Saturday, October 22, 2011
I started with Apple Butter because it is fairly easy to do and there's a nice selection of apples in the grocery stores right now. I chose to use some Fuji apples which I found in three pound bags for about $3. Since the original recipe I was working from called for about three pounds of apples it seemed tailor made for my first solo run at preserving.
This recipe works best in half-pint jars although if you want to use pints you can. I just don't think most people will use up a pint of Apple Butter after opening it before it goes bad though. But maybe you're an Apple Butter fiend and can clean out a jar in a sitting.
I have tweaked the original recipe (which is from Mary Mac's Tea Room in Atlanta) to up the flavor profile a bit. The original is pretty plain and straightforward but I wanted something that had a little more "oomph!" So, I adjusted the seasonings slightly and added two "secret" ingredients to this: a pinch of ginger and a bit of Calvados. Compared with the fairly simple butter we purchased at the orchard, the addition of these two little items gives a whole new life to this Autumn standby!
If you've never canned or preserved food before, don't be afraid. I'd not even thought of this in 20 years or more. I remember watching and helping my mother and grandmother when I was just a kid, but I've never tried it as an adult. After a little reading to refresh my memory most of it came back to me. Hot water preserving really is very simple. Basically you need sterilized jars which can be done either on the "sanitize" cycle of a dishwasher or by boiling the jars and lids for about 10 minutes. Then you just need to keep your jars warm until ready to use - the "plate warmer" or "dry" cycle of the dishwasher is perfect for that chore. Lastly you just need to fill your jars to the prescribed volume, slap on the lids and rings and process in the hot water bath for the required length of time. After processing they just need to cool for about 12-24 hours and then they're ready for the pantry for up to a year. Easy, peasy!
By the way, if you're not in the South or along the coasts, check your city's elevation. I almost forgot to do that because I've never lived anywhere above 1,000 feet. As it turns out Tucson is over 2,200 feet so I had to adjust my processing times up just a bit. For more information and recipes related to canning and preserving check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.
I'm considering selling some of my apple butter (and maybe a few other preserves). If you're interested leave a comment. A half-pint will run about $5.25+shipping.