Learning Curve

Yesterday morning, one of my hens, Ava, was acting rather subdued, like she does when she’s thinking about laying an egg, but isn’t ready to go into the nesting box quite yet. I didn’t think too much about it, until I visited with the girls in the early afternoon and noticed Ava was acting very lethargic. I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong, and it was deadly. Continue reading “Learning Curve”

Fat Girl Swims

Before anyone takes offense (okay, there might be some already offended by the title), I am fat. Medically, physically, mathematically, I am fat. I don’t view it as a good or bad thing, it just is. Like my smile or my sense of humor, it’s a part of who I am. If you’re offended by the use of fat, okay, you can be offended, but it doesn’t change that I’m fat. So, there. On with the post. Continue reading “Fat Girl Swims”

6 Awesome Learning Apps for Kids

It can’t always be rainbows and sunshine outside. What to do when the clouds roll in and the wind kicks up and the kids are itching for something to do? Welcome guest, Jessica Nye, who shares her experience with using technology to keep her kids engaged in learning. Continue reading “6 Awesome Learning Apps for Kids”

When your body tells you to stop–the bare minimum

I’ve never been one to sit on the sidelines when there’s work to be done. My philosophy is to do it now and get it out of the way. That’s why these past few weeks have been so difficult since an injury to the MCL (or medial collateral ligament), one of the four major ligaments of the knee that runs along the inside of the knee, has caused me to slow down and sometimes even just stop. Continue reading “When your body tells you to stop–the bare minimum”

Sharing Simple Summer Tomato Salad

Simple Summer Tomato Salad (1)

Today was a potluck party at my day job. Sometimes knowing what to fix for a potluck is luck of the draw. Either everyone will eat it and scrape the bowl for the last little bit that remains, or a handful of people will try a few bites to be polite and you’ll take home more leftovers than you can possibly eat.

With that in mind, I always take something that I don’t mind eating for dinner the same night, and possibly lunch the next day. Continue reading “Sharing Simple Summer Tomato Salad”

Let’s make applesauce!

Canning can be a great way to preserve food that is now in season for use later. It’s wonderful to make a batch of chili when there’s snow on the ground with the tomatoes you canned mid-summer, or making a bubbling cobbler with the peaches you put up with your own hands.

What’s even better is knowing exactly what ingredients are in the food you’re eating and serving to your family. Too often, prepared foods can contain ingredients that we either don’t recognize, or don’t want. (High fructose corn syrup, I’m looking at you!)

When I first started canning, I was terrified that I was going to poison myself and my children. I started out with six jars of green beans in a borrowed pressure canner/cooker, sweated in stress throughout the entire process, then couldn’t bring myself to eat them. The contents of all six jars eventually went into the compost bin.

I don’t recommend starting out canning with green beans, or a pressure canner, although some might disagree with me. I would, however, recommend starting with something so easy, you’ll wonder why in the world you’ve never done it before–applesauce. For a couple of hours work, you’ll have delicious applesauce that you made with your own hands, and I’ll bet it won’t get dumped into your compost!

First, the apples.

There are many different types of apples, each with it’s own flavor and texture, and while there are just as many recommendations as to what apples should (or shouldn’t) be used for sauce, I will say that I’ve made applesauce with many different type (sometimes a blend of several different types) and the applesauce has always been delicious and has been eaten.

The type of apple you select also has to do with what’s available in your area. You may be fortunate enough to live in the part of the country where apples are grown. (I buy mine locally from Forge Hills Orchard in Mount Wolf, PA.) Or you may have a farmer’s market where you live, or know of someone with trees on their property from which they’re willing to share. Regardless of the type or where they come from, you want quality apples, largely free from bruises.

To peel or not to peel?

This is largely a personal preference. My daughter prefers applesauce made with peeled apples, but my son eats it either way. Because I have an apple peeler (like this), I don’t mind peeling the apples when making sauce, as it makes peeling apples short work.

Equipment

Certain foods, like jams, jellies, tomatoes, pickles, and fruits, including applesauce, can be canned using a water bath, which is a large pot, deep enough to hold pint (or quart) canning jars, plus 2 inches of water covering the lids.

You may see pots that look like this.

canning pot 1

While I have canning pots that look like this, and they’ve done very well over the years.

canning pot 2

You’ll also need canning jars, with rings and new lids. (Rings can be used over and over until they start to develop rust, while lids can be used only once.) You cannot use regular jars, like spaghetti sauce or mayonnaise jars. These type of jars were not made for home canning.

When you purchase new canning jars, they come with a set of new rings and lids, which are great for first time canners or someone who needs to add jars to their stock. Once used, you can purchase just the lids and reuse the rings and jars year after year.

canning jar canning lids and rings

Although not necessary, but very helpful, are canning tongs and a funnel. Often the canning pot, tongs and funnel can be purchased as one kit.

canning tongs canning funnel

Whenever I can, especially with water bath canning, I find it very helpful to have several towels on hand. You’ll be dealing with large pots of water, and hot, wet jars, and it’s helpful to have towels ready to clean up water that’s dripped onto the floors or counters. Plus, when you take your jars out of the pots, you can sit them on towels to cool.

Whenever I’m making any type of sauce (including apple sauce), I’ve found it’s easiest to use my immersion blender to break up solids. (I got my immersion blender at a garage sale for $3, so be on the lookout!) You could also use a food strainer or a handheld mixer, but remember, the food will be hot!

For instructions on how to do water bath canning, here’s a video from Michigan State University Extension that shows how to water bath can.

(The only thing I would say differently is that pre-heating the lids is no longer recommended. Simply wash the lids and rings in hot water beforehand.)

Ingredients for Applesauce

  • Apples, peeled and cored and chopped into pieces about the size of half dollars. About 13 lbs. of apples will make about 9 pints of applesauce.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 cup sugar per quart (optional). Depending on the apple, and the preference of the person eating the apples, the sauce may be tart or sweet.
  • Cinnamon, vanilla extract (not imitation vanilla flavor!), a split vanilla bean (all optional). How much you use will depend on how flavorful you’d like your applesauce. I’d recommend starting out with 1-2 tsp. of cinnamon, and one split vanilla bean or 1-2 tsp. of vanilla extract.

Some recipes call for lemon juice or ascorbic acid to prevent browning, but personally, although my applesauce becomes a light brown color, I’ve never felt the need to prevent additional browning.

Directions:

  1. To a large pot (not your canning pot with water in it!), add the chopped apples and 1/2 cup of water.
  2. Stir and cook over medium heat for 5-20 minutes, depending on the type of apples and how small the pieces were cut. Don’t let it scorch!
  3. You’ll see the apples start to break down and will start to “sauce”. When that happens, remove the pot from the heat and use your immersion blender to break up the chunks until it’s the consistency you prefer. (Some people like a smoother applesauce, while others prefer chunks. It’s your choice.)
  4. When you have the consistency you want, return the pot to a low-medium heat and add the optional spices and sugar if you’d like. My advice is to add the spices, cook it on low-medium heat, then taste it. If it needs sugar, then add a small amount at a time, until the desired sweetness is reached. Remember, you can always add more, but you can’t remove it once it’s in.
  5. Bring the sauce to a slow boil, then remove from heat. (Also now is the time to remove the vanilla bean if you used one.)
  6. You are now ready to eat, can or freeze your applesauce. (Look for canning jars that are freezer safe, and you can use them to freeze your applesauce.)
  7. When canning, fill jars with hot sauce, leaving ½-inch head space. Adjust lids and process 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts (up to 1,000 ft altitude).

What’s you favorite way to eat applesauce? Straight from the bowl? As applesauce cake?

Recipe based in part from the National Center for Home Preservation.