My aunt L gave me this big box of beautiful Gravenstein apples from her tree. Her tree has made so many apples this year, it's just crazy. My own apples won't come in for another 3-4 weeks, but hers have been going strong for a while now. She has an equally big box of beautiful and perfect apples, but these are the buggy and blemished ones, perfect for cooking into applesauce!
Naughty little Dottie Bonkers sniffing the apples...
The first step is to prepare the apples. Preferably with a good TV show or NPR or a fancy podcast to entertain you. Peel and core the apples, cutting out any wormy or rotten bits. I ended up with a huge pot full of apples, a small bowl of icky bits, a big bowl of nice peels and cores, and still a fair number of apples in the box, as you can see!
Here are my pretty peels and cores. This year, I decided to do something I've been wanting to try for a long time - make Apple Peel Jelly in addition to my applesauce. A new culinary adventure is always a thrill ride, and the Apple Peel Jelly ended up being a bit of an ups and downs roller coaster!
The pot is totally full of innocent little apple chunks, ready & waiting to turn into applesauce.
On the stovetop. Add in a little bit of water to the bottom of the pan (no more than 3/4", with the apples in there). Turn the heat to medium-high, stirring occasionally, and cook until the apples soften. I sometimes add in a little bit of cinnamon &/or a dash of maple sugar, but this time I went for straight-up 100% apples.
Meanwhile, in another big pot, boil your jars and lids.
Once the apples are all soft, I use a potato masher to mash them up. These Gravenstein apples really mashed into such a light and creamy texture - perfectly classic applesauce! The apples off my tree make a chunky applesauce, which is also good, but less traditional. Isn't it beautiful!?
Canning Tip #1: if you are interested in canning, get some canning tongs. They are totally awesome and make the job much easier and safer. I like how easy it is to pour off the boiling water when removing the empty jars with these tongs. This used to be a fairly un-nerving task with my old regular kitchen tongs.
Canning Tip #2: Also, get a canning funnel. This thing RULES THE WORLD. My awesome friend JJTWH gave me this years ago, and I love it like a first-born. Just look and see how easy it is to pour huge heaping scoops of boiling hot applesauce into a little jar!!
End result: lots of beautiful jars of applesauce. I made some small ones and some medium-sized ones. The small ones will be great for baking recipes when I want to sub out some oil for applesauce, without having to open a big jar of applesauce.
Meanwhile, I was also working on Project Apple Peel Jelly: here's my big pot of apple peels and cores cooking up...
After about 45 minutes or so (? don't remember precisely) of boiling all those apple bits, I ended up with this absolutely gorgeous batch of rose-colored, apple-scented liquid. So beautiful!
I found a few different recipes online, all of which were disconcertingly different... So, I picked one that didn't require adding in any additional pectin, and went for that. But after adding my sugar and lemon juice, and keeping my pot at a rolling boil forEVER, I just couldn't get the temperature past 210 F (apparently 220 will cause it to set). So, I finally gave up and added in some fruit pectin (which luckily I keep on hand in my cupboards).
In the end, I came out with about 8 jars of truly beautiful apple peel jelly. I got a nice gentle set, so the jelly is soft but not liquidy. Very nice! It was worth the anguish! The color is so beautiful, it reminds me of stained glass windows.... I might explore other uses for that amazing pink apple-y liquid for my next few batches of apple processing though... I absolutely hate to waste potentially tasty goodies, but I'm pretty sure I don't need more than 8 jars of apple jelly this year!