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Thursday, August 20

Cinnamon Tree (Esperanza Spalding)

We've had a banner year for apples!  Our one little apple tree soaked up all that rain and popped out some little cuties....and I do mean "little."  Most of them are about 1" in diameter.  These aren't what you'll find on the grocery store shelf, but they're fresh, homegrown, and completely natural.  (As opposed to store-bought apples, which can be up to 400 days old when you buy them!)
What to do, what to make?  This year, we decided to make apple butter with our apples.  Last year, we made applesauce.  Don't be intimidated...apple butter is super easy to make!  If you have a blender, a large pot, and some time on your hands, you can whip up several quarts in an afternoon.
First things first....you'll need sterilized jars.  We had just purchased some new vintage-style jars, and decided to do a quick sterilization.  If you're in a pinch, throw the jars and rings into the dishwasher and run it through the sanitize cycle.  Don't do this with the lids...just wait and sterilize them in boiling water.  While this is going, chop up your apples and steam them just enough to get them soft.  Run them through the blender to get them good and pureed.
Now that they're good and mushy (like hot applesauce), pop them back into the pan.  As you can see...we probably should have used a bigger pot!!  Add cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg to your taste.  a good rule of thumb is 1Tbsp, 1tsp, and 1tsp per four pounds of apples.  Add 1 cup of sugar for each of those four pounds as well.  (This is optional, but most folks spring for it.  We usually can half the mixture without the sugar, and half of it with sugar.)  Pop it in the water bath!!

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has great recipes for just about anything you could think to put up.  It's a fantastic resources for beginners and regulars alike.

The boys like to play with the magnetic lid lifter!  They do NOT like having to help clean up.  Canning can get messy, but I just let it all go and clean up the kitchen after everything is done.
Since the pot was already dirty, and we had LOTS and LOTS of extra blackberries and peaches in the fridge, we pulled out the pectin and whipped up a few pints of blackberry preserves and ginger peach preserves.  Also run through the water bath, these are very simple to make...even for beginners!
Finally, we tossed in the tomatoes and random veggies pulled from the garden this morning and simmered down some garden sauce for a pasta dinner.  For this one, just chop everything, throw it into the blender for a bit, and simmer it down to a deep color on the stove.  Serve it with cheese and pasta for a yummy dinner!