Beaucoup de Pommes
[Canning, messily, October 2007]
Tuesday night, nearly 11 p.m.: I am standing at the stove watching the last few jars of applesauce bubble themselves away to sterilization, cursing the ambitiousness that had me take four boxes of apples home from Inverness last week. I'm exhausted, I think, and then -- I don't even really like applesauce, anyway!
Nevertheless -- the apples, they are sauced, and the sauce, it is jarred. We now have two dozen lovely specimens to either eat (um, but there's so much) or else distribute to friends and family for the holidays (I think this is the likelier option). There's still about a half-box left, though (I also filled three gallon freezer bags with slices), and I've made one pie, and will make a couple more tomorrow; then -- I hope -- the darned apples will be all used up.
It was an adventure, to be sure, and one I'm not sure I'll repeat (or, if I do, it will definitely begin earlier than on a Sunday early evening, or a Tuesday night after work -- like, say, a leisurely Saturday with all the time in the world). I recently read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, in which she details a year of living (and canning) from her garden, and thought dreamily about how great it would be to do the same. Her descriptions of luscious organic tomato sauce year-round, along with salsa! applesauce! spinach, corn, and zucchini straight from the garden and frozen, for mid-February consumption! are truly enticing, and inspiring.
Well, yeah: it is awesome. All that terrifically good stuff, grown right in your backyard -- how could you go wrong? But it's also so much work; in fact, I was not prepared for just how much work it really is -- and I only made 24 (plus one) jars of applesauce! I may have to re-think my lofty future plans. It is hard work. It is intense.
But, yes, it is also fun. No matter that the kitchen floor was spattered and splattered with sticky bits of apple mush that missed the jar, or that my stove needed an indecent amount of scrubbing to make it somewhat presentable again. No matter that I stayed up way too late, to the point of monosyllabic conversations because I was so tired. People, I have applesauce. And we did it all ourselves.
Kingsolver's point -- and one which I take to heart -- is if you commit to doing this, you'll have an enormous amount of work for about 6-8 weeks, but if you hold on and make it, come winter, you won't have much work to do at all. It's a kind of doing your work in advance, to some extent, and I like that idea. Just don't let me start it at 8p on a work night.
The apples we used were quite sweet, so we didn't have to add any sugar (bonus!). Basically, all we did was to quarter them and stuff them into my two big pots with a little water, and then boil until soft. Then it was into the food mill to remove the skins, seeds, and cores before re-heating and pouring into hot, sterilized jam jars. Put that way, the process doesn't seem too bad, but it can seem to go on forever when you have a large pile of fruit still to go. (Having a decently-sized kitchen and proper equipment would, I'm sure, make it all go much more quickly.)
But now we have lots of applesauce, and while I'm still a bit worn out from it, those softly glowing jars give me no small amount of pride.
I will say this -- I'll never, ever take a jar of homemade anything for granted again.
Quick! Use up the apples applesauce
Lots of apples
as many large pots as you have
1/2 cup water per pot
12 Mason jars
Quarter the apples and put into a pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat and simmer until apples are soft and getting mushy. Put into a food mill that's positioned over a large bowl, and press out as much of the fruit as possible, discarding the peel and seeds. Pour apple puree back into a pot.
Meanwhile, boil the jars and lids in another large pot for 15 minutes. Pour the hot applesauce (carefully!) into the jars and screw on the lids tightly. Return to the boiling water for another 10-15 minutes. Let the jars sit overnight to cool.
*If your apples are not too sweet, you may add some sugar to taste. I prefer a very simple applesauce, with nothing else in it -- just the pure, apple-taste. But if you want cinnamon or cloves or more sugar, you can take your jar of this sauce and gently heat it up later, adding whatever spices or sweeteners you like before serving.