Yes, I know it’s fifty degrees out and there are snowdrops blooming. It’s still January (and that’s weird, though I’m not complaining, but a little confused)… so let’s just pretend there’s a blanket of snow on that barren ground out there. It will be back, I promise.
We still have a little less than half a bushel of apples from the cider pressing (we picked through the best ones that were left at the end of the day and spared them from the grinder), still holding fairly well, though their skins have thickened slightly and some are turning wrinkly (we’ve tossed the few off ones to the chickens). They’ve been sitting in our spacious walk-in cooler/root cellar that is our currently unheated house (we have space heaters in the bathroom and under the kitchen cabinets, and heat tape on the pipes to keep them from freezing)… no sense really trying to heat the place till we have insulation, and walls, and other such fripperies, (not to mention the fact that the furnace really ought to have a proper chimney before we fire it up- the woodstove does a good job taking the chill off the place though). Besides, if we want to be warm we can go to the studio where it’s an even 60 most of the time (and thankfully that’s where the working shower is, even if it occasionally requires moving a keg or pile of soap stuff out of the way), and if we heated the house, then where would we store the apples, winter squash, and potatoes? The basement, right. We’ll have to remember that for later… and at some point unbrick the walled-off former root-cellar area under the porch stairs on the north wall of the basement, with a borrowed or preferably hungry feral cat handy to catch the rats that will almost certainly run out as that’s why it was bricked up in the first place. Lovely. Let’s save that one for another day, shall we?
But the point of this is those apples. They’re still good, but won’t stay that way forever. I sorted through them, set a big bowl of the nicest ones aside for eating and pies and decided to make sauce with the rest. I cored them all and chopped them roughly, weighing out 6 pounds in one pot and three and a half or so in another. Add a little water to each (roughly a cup and a half in the larger, and a cup in the smaller- double the suggested amount but i figured they’d have lost moisture in storage since they’re not waxed), a hint of good cider vinegar and cinnamon in the big pot, and a handful of frozen cranberries, a pinch of ginger, and zest and chopped flesh of one orange to the other. Simmer each, stirring frequently so they don’t scorch, until they’re nice and mushy. I added a tiny bit of honey, a couple tablespoons to each pot- the cranberry one probably could have used more but I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to get out the bucket to refill the jar. I’m planning to pair that one with pork chops or roasted meats anyway, where the tartness will be refreshing.
I pureed the plain sauce with an immersion blender- these are so handy… we got a nice one for $20, I kid you not, from the food scientist who invented Cool Ranch Doritos (though he preferred the term “wizard” to scientist I believe) who was closing down his business awhile back- Alefellow found him while searching for stainless on craigslist and got some useful stuff- like a stainless tank with castors, that helped bring the world Coke slurpees, or something like that, but which we usually use for the far more humble but important job of chilling wort- put a secondary immersion chiller in it, fill with ice and water, and recirculate the hot water coming out of the copper coil in the big kettle with a high-temp pump, and you keep a LOT of water from getting dumped down the drain… and end up with a tank full of hot water at the end of it, good for washing brewing dishes, filling the mop bucket, watering plants, or just keeping around as a nice temporary heat sink in winter.
Oh yeah, applesauce. Right. Ladle into clean jars. I used half and quarter pints (eight and four oz) so I won’t have to repack them into smaller containers for lunches- kinda like those snackpak things, but refillable), check for air bubbles and run a spatula around the inside of the jar to dislodge them, wipe the rims, put on the lids that you fish from the bowl of hot boiled water with a handy-dandy magnet on a little plastic wand- take that, food wizard! (or tongs, or your quick fingers if you were a cook, chemist or moonshiner, or otherwise lack feeling in your fingertips- I think of the scene from “My Stepmother is an Alien” where she reaches into the pot on the stove each time I do this and laugh a bit). Tighten down the rings (tight, but not too tight- any trapped air needs to be able to escape after all) and stack them into your preheated canner- boiling water bath or pressure works, just make sure you sterilized your jars first by boiling to be on the safe side if you’re not using a pressure canner. Close the lid, vent the steam for 10 minutes if pressure canning, or wait for your water to come up to a vigorous boil if not, and start your timer. Kill the flame when it beeps, fish your jars out of the boiling water bath if you used one (jar lifter tongs are really nice here, though regular ones do in a pinch) or let your pressure canner slowly cool down- don’t open it until the dial reads zero, or no steam escapes when you tap the weight, depending on which kind you have of course). Processing times and a more concise but scientific description of method can be found here:
So that’s all there is to it! I can cross that off my to-do list, and refer back to this next year when it seems overwhelming and I’m trying to do two or three times as many or more. You don’t even have to do it all in one go if you don’t have time- make the sauce the first night, throw the whole thing in the fridge (make sure you use a nonreactive, aka not aluminum pot if you’re storing it this way), pull it out the next day, back on the stove, get it good and hot again all the way through, and proceed as if you’d just done hours of work. Lots of canning jobs can be broken down this way, and some are better if they are (canning stock or anything meaty and saucy that wasn’t super lean- then instead of skimming fat you can just peel or scoop it off the top once it’s cold and it won’t keep your jars from sealing later).