Posts Tagged 'Apples'

Of Cranberries and Apples

I waited and waited for cranberries to drop below $1 a bag. And my favorite low cost produce store sold out without ever reaching that price. So I finally folded and bought 15 bags at $1.50 a piece. I think this is the cheapest I’ll find them.

I had an initial game plan. Half would be Odessa’s, to make Odessa’s Cranberry Sauce. The other half was to be mine to make a sort of apple cranberry chutney I’ve been wanting to try.

Unfortunately (fortunately?) the Internet is an amazing pool of awesome information and ideas, and I stumbled across something I couldn’t resist. Pickled Cranberries.

And with those ideas stirring in my head I went in to the kitchen. 9 bags of cranberries for Odessa, two to pickle, and four for chutney. Or so I thought.

I should mention that this post won’t be very picture heavy, cause I was cooking my ass off tonight. Felt like everything on every burner needed my constant attention. And I was interrupted by two mishaps. One by my kid, and one my own doing.

Odessa started with her recipe first. It’s still my favorite cranberry sauce. And I could have two jars a month and be happy.

Cranberry Apple Chutney

24oz cranberries
20 apples, cored and rough chopped
9 cups sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
4 cups water.

This is a recipe that I found through Instagram, and then modified. The original recipe, as it was provided to me called for 8 cups of apples, 4 cups of cranberries, 6 cups of sugar, and one lemon. I based my math off of the amount of cranberries that I had left. But that was nearly 16 cups and I didn’t have it in me to add 24 cups of sugar to something.

I chose to go with Granny Smith and Fuji apples to stick with the red and green holiday theme.

20121128-014819.jpgFor what it’s worth, Fuji apples do not hold up to cooking, a little key point that I forgot. Opt for Lady Pink, Braeburn, Honey Crisp or other firm apple instead, if given the choice.

I used my handy dandy apple corer/slicer and cut the apples into 6 slices. Then I rough chopped the slices into pieces.

20121128-014748.jpgPut the water in a large pot, heat, and add the cranberries. I gave the berries about a five minute head start over the apples. As the cranberries start popping add your apples to the pot. Once the cranberries and apples start to cook and release more liquid add your sugar as well and stir thoroughly mix. Cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the cranberries and apples begin to cook down. Then add your lemon zest and juice.

20121128-015454.jpg I tasted the chutney after originally having only added 6 cups of sugar. That still seemed a bit too tart. I added another 3 cups of sugar, bringing the total to nine, simmered, and taste it again. That seemed like a good amount.

Continue to cook for approximately 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture thickens.

20121128-015541.jpg Pour your cranberry chutney into clean mason jars, apply your lid and ring.

20121128-015644.jpg Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes for pints.

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20121128-020016.jpg This ended up making 14 pints.

As I was looking around the web for cranberry recipes I came across an idea for pickled cranberries. Pickling is my most recent obsession. The author suggested adding a spoonful of pickled cranberries to club soda and gin, or tossing them in olive oil and topping a goat cheese and arugula salad with them. This sounded way too delicious to pass up.

Pickled Cranberries
24oz Cranberries
3 cups apple cider vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon juniper berries (I didn’t have these, and didn’t want to run out to the store. I’ll add them next time)

Place the allspice, clove, peppercorns, and juniper berries in cheesecloth and tie off.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and spice bundle in a pot and heat to a boil. Add the cranberries and cook for 5-10 minutes until the cranberries have popped. Bring the mixture back to a full boil.

Remove the spice bundle and cinnamon sticks and set aside. Ladle the cranberries into jars, and then add brine to the 1/2″ headspace. Cut the cinnamon sticks in half and add a piece to each jar.

Lids, rings, and 10 minutes in a water bath. As these are pickles, let them sit for a while before opening and enjoying.

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**Update**
The wife cracked a jar of the pickled cranberries today and made herself a cocktail of tonic water, gin, and some cranberries. Not long thereafter she texted “OMG these things are awesome.” I asked her to take a picture, and classy it up a bit so I could post it here. Ladies and gentlemen, my wife’s classy picture of her cocktail:

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Cranberry Pickled Apple Slices
It was at this point that I thought I was done. But I noticed that I had this gorgeous red tinted, cranberry scented brine left in the pot. I couldn’t bring myself to toss it out. I decided to be adventurous. I took two Fuji apples a d two Granny Smith apples and cored and sliced them. I returned the spice bundle to the brine and added the apple slices. My intent was just to cook them to the point of being soft. However at this very moment my three-year-old walked into the kitchen and told me that he had broken some glass. When I went to investigate I found that he had made his way into my canning pantry and was playing “how high can I build a tower of jelly jars.” Turns out the answer is seven. The tower had fallen and a jar if Strawberry Citrus Jam met its demise. In the time it took me to deal with and clean that, my apple over cooked. But, oh well, not the end of the world.

The apples were added to jars and covered with brine. Then processed for 10 minutes. I’ll probably warm them and use them to top vanilla ice cream. Or serve them as a side to pork chops.

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So there’s 4 things you can do with cranberries and apples. I’m definitely considering those pickled cranberries as Christmas gift idea #2. Show up to a holiday party with a couple jars of those bad boys, some vodka, gin, and mixers? You’ll be the hot of the party.

As I said earlier, I’m on a huge pickling kick right now. If you have a great recipe, or know of a must have pickling book, please share.

Happy canning.

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Pork Loin Stuffed With Apples And Blackberries

This is one of those recipes that was born because I was hungry and I didn’t want to run to the grocery store before dinner. You know those days, where you take turns opening the refrigerator, the pantry, and the cupboards, in turn hoping that you’ll find something that you didn’t see the previous five times.

I had a beautiful pork loin in the refrigerator. But the question was what to do with it. Rotisserie, slice it in to chops, cool it down into pulled pork, or roast it. I ended up grabbing a handful of other ingredients and coming up with this.

Pork Loin Stuffed With Apples and Blackberries
20121115-165849.jpg1 pork loin
2 apples
1 onion
1/4 cup blackberries (or raisins)
1/4 cup whiskey
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons blue cheese (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh
Butter
Salt and pepper to taste

400 degree oven

Dice the apples and onion. I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Honeycrisp. Salt and cook the onion in butter over medium low heat to give them a head start on caramelizing. Then add the apples and continue to cook until translucent and soft.

20121115-170640.jpgAdd the blackberries (or raisins, which was my original thought but I was out), the thyme, and the whiskey and cook to reduce.

20121115-170824.jpgSprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top just to absorb the excess moisture. I’m estimating that I used 1/2 cup. Then sprinkle the blue cheese. Next time I’ll skip the blue cheese. It wasn’t bad…but it didn’t really add anything either. No need to over complicate things, right?

20121115-171046.jpgFold the stuffing to combine and heat through.

Grab the pork loin and the longest thinnest knife you own. Insert the knife in one end and carefully drive it through to the other end with out penetrating the other side. Then CAREFULLY sweep the sharp side of the blade toward that side of the loin as you draw it out. Reinsert with the blade facing the other direction and repeat. The goal is to cut a nice hollow pocket in the center of your pork loin without having the blade penetrate through any of the sites. This pocket will hold all of your stuffing without allowing it to seep out while it cooks. I wanted to take pictures of this process for you guys but it is so difficult to handle meat and use the camera at the same time without constant handwashing and/or cross-contamination. But I hope you get the idea.

Stand the roast on the end that does not have the hole in it. This next step works best with an assistant. I held the hole in the roast open while my wife used to spoon to put the stuffing inside. I would then pack it in with my fingers. It was hot but not unbearable. Be sure to work the stuffing all the way down so that it’s distributed evenly throughout. Then use butchers twine to seal up the only end with a hole in it.

20121115-171611.jpg Put the roast in a pan and into your oven.

20121115-171830.jpg It took about 40 to 45 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 145. Remove it from the oven, tent with foil and let it rest for 10 minutes.

20121115-173153.jpgIf you use a very sharp knife and support both ends of the pork loin while you slice it the stuffing should stay in until you serve it.

20121115-173259.jpg Carefully remove one slice at a time and place it on a plate to serve. I chose previously home canned German style sweet and sour pickled red cabbage and home canned ranch style barbecue beans to serve on the side. (see picture above)

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Mmmmmm Apple Butter

I drove out to the Superstition Ranch Market on Monday, and found that they had Macintoch Apples for $.69/lb, Fuji Apples for $.40/lb, and Jonagold Apples for $.39/lb.  About 30 pounds later, I’m driving home to make apple butter.

I’m torn on the joys of making apple butter.  Let’s be honest, people are always really impressed when you give them a jar of  preserves or pickles.  There’s an impression that it’s insanely hard to make this stuff.  But I think that’s only because most people don’t, and thus don’t know how.  It reminds me of the old Rice Krispie Treat commercials where mom spend 15 minutes making the treats, only to buy a couple hours of quiet time, throw some flower around, and be received by her family with admiration.  Jam is pretty easy to make.  It takes a little skill, the ability to closely follow a very simple recipe, and bit of free time. But it’s no souffle.  Am I right?
Apple butter on the other hand takes time.  A lot of time.  And while it’s not difficult, I get burned more by apple butter than I do jam (although the jam burns are significantly hotter).  Apple butter also uses more counter space, more dishes, and more manual labor.  So when people are appreciative of my apple butter, I take it.  Every word of it.

That all being said, you know I do this stuff because I love it.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t make it (see Okra).  So I give to you, Apple Butter:

The first step is to get some apples.  Actually, a lot of apples.  Probably at least 10lbs.  You want about 9 quarts of apple sauce. Wait, what’s that you say? You didn’t know we were making apples sauce?  Yes.  We are making apple sauce first, and then apple butter.  And since I’m getting the water canner boiling, and making the kitchen messy, I figure, might as well get it all done at once.  You can’t make too much.  Because if you decide that you don’t want that much apple butter, just can the apple sauce the way it is.  Make sense?

What kind of apples you ask?  What kind do you have?  I wouldn’t use Granny Smith, or anything else overly tart.  But generally any other kind of apple will work. And here’s the thing, the more variety, the better.  I’ve used 5 different types in the past.  Each apple variety brings a little something different to the table, and together, they make magic.

I (as you read above) went with 3 varieties this time; from left to right Jonagold, Macintosh, and Fuji.  Why did I go with those 3?  Did you not see the prices I listed above?  Cost is a huge motivator for me when it comes time to decide what to make.

I bet for step one you’re expecting peel, cut, and core.  Nope.  That’s a huge wast of my time, and a waste of apple.  I let the Kitchenaid do all the work for me.  Did I mention that I use a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer wit the food and vegetable strainer attachment for this? Well I do.  And you should too.  If you fancy yourself any kind of semi-legit cook, or a home canner, or a neo-homesteader, you need a Kitchenaid with the grinder.  I can’t live without it.

Cut the apples into 8ths. Some of the Jonagolds were really big, and they got cut into 12ths or something.  But try to keep the shapes about the same size throughout.  The only thing you need to remove is the produce sticker, and as much of the bulk of the stem as you can.  But everything else stays.

Put about an inch or 2 of water in the bottom of a large pot, and start to heat it on high.  then toss in your apples as you cut them.  I don’t cut them all ahead of time, cause where am I gonna store 30lbs of sliced apples?

Lets interject to discuss pots quickly.  I have mostly All-Clad stainless cookwear.  And it’s amazing.  I also have this cheap-o aluminum stock pot from a grocery store.  And it sucks.  I almost lost half of my patch (15lbs!!) last night when the cheap-o pot got 2 hot spots and started to burn the apples.  Whereas the All-Clad is so thick, it heats evenly and maintains the heat too.  If you don’t have a nice set of cookwear, save up and get some.  It makes such a difference.  At least get a nice heavy skillet and a nice heavy pot.  The All-Clad batch cooked faster, and nicer than the cheap pot ever did.  I actually turned the cheap pot off halfway through and did smaller batches in the All-Clad.

Anyway, heat and stir, heat and stir, heat and stir until the apples are all soft.

As you can see there are some different consistencies in there.  I found that the Macintosh apples disintegrated in the heat.  The Fuji’s put up a good fight, but started to fall apart as well.  The Jonagold’s however, good lord.  They took forever to soften, and they never broke down.  Mental note, what a great baking apple if I need it to stand up to heat.  When all the apples are soft, move them to a large bowl and heat another batch if needed.

The set up: The blue bowl will catch the remnants.  The middle bowl will catch the applesauce, and the bowl on the right contains the cooked apples.  After attaching the grinder/food mill, turn the mixer on 2.  Start feeding the apples through.

This is the part that hurts.  The food mill has a tendency to suck and spit all over the place.  And those apples were boiling 30 seconds ago.  Don’t put your face over the food tray while you’re doing this.  I got hot apple juice in my eye last time. It hurts.  Nuff said.

Cooked apples go in the top.  All the skins, seeds, stems, cores, etc come out here in dried out little apple poo nuggets. This is why the blue bowl is here.

And out of the bottom comes pure liquid gold.  Congratulations, you’ve just made apple sauce.  It’s just that easy.  And if you wanna quit at apple sauce you totally can.  And this is it.  It doesn’t need anything.  No sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no sodium stearoyl lactylate, no nothing!  And that’s the best part about making our own food, isn’t it?  Now, I have been known to add a touch of cinnamon, but you don’t even need to add that now if you wanna sprinkle it on it when you eat it.  You can just reheat it to a boil,   jar this stuff up and water bath can it for 15 minutes for pints, and 20 for quarts.

That being said, in the interest of transparency, you could also (shudder) used purchased applesauce and start the recipe here.

Those fibrous apple nuggets can be composted if you’re into that (and if you’re reading my blog, you probably are).

Fill a crock pot almost to the top with your apple sauce.  Mine holds about 4 quarts.  Though bigger is fine.  Add 2 cups of sugar, 2T Cinnamon, 1t Clove, and 1/2t Allspice.  Then mix it all together well.

Put a wooden spool, a couple of chop sticks, dowels, or shish-kabob skewers across the pot, and then set the lid on it. This allows steam to escape, which will help it reduce, but keeps yoru kitchen clean and napalm free.

How long should this cook?  I don’t have a clue.  This isn’t so much a science as it is an art.  start with 8 hours, and work your way up.  I’m well above 12 hours, but my Crock Pot isn’t impressive.  Start with your pot on high to get it going, and then turn it down.  Check on it after 6, 8, and 10 hours.  And stir it any time you walk past it.  You want it to reduce in volume almost by half.  I set this at 2am, and it was ready for the next step at 7:30pm. So, almost 18 hours.  But, I also kept the pot on low since i knew I wouldn’t be around.

What if it burns? If it burns, remove the sauce into a bowl.  The burnt part should be stuck to the crock pot.  Clean it, return it to the pot, and continue.  What if it’s too runny?  Cook it longer.  What if it’s reduced too much?  Add apple sauce.  This is the nice thing.  Like I said, not a science.

After however many hours, your apple butter will be reduced by about half.  Mind you, that’s more than in this picture, but I totally spaced taking a picture at that point.

Then you add apple sauce to to the top of the crock again, and another 2 cups of sugar.  Mix well.  Let it cook a couple more ours to combine.  I cooked it another 3-4 hours.

Using an immersion blender, process until smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, either buy one, or skip this step.  I do not want to get an email from you in the burn unit after a blender or food processor mishap.  Ok?  Safety first.  This is boiling apples and sugar.  If you don’t blend this, I don’t think it’s the end of the world, it just wont have that smooth buttery consistency that apple butter should.

That’s it.  You’ve made Apple Butter.

Using safe canning methods (you know, clean jars, ladle, and funnel) fill your jars with the apple butter.  I’ve done pints in the past, but apple butter doesn’t go as quickly as jam in our house.  So I stick to 1/2 pints to avoid any waste.

Remember to leave your 1/4 inch head space, put the cover on and hand tighten the ring.

Put em in the water bath (yes, there are 5 1/2 pints in there) and let em ride for 10 minutes for 1/2 pints or pints, and 15 min for quarts.

Remove, and let sit for 24 hours without disturbing them.  I usually put them back in the original cardboard case the jars came in them, and slide them in a cupboard to keep the kids away from them.

And we’ve made apple butter.  You can put it on toast or english muffins, make PB&AB sandwich, or heat it and brush it onto pork, pour it onto pancakes, mix it in oatmeal, or use it to top vanilla ice cream.

 



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