Preserving

by Stefani on 24-September-2008

You should know that I'm no stranger to fast food. 

On occasion, when Daddy's traveling and it's been a long day, the drive through line looks like sweet respite from the impatient starving mongrels chasing me around the kitchen and the dirty dishes that they leave in their wake.

Sometimes, the shortcuts are necessary to preserving my sanity. 

Other times, I need to take the long road, meander a bit. On those days, a little preserving of a different sort is just exactly the deep calming breath that I need. 

I need to stand over a pot of something rich and warm and inhale the memories that rise from it. 

Here, at the end of summer's harvest we have in our freezer and lining our pantry shelves, all the evidence of a summer well spent, and a mama who has had plenty of time to boil and stir and meditate on her many blessings: 

10 half pint jars of pesto with which to remember long summer days, the smell of green and a little boy who couldn't get enough;

8 pints of strawberry jam and two quarts of strawberries that bring to mind pink cheeks, dusty rows, and dirty fingers seeking their red reward;

7 pints of plum jelly – just like my Momo made with me at her side, begging to lick the spoon;

4 pints cherry jam, which is really more like cherry syrup, but makes a truly fantastic frozen treat when combined with yogurt;

3 pints of pear preserves that will go to make Pear Cake just like my Granny does;

6 quarts of purple hull peas – shelled by 5 sets of hands that I hold very dear.

6 quarts of peaches which will bring all the taste of a summer sunset to the chilly grey days ahead;

1 quart of blackberries – not nearly enough, if you ask me, but the return in purple grins will be great. 

And now, now that we have all those spring memories and sweet summer goodness saved up for another day, it is time to savor a little bit of fall's riches too. 

Red Delicious

Peeler, Corer, Slicer

Apple Butter

LIttle brown jars filled with apple butter, yes, but also filled with the cinnamon-y goodness of a fall evening that we'd like to taste again and again. Those jars are full of giggles and dancing in the kitchen, the radio on our counter spilling out a fiddle's honeyed notes, and wafting in from an open window, the satisfied murmur of chickens feasting on apple peels. 

These jars are filled with rowdy laughter over made-up fruity knock-knock jokes, the warmth of candle light and the stiff-shouldered pride of one little man who likes to say, "Grandfather's favorite is apple butter, and so is Daddy's. Now it's mine too!" 

They are full of a golden moment that will never be lived again, but will be savored for a long time to come. 

Our apple butter calls for: 

6 pounds of apples. After weighing, peel, core and chop them (It's tastiest if you use a few different kinds of sweet apples, like Gala, Fuji, Braeburn or the Delicious varieties)
4 cups of sugar (you could probably use less)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt. 

Mix the dry ingredients then pour over the apples and toss. Cook in a crockpot on high for an hour and then on low for 10 hours. Remove the lid and cook for another hour. 

At this point, you can put it through a food processor or blender (as we did) to make it extra smooth. Just do it in very small batches. It will be really hot and could burn you. It does some kind of crazy weird expanding trick in the blender when it's hot, so I only fill it half full and blend it on the lowest possible setting. I don't even push the button all the way in. I just sort of pulse it. 

Spoon into clean jars (leaving about a half inch headroom), put the lids on and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Ours was gently boiling. 

If you want to skip the hot water bath, you can just freeze your jars (plain old jars have worked just fine in the freezer for us – just let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the freezer). We tried freezing with one of our jars of apple butter, just to see if it would alter the texture once it was frozen and then defrosted. Nope, no difference. It worked great!

We doubled this recipe, and it yielded exactly 16 half pint jars (of course I had a lot of bowl lickers, so it might have been a bit more 🙂
Deirdre September 24, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Do you know Greg Brown’s “Canned Goods”? This post has me singing it now:-) Give it a listen.

Our Green Nest September 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm

We’re going to be trying your apple butter recipe for sure – tu for sharing (as always :)!

molly September 24, 2008 at 3:44 pm

woohoo – i love apple season. i think we’ll give this recipe a whirl. how many pints does the recipe make?

Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary September 24, 2008 at 3:59 pm

Oh I need to do this! Can you tell me when you say put them in a hot water bath for 20 mins, how hot should the water be? Boiling, or just really hot? Can you tell I haven’t done this before? I want to put the jars in with the lids on right?

Grace September 24, 2008 at 4:29 pm

oh, freak, this was just so sweet (the memories associated with all the things you’ve preserved this year) that it makes my breath catch a bit. You are one amazing mama.

Amy September 24, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Thank you for the wonderful recipe. I hope when I recreate it I can store some happy moments similar to yours.

Jacqui September 24, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Can I trade places with you for just one day? I am so envious stuck here in my subdivision with no trees in a big city. You make the simplest things sound so sweet and your guys are going to have the best memories of life growing up. I am trying to instill these in my little one but there are days I fear I am falling far short.

YayaOrchid September 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm

+You mentioned that you can just freeze your jars. Would that be the regular Mason canning jars? They are ok for the freezer? I’ve got some of those little ‘quilted’ pint jars and some wide mouth 16oz jars. Iwould think freezing is easier.

Angela September 24, 2008 at 6:13 pm

mmm…we’re going to Hood River, OR this weekend – orchard country – to pick pears and apples. your post has me super excited to make pear and apple butters! thanks for sharing!

amylouwho September 24, 2008 at 6:18 pm

I’ve been wanting to make apple butter! I think I may do it this fall. Makes great Christmas gifts with fresh bread – a little diversion from the normal cookies and treats.

You are such a talented writer. You have a gift for painting a picture with words. You make me want to live next door so I could get a peek at such a life!

Mama Urchin September 24, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Oh I love preserving. Putting by for those winter days when just a taste of summer will get you through. Great job on getting so much done!

wesleyjeanne September 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm

This year we’ve canned: peach jam, blackberry jam, strawberry jam, peaches in honey syrup with mint, salsa, tomatoes in their own juice, hot peppers, pickled okra, and pickles.

I can’t wait to try your apple butter recipe. We’ve planned a trip to the orchard for next weekend. Now, is that 6 lbs before or after peeling and slicing?

SpiderWomanKnits September 24, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Oh, yummy. We’ll be picking soon and I’ll certainly keep your recipe in mind. I have to admit I’m intimidated by the water bath part though.

Linn September 24, 2008 at 7:08 pm

What a beautiful word picture of your full and productive summer. I would love to learn to preserve and can next summer.

ferroever September 24, 2008 at 8:06 pm

Your blog is how I imagine heaven to be.

melissa s. September 24, 2008 at 8:18 pm

what a super sweet countdown, and thanks for the recipe!

Anne September 24, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Wow, you are prepared…I have to find some apple butter now or make it.

cloth.paper.string September 24, 2008 at 9:53 pm

ack! we just finished putting up apples. had i seen your recipe, i’d have surely transformed some of those orbs in to apple butter, which i love slathered with cream cheese on toast…

your bounty is awesome! i see you’re lacking in the raspberry department… any chance you’d be up for trading one of those half-pints of apple butter for a half-pint of raspberry jam? i’ll throw in some tomatoes, too!!

Mandy September 25, 2008 at 4:58 am

Oh my goodness! We love apple butter! Ever tried Pumpkin Butter? Same recipe only you use pumpkin pie filling instead of apples. So good!!

Stephanie B September 25, 2008 at 6:57 am

I have heard of apple butter before but what do you eat it with. It sounds super yummy!

Debbie Rosenkranz September 25, 2008 at 8:48 am

Wow…truly awe inspiring! You all have been very hard at work and making beautiful memories in the process. I love that! And I must admit that the way you write about it is so vivid and tangible: beautiful. Thanks for allowing us on the journey with you!

Regina September 25, 2008 at 11:11 am

Yum! I just bought a jar of whipped honey at the farmer’s market – that and some apple butter would be divine!!!

Julie @ Letter9 September 25, 2008 at 3:55 pm

I really can’t wait until my little one can help me with such things. I just love those kid-labeled jars.

And thanks for the recipe. It looks so yummy.

Becky September 25, 2008 at 4:37 pm

I’ve been lurking on your site for a few weeks now. It is very refreshing. I am impressed that your kids will eat all the preserves. I have one boy that would try it all and one that won’t even put it on his plate!

Jules September 25, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Again… thank you.
We are just coming into our spring season. Thinking about which seeds to sow, how much we may yield & am ever careful not to grow more than we (& our willing friends) can consume. You have inspired me to try something new – preserves. I never have before. It always seemed too complicated but maybe we will try. My eager spoon licker & I 🙂

Relyn September 25, 2008 at 7:00 pm

I gotta know where you got that apple peeler. So cool! I’d love a gadget like that.

Sarah September 25, 2008 at 11:52 pm

What a lovely post! You do have a way with words. You’ve been able to write out exactly what I’ve been feeling, but hadn’t been able to articulate, as I have been preserving this fall.

heather September 26, 2008 at 5:53 am

awesome. i picked 50 pounds of apples yesterday – you just helped plan my weekend. 🙂 i hope there is a taste of fall in the air down there in texas!

brit September 26, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Do you can the pesto? I’ve always wanted to can pesto because it looks so pretty in the jars which I know is the WRONG reason to say oh silly ol botulism, I’m going to ignore you.

Everywhere I turn there is the big ol’ DON’T CAN THE PESTO words. And I’m happy to freeze it and add fresh garlic to it when it’s reheated but, I have to ask. Do you can?

carol September 27, 2008 at 10:07 am

I am so glad I read your post last night!

Today, my family and I went to our farmers market (last one of the year 🙁 ) and bought a bunch of apples! We already have the apples in the crock pot!

Aimee Greeblemonkey September 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm

so lovely. 🙂 and yum!

Em October 2, 2008 at 8:51 am

I am so jealous! I am going to have to go out and get more jars and more apples now… Your pesto is really what gets me – my son loves it too, and we just didn’t make a whole lot this year… I should have made a TON and canned it! Can it be canned with the waterbath or does it need a pressure canner? Maybe I can still salvage some!

Gretchen Skovron October 6, 2008 at 11:24 am

Thank for the tips. My mom just brought me a bushel of apples from PA on a recent trip. Looking forward to canning this weekend.

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