Thursday, October 22, 2009

Easy Homemade Applesauce

Homemade applesauce is a really easy project to do in a crock pot. I use three big slowcookers to help make it worthwhile to do a bunch at once when canning, but it could just as easily be made in a medium crock pot, for a small amount for immediate eating.

First wash the apples really well, rinsing them thoroughly. I like to use a combination of different kinds of apples, some tart and some sweet, to have a good layered flavor in the finished sauce.
Quarter them, removing stems and trimming away any bruises or worm spots or icky blossom ends, and pile them into the slowcooker.
I start them on low and turn them to high after an hour or so, so that they'll release some juice before they get too hot and won't burn. They take about five hours to cook up until they're completely softened and mushy.

I use my victorio strainer to smash them into sauce and separate the skins and seeds from the rest of the sauce. A food mill will work for this too, but I really recommend one of these if you plan to do much canning at all, since it's great for all sorts of things, and only costs about twenty or thirty dollars more than one of those food mills does, and is so much easier to use.
This is the waste that comes out of the end, made up of the tough core parts, skins and seeds. The chickens cannot get enough of this. This slimy mush is honestly, like, delicacies for chickens.
I put the sauce back into the crock pot on high, to keep it very hot for the canning. Follow the instructions in the Ball book for canning applesauce. Quarts are processed in a hot water bath for twenty minutes.
I also add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each quart, since the applesauce recipe from the Ball book calls for that when making applesauce in a pot. I don't know if that's to prevent browning or to make it more acid, so as to make it keep better. It doesn't make it taste any different, so I just put a tablespoon in each quart before I fill it with sauce, just to better safe than sorry.

My three crockpots make 8-9 quarts of sauce, and they don't have to be babysat the way that a pot on the stove does, so I'm pretty happy with this method.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

God Bless the Ball Blue Book

I may have made a tactical error. Six bushels of apples is not really too much for us and all our friends and family that we share canned good. Six bushels of apples all the same week, on the other hand... that might have been a bit much.

I like to make applesauce in the slowcooker, since it's easier for me, and I'm much much less likely to burn it. This method does limit my output to about seven quarts a day, though. So I can't really go through the apples very quickly.

I'll have plenty of sauce canned by the end of the week, and I've been drying two or three dehydrator loads every day as well, so I went browsing in the Ball Book to find another apple product or two that we might want to have.

Juice, I think, will be the perfect thing. It will be a treat to have our own natural homemade apple juice around, it'll be just what we need for making a batch of wine, since that usually calls for a press or for un-pastuerized/preservative-free juice, AND it'll take care of one of these bushels of apples in one fell swoop! (well, two swoops, since one batch is 1/2 a bushel, but we're planning two batches.)

Yay, Ball Blue Book!

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Monday, October 19, 2009

An Overwhelming Sort of Day

Today I had to go to the dr twice, once in the morning for a blood draw, and then in the afternoon for my regular appt. Don't worry, the cold/flu is completely gone, this was my regularly scheduled appt. I also have seven bushel boxes of apples sitting in my dining room, being all neverending and sisyphian. :D

I just wanted to post quickly to say I'm still here, and still getting things done, just not finding the time to blog about it. I'm squeezing this in while the noodles boil for dinner (pasta with fresh tomato sauce and herbs and veggies).

Tomorrow, I'll share my apple-craziness.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Drying Apples

Last year, I froze 19 quarts of apple pie filling, and we used all of it and would have used more, but this year lack of freezer space and ease of turning dehydrated apples into pie and crisp have convinced me that I should dry most of the apples I'm planning to use for pies and such. Ben seems to really want some frozen pie filling as well, so I might do a few bags of it, but mainly, I'm hoping to dehydrate at least two or three bushels of apples this fall. I'm planning to use another couple of bushels to make into apple sauce as well.

I'm loving my Excalibur dehydrator! It can hold about four times as many apples as the one I used last year, and it gets them all the way dry in only 4-6 hours. I'm so glad I bought it!

>Now I just have to find a good source. The apple farm down the road won't sell seconds, because they're also a cider mill, makes sense, but that leaves only the apples that they sell for a dollar a pound no matter the volume. Which would make $40-$50 bushels. The guys at the farmer's market have all raised their prices considerably, from $12 up to $20. I've been calling around to see if anyone can cut me a deal, but no luck so far.

The apples in the pictures came from the neighbor who has a few trees and sells the extras a couple of pounds at a time. A good price, and a fairly nice apple, but I need quantity! :)

I've been super sick all week. I finally don't have a fever today, but I'm not feeling precisely awesome. I was wanting to make tomato sauce, but I'm still not feeling well enough for that, so I'm going to settle for finishing all the laundry and making dinner. I think Ben will appreciate that, since he's been having to do some of my chores all week, since I couldn't go outside. It's been so wet and cold out all week, it's like a cold swamp out there. I'm feeling sorry for the poor chickies, since we can't seem to find a dry spot to put them. I hate to say it, but I guess it's time to get settled for winter soon. Seems very early, and I'd really like some sunny fall days, but I suppose it's better to be ready for the cold, and then not get it, rather than have the cold and wish we were ready for it.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

An Odd Combination

The traveling we've been doing lately has resulted in a bit too much fast food, which is not too good for our health or our pocketbook. So, no more eating out. But also, no money or time for the grocery store this week.

My solution on Tuesday, since I didn't have time to thaw anything out after we got home on Monday evening, was to put together what I was afraid would be a fairly odd dinner: Oatmeal, Baked Apples, and a bit of Polish Sausage. It turned out to be one of the best dinners I've made in a really long time. I was very glad with the way everything tasted together, and it was warm and very filling.

My oven was still broken then, so I decided to bake the apples in a slowcooker. It worked so well! I used the recipe here, but used oats instead of dried fruit and didn't thicken the sauce. Also, my apples were on the small side, and about only a third of the filling was used. And 2 tbs of butter seemed a bit on the oily side. I think one would probably do it just fine.

(Ben says this picture is like one from a soap opera, where they obscure the love scenes with steam.... see the hot apple love?)

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I was so cute...

Graduation Day with Cousin Greg
(Yes, that's a picture of a picture. I was too impatient to dig out the scanner, hook it up, and scan things.)
I'm glad I'm not 17 anymore, but it would be nice to have that skin back! (And my figure, lol). But I still have the cousin, and the eagerness, at least. ;)

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

We had a nice time on our trip to MI. It was good to visit family and see every one of our nephews and neices, from brand-new little Lily to suddenly hugely tall fifteen year old Garrett. They're all so great.

I didn't get a better picture of the favors I made for the shower, but here is the one I did remember to take. They were little trees from the Arbor Day Foundation, and I made pretty little baby themed folders out of scrapbooking paper to hold them. I think everyone liked them, through there were so many leftover, since we had way more than we needed. Ben and I are certainly going to be planting trees this week around the yard.

I've been spending my morning getting all unpacked and sorted. Since we drove, we brought back quite alot of stuff with us. I have some goodies of which to take pictures and share here in the coming weeks. Of course, we brought home canning jars too. Woo, canning jars! And it never fails that I forget things, no matter how well I plan, or how much room I pack. My brother was going to share his tomatoes with me, but I forgot to bring them back home with me. Darn it!!

My oven is still broken. The repair guy came today and says that he has to order the part and will be here Thursday morning to fix it. I figure that just as long as pizza night continues as planned on Friday, I'm okay with that. I planned stove top and slow cooker meals for this week just in case anyway, so I don't really mind. With the bread maker, we can even still have fresh bread.

I'd better keep moving with my day. I to list is almost all checked off, and I think I might have a nap to sleep off this vacation this afternoon!

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Friday, October 02, 2009

All My Bags Are Packed...

...I'm ready to go.

I've been doing last minute packing sorts of things today. I can't decide what knitting projects to take with me. That's a ridiculous sort of problem, but it's true. I'm thinking the pink toe up sock will be the winner. It's time to turn the heel, so that'll keep me occupied in the car, and then, after that, it's just mindless ribbing for the cuff, which will be good for visiting.

I made a skirt for myself to wear to the shower this morning. I wanted something kinda casual, but not jeans casual, so I settled on a denim skirt. I made it by cutting the bottom off of a huge jumper that I had gotten at the Goodwill with such an alteration in mind. After I cut the bottom off, it was practically instant skirt, since all I had to do was make the cut edge into a casing, thread the elastic through, and sew it up. I also sewed the slit in the back closed some, because the skirt originally had been ankle length, but raising the hem to knee length made a slit of the original length pretty much indecent.

So, I'm just waiting for Ben to get home from work so we can take off! We're only going to be gone for the weekend, and I'm looking forward to catching up with all my blogging friends when we get back on Tuesday!

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Yesterday and Today

So, my oven's broken.
I have a pork loin roast in the fridge that I was planning to roast for dinner last night. Our friend Ken came over last night to learn about taking care of the chickens, since he's staying at our house this weekend while we're away. Which is totally awesome of him. So I wanted to make a nice dinner for us all, but then the oven wouldn't light up. Ugh. But, we went to Pizza Hut instead, so that was yummy.

Anyway, I guess I'll just take the loin and cut it into chunks or strips and cook them on the stove top, so that it won't go to waste.

I'm also working on finishing up some cleaning and packing today. We leave tomorrow afternoon, and I want to be ready to leave as soon as Ben comes home from work.

Ken's birthday is on Friday too, so I had been planning to bake him brownies or something to leave for him with a card, but I guess maybe now I could do something like fudge or no-bake cookies instead.

Other the annoying broken oven thing, and being pretty busy, I'm feeling fine. No more headache, so I guess if I did have a concussion, it was a very mild one. I'm definately going to be more careful about hitting my head! Mostly because Ben threatened to buy me a helmet.

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