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Homemade gift goodies

A non-Do-It-Yourselfer makes her first foray into canning

0 Comments 01 December 2009

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Photos: Kristin Moody

I am not a Do-It-Yourselfer. I have approached suggestions of the ease with which I can “make my own clothes” with not just trepidation, but a hardy chuckle. Suckers — I can buy clothes at the store.

That said, I was in the market for some inexpensive gift ideas this season, what with the recession and all. And I loved the idea of making something with my daughter that we could give to friends and family that would surprise them. So I decided to embark upon that age-old tradition of canning foodstuff. Turns out preserving vegetables requires a bit more confidence (and supplies) than I could muster, but fruits are apparently high enough in natural acids that I was less likely to poison anyone.

My daughter and I picked apples from a PYO orchard (www.pickyourown.org) and gave the recipe and home canning a try. It tasted amazing (and, lo and behold, no one got botulism from my first foray into canning!) so I cheated, went to DeKalb Farmers’ Market, and got a big ol’ box of organic apples there to make another batch ($28 for 100).

The only canning supplies I truly needed came from a $6-ish kit I got at Wal-Mart — you will need the magnetic lid lifter, jar-grabber and the canning funnel.

Other than that, you’ll need:
• great big soup pot with a lid (in lieu of a proper canner)
• slow cooker
• drink blender
• package of pint jars with lids and rings for canning (about $10 at the grocery store) or jelly-sized canning jars ($8 for 4 oz. or 8 oz.)

Your food ingredients are:
• Approx. 50 peeled and cored apples (a sweet variety)
• 4 cups of sugar (or substitute an equivalent amount of apple juice
concentrate or artificial sweetener)
• 2 T of ground cinnamon
• 1 T of ground allspice
• 1 T of ground cloves

Here’s what you do:
1 ) Quarter apples and put them in a big pot with just enough water to line the bottom. Cover. Turn the burner up high until boiling, then turn it down to steam the apples until they are soft.

2 ) Puree apples with a drink blender (note from my half-melted drink blender: Let the applesauce cool first). Put as much applesauce as will fit in the slow cooker with ? the sugar (2 cups) and all the spices. Stir well. Put the remaining applesauce in the fridge.

3 ) Prop the lid off the lip of the slow cooker with some knives or chopsticks so you are guarding against splatter, but the steam can escape. Leave it cooking on low for about 24 hours.

4 ) Add remaining applesauce and mix, and let it cook back down again until it’s at your desired consistency. The longer you cook, the thicker it gets. The more applesauce you add, the thinner.

5 ) Sterilize the jars and rings by washing and boiling (just wash the lids — boiling can damage the seal) or run through the hottest setting on your dishwasher. Keep them hot until you fill them to prevent cracking.

6 ) Fill with boiling-hot apple butter (boiling-hot is required for food safety). Make sure the lips of the jars are clean — here is where that canning funnel comes in handy. Use the magnetic lifter to remove the lids from hot water. Situate lids on jars firmly then finger-tighten the rings.

7 ) Put the jars in the clean pot of boiling water. My big soup pot held four full pint jars at a time or about eight of the 4-ounce jars. The key is to have enough space so that boiling water is circulating around and above the jars, so make sure you have at least an inch of boiling water covering the jars. Boil for 20 minutes.

8 ) Use your jar-grabber to retrieve the jars from the pot. Leave the jars undisturbed for about 24 hours. You can test the seal by making sure the lid doesn’t pop when you press it. You can also try taking off the ring to see if the lid is easily dislodged. If they’re all sealed, you’re ready to distribute widely and earn the esteem of friends and neighbors!

With 50 apples, I got eight pint jars of apple butter. Not counting miscellaneous supplies and spices, that’s $2.58 a jar. And I canned the leftover applesauce (you can add sugar and cinnamon — just bring it to a boil before you can it), so each person will get two goodies.

Throw on some ribbon, and voila! You’re like the urban Amish.

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