This post is intended to chronicle exactly what I did for this year's apple canning season so that I can repeat or improve upon my process for next year.
I purchased about 17 pounds of mixed variety apples from the grocery store for .99/lb. This was the same price it was at the local orchard for pick your own apples when you picked greater than 20 pounds. I opted to skip the actual picking this year...maybe next year I will do it with the kids just for the experience. A few years ago, I took Sara (then about 15 months) and picked about 60 pounds of apples. Did I mention that it was only me and Sara...and 60(!) pounds of apples? Not the brightest idea I've ever had, and probably the main reason I skipped it altogether this year.
In addition to the store-bought apples, I bought 2 big boxes (24 pounds each) of apple seconds from the Catoctin Orchard in Emmitsburg. They were $6 a box for a total of $12. I was not exactly sure what I was going to be getting with "seconds" but I was pleasantly surprised! The apples were not the prettiest things. There were lots that were misshapen, too big, too small, or with a small defect on the peel. But they were all most certainly edible and you can't beat .25/lb! Also, I was able to have the orchard make up my boxes of seconds with the kind of apples I wanted...I only specified red vs. yellow/green, but I think next year I will ask if they can avoid adding certain varieties of apples. (I will have to figure out the type, but there was one kind that was a very soft fleshed apple that totally fell apart when cooking.) For next year, I will definitely go with all apple seconds and no store bought. I think
After I got all the apples home, I cut them into about 6 pieces each and tossed them into this big tub that Sara so (un)willingly let me borrow from her toy room. It didn't occur to me to take a picture till we were well underway, but at the beginning the bin was very full!
In the midst of chopping, I began cooking the apples. They needed to cook for about 15 minutes, so I had a sort of rotating schedule of starting each pot about 7 minutes apart.
When one pot of apples was done cooking, I processed them down to sauce using my Kitchenaid mixer and some amazing attachments (the food grinder and the fruit & veggie strainer)! Sara was a big help with this step mixing and pushing the apples down the chute to be processed. She also dubbed the waste coming out the end of the strainer the apple poop. She thought that was hilarious!
The next step in the process was to cook the applesauce with sugar and cinnamon and then to process the jars. For the applesauce I added about 1/2 c sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon per quart. This was not scientific at all. It looked more like 2 c sugar and a heaping hand full of cinnamon added to the pot on the right in the picture below. As for the jars, some people run them through the dishwasher to get them sterile/hot, but I decided to boil them empty in the canning pot for about 10 minutes before filling them with the hot applesauce. After the jars were filled I processed them in the canner for about 20 minutes. It worked out well once I got my system going. 20 minutes of processing time plus 10 minutes to prepare the next set of jars was just the time I needed to cook up another pot of applesauce. Rinse, lather, repeat...and repeat, and repeat, and repeat...
So here's the final tally...I canned 15 quarts and 13 pints of applesauce and 11 pints of apple butter. Why both quarts and pints of applesauce?? I really have no idea. I wish I had a good explanation...I had enough quart jars to do it all in quarts. At first I thought I would only do the cinnamon applesauce in the smaller jars, then do plain in the quarts but I liked the cinnamon so much I did it for all of the jars. I am wondering if it will work out OK throughout the year to have some smaller jars to use when we don't want to refrigerate leftovers. I will have to see how it goes and plan better for next year.
A note about the apple butter--pick a recipe that starts with cooking the apples in cider vinegar. Don't add too much (if any) of the cooking liquid back into the processed apples...it makes it take forever to cook down again. Spices to be added include ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice. The more the better in my opinion!
So now let's talk about cost effectiveness. I will preface this by the fact that I already had the quart-sized jars and I bought the pint jars for $3 a dozen at a local thrift store. Because they are reusable, I am not going to count them in the cost. Also, the rings are reusable so I won't be counting them either. It wasn't a huge money-saver, but it was alot of fun!
lids $2/dz (x4)
Extra ingredients for apple butter $10
This compares to a retail value for similar products of:
Applesauce qts: $2 (x15)
Applesauce pts: $1 (x13)
Apple butter pts: $2.50 (x11)
I am adding this post to the Works for Me Wednesday series over at Rocks In My Dryer...go over and check out some other great ideas!