Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Enjoying our Fall Break

Last week was Fall Break, which is only three days here. Poor Emma was sick for most of it, but we managed to get out of the house on the third day for some outdoor recreation in the beautiful leaves. We met my sister Jenn and her kids in Provo Canyon for a picnic and play. It is so pretty right now with the beautiful colors and snow on the tops of the mountains!

The whole gang.

The best kids in the world! (Except for, of course, all of yours:)

We have been trying to find letters in nature and we found this awesome "F" stick. And a cool heart rock! And you know how I LOVE heart rocks. This one was a little too big to remove and add to my collection, so I took a photo instead.

I love this picture. I think Emma looks like Aunt Alex and can you even stand how cute Maddie's belly is?

So I really wanted to get a cute ground picture, but the sun was just too bright for them to open their eyes! I think it still turned out great.

Jenn's cute family.

We were picking leaves for leaf art. Isn't she gorgeous?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Roasted Hide, Roasted Applesauce

This year, I canned more food than I ever have before. The main reason is not because I love to stand on my feet for hours, but because I ended up with a lot of inexpensive produce that was hard to pass up. Despite the mess, the steam, and the monotony of the whole process, the thing I love about canning is being able to hang out with my lovely female family. That, and in a wierd way, I feel connected to generations of women past. (Caroline Ingalls and I are like this.) Plus, there is nothing like having a well-stocked pantry. First, I canned pears with Jenn. Then, I did peaches with Jade; salsa and stewed tomatoes with my mom, Jenn, and Jessica; apple pie filling with Jenn; and finally applesauce by my lonesome. And my family is sooo lucky because everything turned out tasting great.

So now that you know about the successes, let me tell you about this year's failure that really roasted my hide- when we made apple pie filling, we had an entire batch that didn't seal properly! There is nothing worse than spending your money and time preparing and processing the jars and having them not turn out. I know because I have had many mishaps over the years.... One year, while living in Oregon, I unkowingly purchased the wrong type of pears and all 30 jars turned to complete mush. (To make matters worse, before opening a jar and testing it, I actually gave a few away to friends and neighbors! When I tried them, I about died. And little Emma had babyfood pears for an entire year.)

Another time, I tried to can a new variety of NC white peaches and they turned out soft and brown and looked so gross in the jar that no one would eat them. And the only thing worse than wasting your money and time on a bushel of peaches that no one wants to eat, is actually eating them. Every guilty bite. Because if you eat it, you didn't waste your time or money, right? Hahahahaha. My poor, poor family! "I spent lots of time and money on these peaches and we're going to eat them!" Seriously.

So this year, I had already spent my "canning energy" when we got a free bushel of apples and I couldn't pass them up.

Among other things, I wanted to try making apple pie filling. A friend of mine gave me a 'tried and true' recipe and we followed it closely. The filling tasted great, but after processing, an entire batch had lost a few inches of liquid off the top and didn't seal properly. I want to know WHY??? Here are my guesses:

1- Even though everything written about lids and screwbands says to only screw them on "fingertip tight," you should really screw them on pretty darn tight so the liquid can't get out.

2- After the processing time was complete, I didn't wait 5 minutes after turning off the heat and removing the lid to take out the jars. Instead, I removed them right away (like I usually do) and this caused them to cool too quickly and siphon the liquid from inside to outside and ruined the seal.

3- I didn't leave enough headspace? We left at least 1/2 inch, but does it need more when it starts to boil?

4- This is where you knowledgable ladies come in.

In my handy 'Ball Blue Book of Preserving,' it says, "Occasionally you may notice a slight decrease in the food and/or liquid levels. This may result from a siphoning of the liquid during processing. Should this happen, do not open the jars to add product or liquid. The sealed jars should be stored as is." Why, I ask, do you even wipe the rims of the jars before putting the lids on if liquid is just cruising on out of the jars upon processing? I am perplexed.

Please, someone who understands these matters better than I, offer your opinion.

Now, on to the happy ending: Because of my aforementioned mishap and the fact that my sweet family is now downing apple pie filling with every meal, I decided to turn the rest of my apples into applesauce and can that instead. Not just any applesauce mind you- but rich, chunky, carmelized applesauce. I found the recipe on Martha Stewart's website, and people, we have a winner. I'm telling you, it's like eating dessert. Our favorite way to eat it is warm in a bowl with cream poured on top. Delish. It is the perfect accent to a nurturing meal on a crisp Autumn day. I hope you try it- you will be so happy you did!

Roasted Applesauce (Makes eight 1/2-cup servings)
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of coarse salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3 pounds small assorted apples, such as Gala, McIntosh, or Fuji (about 10)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Scatter butter pieces over mixture, and top with apples. Roast until apples are very soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Working in batches, pass apple mixture through the medium disk of a food mill and into a bowl. (Since we like ours chunky but without too many skins, I semi-peeled and cored the apples before baking and then just mashed them up with a potato masher right in the pan.) Stir in spices. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Applesauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.