I wish I could be more upbeat about this whole harvest thing, but MAN. I’m ridiculously SICK of it. How do orchard people stay happy? How does anyone stay happy? It’s just one thing after another thing after another… it’s never over. I’m never done!
aah. I digress. Again.
Not only do I sit and think “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to deal with those _______.” (fill in the blank with apples, peppers, eggplant, kale plants, beets, carrots, parsnips, etc.) But then I think “Oh my gosh, I’ve got to get that apple post up on the blog.” And then I wonder “What the hell am I even doing this stupid blog for?” For which I do not have an answer.
Aside from my petulance about all the harvest things I have yet to do, I am really, really excited smug about this pairing of apple recipes.
First, know this: I grow organic apples.
Second, know this: I grow organic apples because it is the easiest way to grow apples. You basically do nothing, versus spraying chemicals on the apples every two weeks. I can’t be counted on to do anything “every two weeks.”
Third, know this: my organic apples are very ugly and hard to give away.
Fourth, know this: I hate to waste garden food and therefore I have a lot of ugly apples. Very tasty, ugly apples. Hence this combo of recipes.
We had two hard freezes before September was over. Normally we have a few frosts, things wind down slowly and the apples are about the last garden item to be harvested, along with carrots and parsnips. This year however, our first frost was not a frost, but a freeze. The apples were mostly OK that night (26), but a week later the temps dipped down to 20. Not 25, but 20! So I spent the day picking all the apples and sorting them into 3 piles: compost, really ugly but useable, and maybe-I-can-eat-this-apple-fresh piles.
I use the “Really Ugly but Useable” apples for pies and sauce. I basically just cut away everything gross and use what I can. Last year, I was making tons of pies to freeze. I had a bucket of peels and cores under the sink in the compost bucket. I think I might have even emptied some coffee ground on top of them. Then I read something about boiling the peels and cores to get juice that you use for apple jelly. Honestly! That’s like making food from garbage!
So I brushed the coffee grounds off the browned peels and cores and dumped them in a pan with some water and started boiling. I got only 1 pint of jelly out of it, but oh MAN, it was so insanely good! In my opinion, it’s way better than my raspberry jam that everyone seems to want. The jelly was too runny last year, but I didn’t care. This year, I was hoping I could do it better.
So here is my process. And if I may be allowed to say so, it’s brilliant. I don’t know how many other people have ugly apples, but if you do, please don’t throw them away: try this!
Apple Sauce and Apple Jelly
The ugliest useable apples go into the Sauce/Jelly pile (this is a very complicated pile system) while the prettier ones go into the Pie/Jelly pile (that’s Apples Part Two, coming soon). Just for the record, my apples are a mixture of Honey Crisp, Haralson and two mystery varieties.
I take an apple, and cut it in half, then quarters, and assess the situation:
if looks OK, I cut the core out and put that in the jelly pot. The quarters go into the Sauce Pot.
If it looks über yucky, I use what I can.
Nice bright pieces go into the Sauce Pot.
Mottled brownish pieces (trails from the Apple Magot Fly) go into the Jelly Pot.
I do confess that we often just eat the less disgusting brownish ones. They are only trails of worms long gone. You can hardly see some of them. Just so you know: I like to think I’m preparing my family for some apocalypse that will take place some time in the future. My kids are going to be way more immune to gross food than yours will be.
I work my way thru the pile (which isn’t disappearing nearly fast enough). And yes, that’s a trash can and yes, it’s kind of dirty…
The pectin for the jelly comes from the peels and the seeds, so you need those for the jelly. The peels stay on the sauce apples because I will put those thru the food mill and they make the sauce pink, which is very pretty. I could leave the cores on the sauce apples as well, but they are helpful for the jelly and it’s easy enough to just cut those out. Is this as confusing as I think it is? It shouldn’t be…
Oh my gosh I have a terrible headache… But I still have 42% battery left on my laptop, so I must press on!
I basically just keep going until one or the other pots fill up. Then I add about 1 cup of water to the sauce apples and turn on low and cover. I almost cover the Jelly Apples with water and add a whole bunch of ROSEMARY (my favorite flavor). Do not skip this step. If you don’t have any, go buy some. Seriously.
Add 1/2 cup of fresh squeezed (not!) lemon juice. (I’ll squeeze up to 1/4 cup. More than that, and I use this stuff, kindly given to me by my friend Chris when I complained that real lemon juice — as opposed to RealLemon brand yucko — didn’t exist. She got this at CostCo.
Stir it up and turn on low, cover and cook till apples are soft, at least an hour.
Once soft and tender, line a strainer with several layers of cheese cloth (or use a jelly bag, whatever the Hell that is, if you happen to have one. I do not.) set over a large bowl and pour in. Do NOT push or force apples thru.
This mixture needs to sit a good long time, preferably overnight in a cool place. I’m thinking that maybe it’ll be cool enough on my porch tonight. Ya think?
Meanwhile, the Sauce Apples should be soft and ready to process. Put the Sauce apples thru a food mill to get rid of the peels and any seeds.
I put the food mill right back over the pot they cooked in because once you are done processing them, turn the heat back up, add 1/4 c lemon juice for about 4 lbs of cut apples and sugar to taste. I added about 1/2 cup. I also add about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon because we like that. Bring to a simmer and ladle into clean, hot sterilized canning jars.
Heat process (steam or boil) 10 minutes for 1/2 pint jars.
You are now done for the day, go to bed feeling like a superstar. Tomorrow, though, it all begins again, so sleep well.
In the morning (or several hours later), put the juice from the strained apple rosemary mash into a measuring cup.
I have just over 4 cups, so that means I need to add 4 cups of sugar. Put it into a big-ass pot, because the jelly needs to be cooked at a full rolling, foamy boil.
It took me about 20 minutes to reach the magic temperature of 220 degrees F. Be sure to skim off as much of the foam as possible because it makes a bigger difference for clear jellies. I don’t worry about it too much with my jam, but you can see it below, suspended in my jelly. As soon as it reaches 220, turn off the heat and ladle into hot, sterilized 1/2 pint jars, wipe the rims and seal. Heat process for 10 minutes. Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal.
See the foam? Really ticked me off, I have to say. But then, just another reason to keep it for myself.
Apple Sauce and Apple Jelly. Leave it on your counter to admire for a couple days, then trudge it out to the garage or basement or where ever you store that type of thing.
And this year, It’s the PERFECT consistency! So happy.