( A NOVICE CANNER LEARNS WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THOSE APPLES)
Although as a kid I remember my mother canning peaches, plums, tomatoes, pickles, and who knows what else, canning has always seemed mysterious to me. So when my neighbor Ric Duran offered to walk me through the process and to let me use his canning equipment, I had to say yes. Here’s what I learned: canning is not that difficult. Most of the work is in preparing the food to be canned–and that’s just cooking. Then it’s a matter of having a large pot with a lid and a rack, new jars and lids (or used jars in perfect condition), tongs. That’s about it, although of course one must observe strict sterilization procedures and proper processing times. Apples are among the easiest things to can because they have a pH of less than 4.6 and are considered acidic enough to be safe from the major danger in improperly canned food, botulism. Photos of my canning adventure and a recipe for apple-pear butter (which really turned out to be delicious) are after the jump. You might want to cook up a batch even if you don’t feel like canning. It should keep well for a week in the fridge, and you could always freeze the rest in small freezer bags. If you do want to try your hand at canning, the excellent website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation explains everything in clear English.
PHOTO ABOVE: With help from my neighbor, Ric Duran, my apple-pear butter was a canning success. The lovely lady in the background photo is my great-great aunt, Mary D. Jones. The multiple-exposure shot was made in a photographer’s studio sometime in the 1890’s. She lived to be nearly 101, and I remember her well.
14 cups (packed) peeled, cored and chopped apples and pears (use a combination, or one or the other)
1 cup apple juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (peel ginger and use a microplane to grate it)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (as insurance that the acidity is high enough, as well as to perk up the flavor)
1. Combine the prepped apples and pears in a large, thick-bottomed pot. Cover, bring to a boil, then uncover, lower heat and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour or until you have a thick applesauce.
2. With a potato masher, mash the fruit, add the remaining ingredients, lower heat a little more and simmer slowly, stirring frequently, cooking and reducing the fruit until you achieve a thick, rich consistency. Check this by spooning a little out on a small plate. It should stay firm, not spread out or weep juice around the edges. For me, this took an additional hour and forty-five minutes. Finally, check seasoning and sweetness levels. Your apple-pear butter is now ready to be canned. Yields 5 cups.