Beaucoup de Pommes

[Canning, messily, October 2007]

Tuesday night, nearly 11 p.m.: I am standing at the stove watching the last few jars of applesauce bubble themselves away to sterilization, cursing the ambitiousness that had me take four boxes of apples home from Inverness last week. I’m exhausted, I think, and then — I don’t even really like applesauce, anyway!

Nevertheless — the apples, they are sauced, and the sauce, it is jarred. We now have two dozen lovely specimens to either eat (um, but there’s so much) or else distribute to friends and family for the holidays (I think this is the likelier option). There’s still about a half-box left, though (I also filled three gallon freezer bags with slices), and I’ve made one pie, and will make a couple more tomorrow; then — I hope — the darned apples will be all used up.

It was an adventure, to be sure, and one I’m not sure I’ll repeat (or, if I do, it will definitely begin earlier than on a Sunday early evening, or a Tuesday night after work — like, say, a leisurely Saturday with all the time in the world). I recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, in which she details a year of living (and canning) from her garden, and thought dreamily about how great it would be to do the same. Her descriptions of luscious organic tomato sauce year-round, along with salsa! applesauce! spinach, corn, and zucchini straight from the garden and frozen, for mid-February consumption! are truly enticing, and inspiring.

Well, yeah: it is awesome. All that terrifically good stuff, grown right in your backyard — how could you go wrong? But it’s also so much work; in fact, I was not prepared for just how much work it really is — and I only made 24 (plus one) jars of applesauce! I may have to re-think my lofty future plans. It is hard work. It is intense.

But, yes, it is also fun. No matter that the kitchen floor was spattered and splattered with sticky bits of apple mush that missed the jar, or that my stove needed an indecent amount of scrubbing to make it somewhat presentable again. No matter that I stayed up way too late, to the point of monosyllabic conversations because I was so tired. People, I have applesauce. And we did it all ourselves.

Kingsolver’s point — and one which I take to heart — is if you commit to doing this, you’ll have an enormous amount of work for about 6-8 weeks, but if you hold on and make it, come winter, you won’t have much work to do at all. It’s a kind of doing your work in advance, to some extent, and I like that idea. Just don’t let me start it at 8p on a work night.

The apples we used were quite sweet, so we didn’t have to add any sugar (bonus!). Basically, all we did was to quarter them and stuff them into my two big pots with a little water, and then boil until soft. Then it was into the food mill to remove the skins, seeds, and cores before re-heating and pouring into hot, sterilized jam jars. Put that way, the process doesn’t seem too bad, but it can seem to go on forever when you have a large pile of fruit still to go. (Having a decently-sized kitchen and proper equipment would, I’m sure, make it all go much more quickly.)

But now we have lots of applesauce, and while I’m still a bit worn out from it, those softly glowing jars give me no small amount of pride.

I will say this — I’ll never, ever take a jar of homemade anything for granted again.

Quick! Use up the apples applesauce

Lots of apples
as many large pots as you have
1/2 cup water per pot
food mill
12 Mason jars

Quarter the apples and put into a pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then lower to medium heat and simmer until apples are soft and getting mushy. Put into a food mill that’s positioned over a large bowl, and press out as much of the fruit as possible, discarding the peel and seeds. Pour apple puree back into a pot.

Meanwhile, boil the jars and lids in another large pot for 15 minutes. Pour the hot applesauce (carefully!) into the jars and screw on the lids tightly. Return to the boiling water for another 10-15 minutes. Let the jars sit overnight to cool.

*If your apples are not too sweet, you may add some sugar to taste. I prefer a very simple applesauce, with nothing else in it — just the pure, apple-taste. But if you want cinnamon or cloves or more sugar, you can take your jar of this sauce and gently heat it up later, adding whatever spices or sweeteners you like before serving.

Join the Conversation

  1. So true, so true! I found myself hovering over a vat of tomato sauce at midnight the other week. I had bought a case of tomatoes from Mariquita Farm, and had to process them all before I went out of town the next morning–yikes! Not an ideal situation, to be sure, but the resulting gallons of sauce is satisfying.

    I always think it would be fun to do these sorts of things with friends as well, but I never get around to organizing it. Perhaps next year…and I’ll invite you!

  2. Seattle Tall Poppy says:

    We had a canning party this summer…and it was a great way to share the work load and take the stress off. One friend is a cooking school instructor so at any moment panic set in…she was just steps away. The ultimate comfort environment for preparing comfort food. :)

    Apple sauce is a great substitution in quick breads that use oil. Simply swap out 1/2 the oil with an equal amount of apple sauce. I tried it with my favorite pumpkin bread recipe and was pleasantly surprised.

  3. mmmmm…. this sounds yummy. i adore the idea of canning, and am reading that book currently. the day i have a kitchen that is larger than the size of a shoebox and one that is equipped with a dishwasher is the day i hope to be inspired to take in a similar project. happy eating!

  4. Marlene — I love the idea of a canning party! It would really help (not to mention, be really fun). I unfortunately don’t have a dishwasher, nor do I have a crockpot, but either or both of those items would be very helpful, I’m sure.

    John — I’ll be right over. You arecooking, right?

  5. John C Abell says:

    So, I figure about 350 potato pancakes are about right.

  6. Meals by Marlene Personal Chef Service says:

    Oh, you are so right! The idea of canning is downright seductive. The actual work is a little harder, but so worth it!

    I’ve got a bunch of apples myself and this is on the agenda. I like to throw the apples in a crockpot overnight and start the canning early in the morning. I peel and core them first, although I’m lackadasical about the peeling. It’s actually not too bad doing it this way. If you have your jars already sterilized (do you have a dishwasher in your little SF apartment?) then in the morning, you just start your big pot of water, fill the jars and boil away. Thirty minutes, tops.

    Do a little at a time throughout a couple of weeks (not every night, just once-in-a-while) and you’ll find it’s not so overwhelming.

    OTOH, something I would LOVE to try sometime:

    a canning party! Get a bunch of friends together, with whatever fruits and veggies they want to can, maybe even rent a commercial kitchen, and play all day. It would be great to have a few canning veterans attend, who can help out the rest of us. Such fun!

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