Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Apple Jelly

Since I have more apples available to me than I know what to do with, I decided that MAYBE I could make apple jelly!?  Didn't I see once on a table at some breakfast place little packets of apple jelly?  Hmmm.  Surely there's a recipe available on the internet somewhere for it.

Yep!  A quick search brought up 2 recipes!  Both blogs from other people that made it!  Sadly, mine didn't end up like either of those blog recipes.  Neither one of them used pectin in their recipe.  Totally understandable considering that back in the old days they used to MAKE pectin from apples.  However, when my juice had simmered down from 12 cups to 7 cups and it was still just juice and not thickening in the least, I decided to pull out my fruit pectin and use it to wrap this project up.  So, that's what I did.

The cool thing about apple jelly is that you don't need to peel or de-seed the fruit! AWESOME!  You just cut the apples into chunks with as many apples as you have on hand or until your pan is filled to the rim.  Pour in water to boil the apples up and let them boil til soft.  I think I let them boil for about an hour.  Although the recipes I looked at said 35-40 minutes.  It also said 10 cups of water and I only used 8, so I figured it would help in the long run with less water to boil off.  But apparently not, because as I mentioned above, it was not thickening and after 3 hours of simmering I finally gave in and added pectin.

Ok, so after you boil your apples, the next step is to take a piece of cheesecloth folded over and line a colander,  hang the colander over a larger bowl (hopefully the handles of the colander keep it up so that the liquid can drain into the bowl), pour in your apples and let the liquid drain.  Do NOT press down on the apples!  This will cause your juice to be cloudy!  K, so just let your juice drain for a while.  An hour?  Two hours? Whatever you feel like doing.  For some reason, both recipes said to put your bowls in the fridge overnight at this point.  After mine drained, I did put it in the fridge just because I had stuff to do and it was a good stopping point for me.  Also, I did 2 pots of boiled apples.  I then merged the two bowls of apple juice and stuck them in the fridge and gave the apples to the chickens.

The next day I measured out my juice.  I had 12 cups.  I'm glad I remeasured before adding sugar.  Because the recipes had said to add 3/4 cups of sugar for each cup of juice (standard for jelly).  But after 3 hours of simmering and no thickening I noticed that the juice had gone down a lot so remeasured.  7 cups now.  So that's what I went with and only added that amount of sugar.  3/4 cups of sugar to each cup of juice and 1 Tbsp of powdered pectin per cup.  Finally it thickened up. I tested it by pouring a bit on a small bowl and sticking it in the freezer for a minute and testing it.  When it was jelled coming back out of the freezer, I considered it done.

I put the jelly in sterilized jars and put on my lids and rings and processed them by bringing a pot of water to boil.  Then I added the jars and let boil for 10 minutes.  And there ya go.  :)

So, you'll need:

Lots of apples
Lots of time
Lots of patience
And the ability to wing it if things don't go according to plan.  :)

and pectin is questionable.

The two websites I looked at and was trying to go by are: and

Monday, August 20, 2012

Crockpot Apple Butter

Apples are on the top of the list for contamination of pesticides.  Therefore, organic is extremely important.  The best thing to do to find organic apples at a cost that is feasible, is to find someone that has their own apple trees. Now I don't mean an organic orchard.  I'm talking about a person, probably living out in the country, that just happens to have a couple, 3, 4, trees.  In my experience, those people are more than happy to see their apples go to good use and will GIVE them away if you'll just come pick them!  Some times they'll make a trade and give you the apples to use if you'll share some of your creation with them.

So, that's the first step.  Find a good source for organic apples.

Next, send monkey children to climb trees and pick apples!

You'll need about 8 pounds of apples.  There were actually around 13 pounds in this basket.

Peel, core, and chop to fill up your crock pot.

Sprinkle 1 cup of white sugar on top, put the lid on and cook on low for about 6 hours.

You CAN go ahead and add the other ingredients too if you want, but I like to wait and add them a little before the end.

After your apples have cooked til soft, use a potato masher and mash them up.

Then add the rest of the ingredients.

1 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Mix it all up and cook for another 4 or so hours.

Pour your end result into pre-sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath of boiling water for 10 minutes/pints, 15 minutes/quarts.

Makes approximately 4 pints.

This stuff is WAY better than anything you can get in the store!  It reminds me of the apple butter I used to eat as a kid that was made in big outdoor vats over an open fire.  So good on some toast!  I was thinking specifically of giving these as gifts so I didn't want to tinker too much with the recipe.  BUT, I want to try making some with honey and molasses in place of the sugar in the near future.


2 cups of chopped red and white onion
7 cups of chopped tomatoes
1 Tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup of olive oil
1 Tablespoon of minced garlic
4-6 chopped jalapeno peppers
about a cup of chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste

The bummer side of this is that you have to actually heat the salsa just to boil in order to can it safely.  You can't cold can it.  It could still make you sick.  It needs to be warmed to a boil and make sure any bacteria has been sufficiently killed in order to properly preserve it.

I LOVE this recipe fresh and raw!  But when it comes to canned salsas, I lose interest.  So, you can either make this whole recipe and can it, or cut it in half or 1/4's and eat it up fresh.

To can, mix and put into 4 pre-sterilized pint canning jars

boiling water bath for 10 minutes

****Note****  Ingredients list for this came from my Chef brother Dean ****  I just added measurements.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Scrumptious Spaghetti Sauce

I'll preface this by saying.....I've not eaten much pasta lately.  My views on healthy eating have changed so much in the last couple of years.  I'm almost to the point of thinking any kind of grain is more of a treat than it is a nutritious necessity.  Most of the recipes I've shared on this site are from my "Treat" files rather than my healthy eating files.  When I'm eating for the purpose of health, it takes on a whole different look than when I eat for pleasure.  At any rate, my pasta intake has been drastically reduced.  Therefore, perhaps my views and opinions on how GOOD this is are colored!  :)  *I*  think it's really GOOD!!!!

So here's the scoop.  I LOVE chunky spaghetti sauce.  The problem is, my husband doesn't.  I usually make homemade spaghetti sauce and can it each year.  I make it smooth by pureeing the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ALL other ingredients in the blender before I start.  I do not blanch or peel or remove seeds.  I believe it all has nutritious value and I want to make it is as healthy as possible.  Plus, it's just less work.  :)  I usually add in any fresh stuff I have coming out of the garden at the time.  Zucchini, summer squash, and bell peppers usually make it in there.  Nobody ever notices.  It's just good sauce!

I sometimes like to take advantage of hubby's occasional late nights, or business trip, to doctor up some spaghetti sauce to eat the way I like it.  I usually just prefer straight sauce over pasta and leaving out the meat.  For some reason, my husband thinks it's not really a meal if it doesn't have meat.  So the kids and I like to enjoy just sauce over pasta as a treat when we are home alone.  However, once every couple of years or so, I really like to do something drastically different by adding beef smoked sausage and some red bell peppers.  Tonight I also added a fresh red onion and some chopped basil.  Delish!

Now, for the actual sauce.

I got the original recipe from a friend of mine hosting a canning party on his farm with his own fresh organic tomatoes.  The title of it was called Naomi's Spaghetti Sauce.  I don't know where he got the recipe from, but I've enjoyed lots and lots of jars of it and have passed the recipe on at least a dozen times and gifted it numerous times as well.  

I've made this sauce the past five years and canned it. I still have some from last year's batch. The recipe makes about 2 qt jars. I usually doubled or tripled it and made many many batches of it. Last year I canned 36 jars of sauce!  It can be canned with just a boiling water bath, so it's easy enough!

Here's the basic recipe, you can tweek it to however you like,

4 medium onions - chopped
1 1/4 tsp pepper
4 garlic cloves (or a tablespoon of minced garlic)
12 cups of freshly chopped tomatoes
3 bay leaves
4 tsp salt
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
2-6oz cans tomato paste
1/3 cup brown sugar

Last year I added 1 zucchini/squash and 1 bell pepper for each doubled recipe.  This also added a little more bulk to the sauce and it went a little further.  With doing 6 times the recipe, it probably gave an extra 2 quarts with just the extra added veggies in it. (I'm totally guessing here since I wasn't measuring the veggies and all that....just throwing stuff in the blender ;))   You can add ANYTHING that you really want.  Mushrooms, other fresh veggies, olive oil, coconut oil, whatever you want.  The only thing I'd suggest shying away from is adding meat, unless you are eating it right away.  You can not safely can meat or anything with meat in it with just a water bath.  You HAVE to use a pressure canner.  

What I did was just take the chopped tomatos (AFTER they are measured out!) and the onions and veggies and threw them in the blender and purreed them together in small batches.  A few cups of tomatoes, an onion, a half a squash, or as much as I could fit into my blender at a time.. It's important to measure the tomatoes first. I've done this wrong and used 12 cups of purreed tomatoes and it's just not the same. Also, by blending it, you don't need to blanch and de skin the tomatoes.

The kind of tomatoes you use are important as well.  You'll want fleshier tomatoes to make a thicker, richer, less watery sauce.  Romas were my go to for several years, but this year and last we've planted heirloom Amish Paste tomatoes.  They are a lovely, big, thick, plump, tomato that doesn't have many seeds or juice.  They are sort of like a roma on steroids.  :)

So, take all ingredients EXCEPT tomato paste and sugar and put them together and bring to a simmer and let simmer for 2 hours. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 1 hour longer. Remove bay leaves, pour into jars, and seal.  To seal them, put your hot sauce into sterilized (boiled) jars.  Fill to the top leaving about an inch of space.  Put on the lids and rings and put into a pan of boiling water.  Keep them at a rolling boil for 15 minutes. 

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we have!  It's good stuff!  Or so we think.  :)

***********Update - 8/19/12 ************  I made this recipe and actually took the time to blanch and deseed the tomatoes.  It made a very nice thick sauce.  I added 1 summer squash and 1 red pepper.  It made exactly 2 quarts!  Maybe it simmered down more than usual?  I'm not really sure.  But hubby even liked it better than any of the other batches I've ever made in the past 6 years!  He said he'd eat THAT on just pasta without meat!  That's HUGE!  :)  It was messy and more time consuming to blanch and deseed, but the results are very good!

************Update - 8/19/2013**********  In light of the Cure Tooth Decay protocol's our family has been following, I substituted the brown sugar for birch bark sugar (GMO free xylitol) and a tsp of molasses.  It still tasted absolutely wonderful!  Only without the glucose spikes of regular sugar.  :)