canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Apple Season Always

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Apple season is upon us. I looove this time of year. Even if it has been uncharacteristically hot. I know that fall is on its way.

Today I wanted to talk about apples. About oh..2 weeks ago I brought home a bushel of apples to add to the peck I already had. I was planning on canning A LOT of applesauce and possibly doing some other things if I had any left.

This is what happened…First, the apples. I used 3 kinds.

Newton Pippin (I think)

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We picked these (With permission of course. Our neighbor was very kind and didn’t want them.) from our neighbors tree.

My friend and neighbor helped me pick apples and helped me during part of the canning process. We picked about a 1/2 bushel and 1 peck of them. Ended up not using the red ones because they didn’t have as much flavor as the green ones, which tasted like a combination of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples.

After a lot of research (I love a good mystery), I believe these are Newton Pippin apples. They have some sooty blotch (a fungus) on them but peeling or scrubbing them makes them a ok to use. I found this interesting I thought they were just naturally that way. At any rate, they are delicious. Very crisp, a bit tart but still on the sweet side too. You can learn more about them from the link above.

Melrose

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This is part of the 1/2 bushel of Melrose apples.

The awesome thing about Melrose apples is that they turn the applesauce a pinkish-peach hue, depending on how many you add. I found that making half or slightly more apples in each batch made the sauce a pretty peachish color.

Cortland

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And part of the 1/2 bushel of Cortland apples.

Cortland apples aren’t very exciting. They are quite similar to a Macintosh. Rather soft and cooks down easily. A nice white fleshed apple.

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And now…preserving the apples! Here are 3 ways to keep it apple season, always.

You Can Can Them,

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We had to use 2 big pots to make a double batch that would fill 8 pint jars.
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Pressing the mixture through a collander to strain out the peels and cinnamon sticks.
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Made about 30 pints applesauce. About 24 pictured here.

I used all 3 types of apples in my applesauce, but mostly Cortland and Melrose.

I used the recipe from this book.

 

Or Freeze Them.

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Had a ton of apples left to make apple pie filling to freeze.

With the extra Pippin apples I made some apple pie filling. Not sure if the apples are suited for baking but I guess we will find out! I made an apple crisp a few days ago with them and it turned out ok. Took a bit longer for the apples to get tender but delicious none the less.

I used the recipe from this book.

Or Even Dry Them.

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More Pippins for dried apples. Used about 10 apples to make 2 batches.

The Pippin apples are wonderful dried! So good. I did not peel them because I didn’t know about the sooty blotch at that time. I think its fine. I mean, I haven’t died yet. That’s a good sign.

I sliced them thin and dipped them in lemon juice, shook off the extra liquid and filled up the dehydrator trays. I think I dried about 8-10 apples total and it made quite a bit. Cheaper than buying it in the store and so much tastier 😊 My daughter L agrees!

I dried them for about 10 hours each batch at 135°.

~~~

Cost:

Applesauce

I paid $16.75 for 30 pints of applesauce. That’s 56¢ per pint, 28¢ per cup and 3.5¢ per oz.

Apple Pie Filling

$1.43 for 5 1/2 quarts. (Remember the apples were free.) That’s 26¢ per quart. Hopefully I can just use 1 bag per pie crust but we shall see.

Dried Apples

It was about $1.22 for 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice that I used to dip the apples. (Again the Pippin apples were free.) We can get technical and calculate the money spent to run the dehydrator for 10 hours each time but I won’t go there atm.

I made enough to fill at least 3 quart bags. Not too sure on the exact amount.

~~~

So there’s the breakdown! Pretty inexpensive to preserve apples. It may take a bit of time and patience but it is so worth it 🙂

Doing anything interesting with apples lately? Any baked goods with apples that you love?

~Rachel


 

Resources:

http://www.applename.com

Fantastic website for finding the kind of apple you have if you or the owner do not know. Trees/orchards planted long ago may have not-so-common names.

http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm

Great website that has multiple handy charts. Mostly helpful for canning and freezing. If you want to know how many pounds/bushels/pecks you need to make a certain number of jars of a specific size, or vice versa, this should be a helpful site for you.

canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Local Concord Grapes to Make Juice & Jelly

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These grapes are amazing. I picked them and canned them myself and it was a fantastic experience.

I discovered, much to my joy, that a local vineyard was offering those in the community a chance to pick your own grapes. Even better? Only about 5 miles from my house. Better than that? Only 10¢ a pound. I could not believe it.

So I set out for an adventure, with the kids at home with my husband. I went to this vineyard that was rather out in the middle of nowhere. Not knowing what to expect. But everything went well. Talked with the owner, he loaned me some pruning clippers, parked the car and unloaded the baby bathtub which I hoped to fill with luscious grapes.

And I did.

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I thought I picked like 20 or more pounds but it turned out to be 15. Which was amazingly exactly how much I wanted.

So that was $1.20 well spent. And let me tell you, it made the most delicious grape juice.

This is my first time ever canning grapes. I did not do 100 quarts, like my neighbors in the vineyard were discussing. And how does one even make that much??

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I digress.

Here is the shortened version of the process I went through. Obviously there was a sorting, washing and plucking process. Followed by cooking and lots and lots of…straining. 3 separate strainings might not seem like a lot but it was. There was a lot of liquid and I think in the end I had strained out about 5 cups of puree.

(*See note at the end of the post on the recipes/canning directions I used.)

It took a long time. I did the bulk of it one night from about 9pm until 1am. It was a pain.

But so worth it.

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The first straining for the juice. I used this batch for the jelly.
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About to begin second straining with fine mesh strainer and 3 layers of cheesecloth.
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Finally completed. This part is for the jelly. Now to do it all over for the other portion to be canned as juice only.
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The juice had been in the fridge for 24+ hours so now it was ready to strain, (again!) boil and can.
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About to lower the jars and bring to boil for processing.

The steps for making jelly was very much the same. It was refrigerated for 24+ hours, strained and boiled. But once boiled, sugar and sure jell, then more sugar was added to make it into jelly.

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About to add sugar mixed with sure jell.
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This was right before or after I added remaining sugar.
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I had about 1/4 cup leftover so of course I had to make a PBJ ☺
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8 jars on right are jelly. All others are juice.

Here is the end result! 7 pints (or 3 1/2 quarts) grape juice and 8 half-pints (or 4 pints or 2 quarts) grape jelly.

I wouldn’t say it was the easiest process but it wasn’t super hard either once I got past the straining business.

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Cost

For (8) 8oz jelly jars of grape jelly I spent $14.41. (Jars included.) That’s $1.80 per 8oz jar and 23¢ per oz.

Aldi’s jelly is more like 1.29 for 32oz and 4¢ per oz. But this homemade grape jelly is so much better. And it doesn’t have any of that corn syrup business in it. Ew.

The grape juice was $4.98 for 112 oz or 3.5 quarts. That’s 4¢ per oz.

Store bought grape juice can easily be that price for only 32oz. So I think this is a huge win.

All in all, I really enjoyed this. I’m looking forward to using up the juice & jelly this winter. Yummy!

Have you cannned grape juice before? This was something totally new for me…have you tried anything new & yummy in the kitchen lately?

~Rachel

*Note: I used the Concord Grape Jelly recipe from the book “Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More” by the editors of America’s Test Kitchen.

The grape juice recipe I followed part from my canning book “Saving the Seasons”, by Mary Meyer and part from the National Center For Home Food Preservation website. (Basically the same recipe although the one on the web was more detailed.)

canning, Food, Seasonal Food

Canning Homegrown Black Vernissage Tomatoes (Small Batch Without a Kitchen Scale)

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Lately I have been super enjoying canning. And while I’ve canned before, there is something about canning what you’ve grown yourself.

I’m bursting with pride (probably unflatteringly so) over my little 13×13 foot garden. It’s tiny, but it’s mine and I tend it with care.

I’m growing a variety of things but currently the tomatoes are the ones that are producing like crazy. Which is a relief because when I transplanted them this spring they were quite scraggly.

They are now a tomato jungle.

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See? Jungle.

Today I had over 30 tomatoes ripe and sitting on my counter. Hmm. Lately I have been canning the black ones. Those are plants # 1, 3, 5 and 6 in the above photo, starting from the left. Plant #2 is a Sungold (yellow cherry tomato) and plant #4 is a Goldie (huge yellow tomatoes I wrote about in my BLT post).

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Black V. tomatoes ripening on the vine.
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Size compared to a cherry tomato.
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Size compared to a medium sized tomato I got from a produce stand.
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The black tomatoes are fairly juicy and do not hold their shape well during cooking.
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33 tomatoes, washed and sorted.

I knew I was canning them and I had a recipe in mind. I’ve been using this book called Foolproof Preserving: A Guide to Small Batch Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Condiments & More (by the editors from America’s Test Kitchen) from the library and I love it so much I want to buy it. But it’s nearly $20 😦 Maybe I can find a deal somewhere…

Anyways.

The recipe I wanted was for crushed tomatoes. But it called for 14 lbs of tomatoes to make 4 quarts canned and I knew I didn’t have that much. But with a bit of brain power I figured that if I cut down the ingredients to 1/4 of the recipe, it would be about right.

I had canned these tomatoes whole and I knew it would take about 14 to make 1 pint. Thus about 30 tomatoes to make 2 pints, or 1 quart. My other canning book said that it takes 2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs of tomatoes for 1 quart canned. So I figured I had about 3 lbs.

The only other ingredients were bottled lemon juice and salt. Easy.

And no, canning isn’t easy at first. I’m no veteran but I’ve been learning a lot from anyone willing to chat about canning. This is my first year canning tomatoes. Before I stuck to just fruit. (*Haha looking back on this post I realise that tomatoes are also fruit! 🙂 Applesauce, peaches, peach butter, blueberry butter. That’s about it 🙂

So I followed the directions to prepare for cooking the tomatoes.

Filling up pots with water, washing jars, prepping tomatoes, blanching and chopping them.

Now they were ready to cook and here is what the completed “sauce/crushed tomatoes” looked like⤵⤵⤵

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Ready to can! The burner under the water bath canner had been turned off already. So now…canning prep!

Prepped hot jars, sterilized lids, lemon juice and salt in jar, filled jars, left headspace, wiped rims and lids and made sure lids were properly loosened.

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Jar 1
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and jar 2.

Then the jars were carefully lowered and I placed the lid on and waited for the water to boil.

While I waited, I made lunch. Last nights leftover burrito filling…rice, black beans and seasoned ground beef mixed with the remaining 2/3 cup of crushed tomatoes. Yum.

The water boiled after a bit and judging by the directions I went with a 45-minute processing time. It was the correct time for my elevation for quart jars so I just went with it.

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Finished product!

I love listening for the jars to pop. I didn’t hear these ones pop but I will test them later. Both are indented and not raised, so that’s a good sign 🙂

Whew. All that work for 2 pint jars. But it’s still quite a bit of tomatoes. And I love preserving the fruits of my labor. I hope they taste good when I use them in a recipe later!

Do you can? I’d love to hear what you are preserving this year 🙂 Do you can by yourself or do you have help?

~Rachel

Food, Seasonal Food

Salad Challenged

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I am salad challenged. I’m not sure what it is but salad does not go over well at my house. The greens are a pain to wash. You can only buy it in a ginormous bunch or bag and I’m the only one that ever eats it. Sound like I’m complaining? I am! Salad greens are a pain to wash and dry and eat. So I never buy any. But then I remember. I’m supposed to eat my greens. It’s my mother’s voice I hear. The voice saying, “Be good to your body! Do what’s right! Be healthy! Be fit!”. Yes, I know. So I’ve been looking for a way to make salads a little less challenging.

My produce pick of the month is one that is a little off the beaten path (haha). People don’t often request them. Some may pass them over at the grocery store. And until now, I was one of those people! I would look at this purplish vegetable with its tall leafy stems and think, “Eww. What on earth could I do with THAT?”.

But then I remembered something that I had seen in a magazine. And because all great cooks push themselves to try new things, I decided to take a risk and buy some.

Ok. So let me let you in on the reason I bought them the first time. I wanted to make a red velvet cake for my BFF’s birthday. I thought it would be sweet if I could use some natural dye to color it.

Enter beets!

Sadly beets were not the answer for this particular recipe. At least not for me. I could have possibly baked the cake incorrectly. I’m open to that. But a crunchy on the outside, under cooked on the inside cake is not palatable to anyone. It was a disaster.

However, beet greens  = delicious. It tasted like spinach but with an added sweetness. I like to think that I’m hardcore when it comes to eating salad. But I can hardly eat spinach raw. It just tastes so icky. They have the added bonus of being larger and therefore easier to wash and dry. My bunch of 3 beets had about 9 large leaves and several smaller ones, which made the perfect amount for me. I could eat them all before they spoiled.

So I dug out a magazine article about greens that I had cut out from an old Real Simple magazine. It recommended adding raw grated beets to beet greens for a healthy salad.

So I did.

But I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating plain beets with only the greens. I added some chopped apples and oranges and this disguised the taste quite a bit.

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Beet salad with apples and oranges.

But the taste wasn’t quite complete. I found myself still not liking the strong taste of beets. It needed some walnuts and dried cranberries. So I went to the store and then made…

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Beet Salad: with Oranges, Walnuts and Craisins

So much better. Some raspberry vinaigrette would go well with this too. I’m not a dressing fan usually so I left this ingredient out.

Is it healthy enough to brave eating? The answer is yes.

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Beets are low in protein, fat and carbs. The beet root has a very high amount of folate and manganese. Even though the beet root has less nutrients than the beet greens it is worth noting that it contains some of the protein Tryptophan. Which, interestingly enough is also found in turkey!

The greens are high in vitamin A and vitamin K. A 1 cup serving has half the daily value of vitamin A and an astounding 152 µg, or almost double the dv, of vitamin K.  The greens also contain a fair amount of Riboflavin, Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.

There was something about the taste of beets that intrigued me. Why did they taste so different than all of the other greens? In my opinion two things: high magnesium and high calcium. Beet greens have over twice the magnesium compared to kale and slightly more calcium than swiss chard. Or maybe beets are just weird like that..or maybe it’s just me I don’t know haha

The conclusion: Beets are great! Eat more of them. They are easy to wash and store. I tore mine in half and put them in the fridge, in a large plastic container. If you can’t stomach beet root no worries cause the beet greens really have more nutrients anyways. Aside from folate. Personally I didn’t feel that beet root was a very tasty form of folate. But they are what they are. I think there’s probably a reason why beets are typically pickled or canned.

I will leave you with this excellent Christmas prank.

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Source: here

Happy New Year!

Food, Seasonal Food

Seasonal Fruit: Pomegranates

It’s that time of the year again. In my state, fall is starting to dwindle into a colder, duller time of the year. How dismal. To challenge myself, I’m going to try to blog about one fruit or vegetable that is in season during the winter months. Preferably one that I’m not as familiar with.

Honestly its so dark and dreary already in the winter and I feel like not a lot of things are in season during the winter time, so this should be a good challenge for me.

I shall begin by introducing a seasonal superfruit. This fruit is in season for a 2-3 month span, beginning as early as mid-August and potentially extending into December, depending on where you live. I just noticed them at my local grocery store about a month ago, yet they have just this week (11/5) gone on sale at Aldi. 69¢ a piece! That is an excellent price for our featured fruit.

About nutrition…the FAQs state state that this superfruit is so called because of the powerful antioxidants it contains. Better than red wine? I’ll take it! They are also high in potassium and vitamin C, to boot. Supposedly half of a this fruit has 25% of your daily vitamin C requirement and about 10% of your daily potassium. But it was the antioxidants that intrigued me.

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Pomegranates. Gorgeous pinky-mauve on the outside…
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And full of jewel-red “seeds” on the inside.

The seeds are actually referred to as arils…I thought it was a bit of a funny term myself. Wiki enlightened me. Basically an aril is a part of a fruit that encloses a seed. Wiki points out that nutmeg has an aril, called mace in the spice world.

(Yes, I used a red towel under my cutting board. I would recommend it, as the juice can stain fabric and other surfaces very easily.)

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The unique thing about a pomegranate is that the aril is really the only edible part of the fruit. The peel and pith are really too bitter to eat.

Or so I’ve heard. Didn’t personally want to give that one a go.

There are basically 2 options for eating a pomegranate: 1) eat the arils whole or 2) juice the pomegranate arils.

I tried eating them whole and did not particularly care for it. Wasn’t crazy about those crunchy seeds. But that was ok, because I happened to be borrowing a juicer from a family member. Besides using a juicer, I’ve heard that you can manually juice a pom using a juice press. A juice press is nice because all you do is cut the fruit in half, pull down a lever and ka-bam. Juice.

If you’re using a juicer though, you need to extract the seeds before putting them into the juicer. There is an easy method for this involving a bowl of water and a metal slotted spoon.

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Can I just say how much I love any recipe that allows me to vent my frustration through pounding? Does that sound odd? It was a great stress relief to de-seed these pomegranates. After pounding away for about 30 seconds, I peeled the fruit a bit to get the few remaining seeds out. This would be a good activity to do with your kids, too. It was really a lot of fun.

Then I scooped out the pith that was floating in the water and rinsed and sorted the arils.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? They look like little jewels. I measured 2 1/2 cups of them. Then I carefully poured them into the juicer. This is the one I used. It’s actually not too pricey. This isn’t a high end model though. I think if you’re a serious juicer a bigger investment would be in order. But I’m not serious. And my borrowed juicer suites me just fine.

source: Amazon

It looks like so. My kitchen counters were not so picturesque. But here the juicer is after I used it. Talk about an explosion of pink! It did an excellent job.

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Juice! This is from the 3 pomegranates that I bought from Aldi.

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Those 2 1/2 cups of arils made nearly 1 cup of juice! Total price=$2.07. I drink it in 1/3 cup servings, costing me 69¢ each.

And it was delicious. I would describe the taste as similar to grape, raspberry and cranberry juice, yet not really like either one. Pomegranate juice has its own thing going. What is your favorite seasonal superfood?

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~Rachel

Food, Seasonal Food

With this apple, I will make…

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It’s October. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous month this year. One thing we love about this month in my house are the apples. Apple season starts typically in August and reaches its peak towards the end of October. That’s the time when you can find the best apples for the cheapest price. I am so very excited about this blog post. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Buying local, delicious

2. Apples to make into

3. Homemade applesauce

4. Using the crock pot

5. And doing it on the cheap.

Applesauce.

In the crock pot.

Where have I been? Why didn’t I think of this before? I was browsing pinterest, looking for things to do with some wicked awesome apples I picked up in Amish Country when I came across these recipes for crock pot applesauce:

How To Make The Best Slow Cooker Applesauce (Live Simply)

How To Make Your Own Applesauce In The Slow Cooker (One Good Thing By Jillee)

My blog post is based on sort of a combo of these two recipes. I used the ratio of apples to lemon juice and cinnamon from @onegoodthingbyjillee and I did my prep like @livesimply and took her advice and added water and honey.

Because I’ve made applesauce on the stove-top a kadjikillion times, I felt ok just using guidelines from these recipes to make it in the crock pot.

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First, of course, I had to get some apples. So long story short, I found this wonderful place to buy apples. It’s cheap, local and the customer service and product value are exceptional. About a week ago, I went there for the second time to buy more Macintosh apples and some Golden Delicious with the intent of making boatloads of applesauce.

Amount: I ended up buying a 1/2 bushel of golden delicious and 1 peck of Macintosh. I wasn’t really sure on the exact amount of applesauce I wanted to make. Maybe I should have checked out this chart sooner..

According to the chart, I could have made 6-7.5 quarts of applesauce with 1/2 bushel of apples, and about 3 quarts with the Macintosh for a total of 10 quarts of applesauce. That’s roughly 52 pounds of apples for 10 quarts or 40 servings of 8 oz each.

I did not feel like making that much. Plus, I would rather save some apples to eat. The Macintosh are especially good for eating in my opinion. Here is what we brought home.

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Tiny baby hand for scale 🙂
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Add cinnamon and lemon juice.

Mix.

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All Golden, batch #1.
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Batch #2 is Golden + Macintosh.

My method:

1. Peel, slice, cut the apples. I would guesstimate I cut up 6 lbs, or a little over 1/4 of the 1/2 bushel bag. I was aiming to double jillee’s recipe. I just filled the crock pot with as many slices as it would hold.

2. Juice 2 lemons for 3 TBS lemon juice. Again, this is double of jillee’s.

3. Grate 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

4. Pour on the lemon juice and sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.

5. Then toss it all together and turn the crock pot on high.

6. On batch #1, I added about 3/4c. water and a few TBS honey about 1 1/2 hours into it.

7. Stir it periodically. I had to watch every so often to make sure the apples weren’t boiling over.

The apples actually cooked rather quickly. It took only 2 or 3 hours for the applesauce to be done. I didn’t need to mash them overly either. I actually prefer the semi-chunky texture, so I didn’t puree or alter the sauce in any way.

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It’s very easy, no? As long as it isn’t too sour or cinnamon-y for your taste, you should be good. Live simply used Red Delicious apples in her sauce, but I really wouldn’t use that kind…her sauce was really brown and I think the type she used may have something to do with it. But to each his own! My fav. apple is a Golden Delicious, so I used those. On batch #2 I mixed in some Macintosh with the Golden Delicious. It’s all in your preference, really 🙂

How much did it cost me? About $3 (apples) + $1 (4 lemons) + 79¢ (4 TBS organic honey) = $4.79 for both batches.

We did eat some before I really measured but I think it’s safe to say we made 4 quarts out of 12 lbs. It adds up with the afore mentioned chart (http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm). So that’s about 3.7¢ per oz, 30¢ per 8 oz serving. And $1.20 for 1 qt, or 32 oz.

The farm that I got my apples from is open year-round. I understand that not every apple farm operates that way though. If you can’t get out to an apple orchard in your area, just remember that apples go on and off sale at the grocery store all throughout the winter. It’s not a must that crock pot applesauce be made from farm fresh apples, although I highly recommend the experience. I would equate it to comparing my Grandma’s homemade strawberry jam to Smuckers jam. You can just taste the difference, and you’ll never want to go back to store bought again.

Cooking food from home is all about combining what your values are, what your family loves, what’s available in your area and what you have time and energy for. There are many many paths to healthy homemade cooking!

~Rachel