Monday, August 19, 2013

My Accidental "Naturally Grown" Applesauce

One of our coolest inherited items on our farm is a huge, beautiful apple tree.  The tree sits on the south side of our house and gives great shade where the kids like to play.  Last summer, we had just moved in and were going through a drought so we totally ignored the tree.  We picked up fallen apples and threw them into the neighboring field but other that that, did nothing.  This summer, we enjoyed watching it bloom, than again forgot about it as we got busy with our other projects.  And then came the caterpillars... and caterpillars... and caterpillars.  They were literally falling from the tree.  And though E loved collecting them (calling them "Mr. Caterpillar") we had no idea how to get rid of them.
E with "Mr. Caterpillars"
I research online and found out we should have sprayed our tree in the spring to prevent the caterpillars from making bags all over the tree.  So, we made a note to do this next spring and again, ignored the tree.  Well, August has come and our tree is filled with apples ripening.  Lots of apples have fallen to the ground so I started researching (my favorite thing) things to do with "yucky" apples since it seemed wrong to just waste them.  I learned you could make applesauce out of these apples as long as they were sweet and not sour (like Granny Smith) apples.  We don't know what kind of tree we have (we are guessing Jonathon) but Andy taste-tested and declared them sweet so it's applesauce time!

Esther and I spent a few days picking up apples from the ground that still looked pretty good.
Several websites I read said you can often ask apple orchards for discarded apples as they keep bags of them in the back for cheap so if you don't have an inherited apple tree sitting in your yard, this is a good option.  A lot had worm holes (due to not spraying) but I was confident we could cut out the bad sections. We collected a lot in just a few days.  I washed the apples in cold water right before I was ready to use them.
Once the apples were washed, I used my apple corer to cut and core then checked the slices and discarded any that were too spoiled.  I didn't find any bugs (thankfully).
My discards went in a bucket for the compost heap (circle of life).
The good pieces went into a large pot with an inch of filtered water (you can also use apple juice).
I filled up the pot with apple slices, put the lid on, then put it on the stove over high heat.  Once it started to sputter, I turned the heat down to medium.  It took about 20 minutes for the apples to turn to mush.
Once they were REALLY soft, I put them through a hand-cracked food mill.  You can also use a strainer or KichenAid sieve/grinder attachment.  I thought the food mill worked fine for $30 and didn't take much time at all.
Once the applesauce was made, I put it back in the pot and kept it warm while I did another batch.  (It took me two full pots for all the apples I had collected). The only thing I added was cinnamon.
Meanwhile, I prepped my jars by washing them in warm, soapy water and then sanitizing them in boiling water for 10 minutes. (The instructions on the Bell jar box)
The lids were put in a pan with hot, but not boiling water for 5 minutes.
Once the applesauce was ready, I spooned it carefully into the jars, cleaning up any that got on the outside or rim, to a 1/4" from the top.  I set the lid on top and gently tightened the ring around them.  The filled jars were put in a large pot and covered with water 1" above the lid.  For my sea level, the jars needed to boil for 15 minutes.

 I lifted the jars out of the water with a jar lifter and let them cool overnight.

Once the jars cooled, I checked their seal by making sure the button in the middle was pressed down.  So, by completely forgetting about our apple tree then ignoring it once we realized it was infested with caterpillars, we ended up with 8 jars of FREE, naturally-grown applesauce!  I call that a yummy win.

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