do was to can both marinara sauce AND straight tomatoes. So 60 lbs. it was…and we reasoned that if we had already prepared and canned marinara sauce we wouldn’t be using up our plain tomatoes to make, ya know, marinara sauce…60 lbs. seemed like an amount that would get us each through until tomatoes were bountiful once again…what children we were! Now, here is where I feel a need to put in a word of warning to any of you who think canning tomatoes sounds like a good idea…once you start using freshly canned tomatoes to cook with, there is no going back. I don’t care what kind of store bought pomodoro you choose to purchase it just won’t measure up. By the end of last spring recipes were being carefully reviewed as to their ‘tomato worthiness’ and some just didn’t pass mustard, but we squeaked by and with proper rationing we almost made it. Enter - TOMATO-RAMA 2010! Two women, two days, 120lbs of tomatoes! Have we lost our *%!#*’! minds! Some, may say with conviction, Yes! But those who reap the culinary benefits seem to now cheer us on. And besides, by this point we have become a well oiled, tomato canning machine! Day one was devoted to marina sauce, a lovely mix of tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and herbs, cooked down to a thick rich sauce…
Marinara Sauce
Recipe for 1 quart jar


4 - LBS tomatoes, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
4 - Cloves garlic – peeled, then crushed, pressed, chopped or sliced
3 - TBS Olive Oil
2 - 6” sprigs fresh Rosemary or handful of chopped Basil
1. Put lids in small pot to heat
2. Put jars in canning pot
3. Drop tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds, then into ice water
4. Peel and core tomatoes, cut into quarters
5. In a pot large enough to hold all the tomatoes, heat olive oil and sauté garlic until just beginning to turn golden brown
6. Add herbs of choice
7. Add tomatoes
8. Puree using hand blender (standing blender or potato masher will also work)
9. Cook down for 30 minutes
10. Remove glass jars from pot
11. Fill jars with hot tomato sauce, leaving ½” head space
12. Remove air bubbles
13. Wipe edge of can with clean damp towel
14. With tongs put 1 lid on jar and finger tighten ring on jar
15. Put jars into canning pot
16. When water is boiling again, process quart jars for 45 minutes (35 minutes for pint jars)
17. Remove from pot, cool

Day two (which actually occurred about a week later) was devoted to straight up canned tomatoes…the house smelled wonderful and the rewards…! All told we each have 15 quart jars of marinara sauce and 13 jars of tomatoes. Now that’s what I call a tomato larder and with any luck at all, should keep us…I’ll let you know next spring!