Monday, October 05, 2009

Fresh local apples and adventures in canning

Wonder how canning your own produce qualifies as a green lifestyle activity?  Well let me see if I can explain my take on that.

First off, did you know those cans of food that you buy at the local grocer are not just harmless tin cans?  In my battle to live a more plastic free life, I began buying a lot of canned foods rather than getting those that are packaged in plastic "jars".  I really thought I was doing a good thing for my family and for the environment.  Well I learned something that made me take a second look at that idea.  Did you know that most food cans are lined on the inside with a plastic?  Take a look next time you open that can of tomato paste or refried beans.  You'll notice that the inside of that can is white and if you run your fingernail over it, you can scrape up some of this plastic lining!  The problem is that if I can scrape that lining off with my fingernail, how much of that plastic and those hormone displacing chemicals are leaching into the food even before I open the can.

This really got me thinking how beneficial it can be to preserve my own food as often as I can.  The great thing with canning is it's a low investment to buy your supplies, like jars and canning bather.  Once purchased you can reuse those items again and again for years to come!

The other thing that makes canning a green activity, is that when you can local food, you can buy organic in season produce at a relatively low cost.  Or you may even be able to grow your own with a little bit of ground breaking.  Organic foods use no pesticides which means not only are they better for your health, but they're also better for the environment!  Pesticides leach into ground water and wind up harming aquatic life and can even affect the egg strength in nesting birds.  Imagine what they're doing inside our own bodies!

*****Christi steps down from soap box*****

Ok so here's another project that I did while having my technological crisis.  I canned applesauce! 

As luck would have it, we have some good friends here on the island, Victoria and Barry, had a bumper crop of apples this year. They offered us some pickings off their 2 trees.  Ben and I went over last week and picked 3 boxes of apples. 

So making applesauce is really simple. 

Step1:  First you'll want to wash your fruit.  Then pare, core and slice the apples into a large pot.  Victoria loaned me her handy 3 in 1 tool that saved me lots of time as it cores, cuts and peels with just the turn of a handle.

Step 2:  Add a small amount of water to your pot of chopped apples.  I use just enough to cover the bottom of the pot.  This helps to keep the apples from scorching durring the start of heating.  The rest of the liquid will come from the apples themselves as the juices stew out.

Step 3: Place covered pot on medium low to medium heat and begin to warm the apples.  Once the pot begins to steam, stir and reduce to a low heat.

Step 4:  Add sweetner and spices.  I like to add a bit of sugar to this sauce because the apples I was working with were a sweet/tart variety *I think they are gravensteins, but not positive*  For my recipe I added 2 1/2 C of sugar to a large pot of warm apples plus a couple teaspoons of cinnamon and some fresh grated nutmeg

Step 5:  Mix, Cover and simmer on low heat for about 2 hours or until apples are sauced.  The longer you simmer your apples the darker your sauce will become.

Step 6:  While your apples are stewing it's a good time to take your peels and cores out to the compost bin.  Then you'll want to prepare your jars and lids for canning.  When canning always check your jar rims for dings, dents and cracks.  If you find any place the damaged jars in your recycling.  Sterilize your good jars, lids and rings in boiling water:


Step 7: When your applesauce has finished stewing you're ready to begin filling your jars for canning. Leave about 1/4 to 1/2" of headroom in your jar to allow for expansion during the hot water bath.  Wipe rim of jar clean of any apple sauce.  Top with lid and then tighten ring by hand.

This is my finished applesauce.  Note the deep caramel color.  This was simmered on low for 4 hours.

Step 8:  Place lidded jars into hot water bath canner.  Return water to a boil and then begin timing.  Applesauce should stay in the hotwater bath for 15 minutes.

Step 9:  Remove jars from hot water bath and place on a towel. 

Step 10:  Allow to cool overnight.  Label jars and store in a cool dark place such as a kitchen cabinet, basement storage area or root cellar.

Follow up:  Be sure to save out some of your fresh picked apples for snacking.  There's nothing like an apple picked right from a local tree.  Yummy!  Also, I save out some applesauce for immediate eating.   Here are some of my favorite ways to use applesauce:  use it as filling in pasteries, spoon warm over icecream or yogurt, bake over porkchops or just eat it as is.  And don't forget your friends!  Homemade canned goods make lovely gifts!

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