Apple season is, perhaps, the most trying part of the year for me.
It’s not the poor little apples’ fault. Apple season comes at the end of the produce year, when I am completely tired of canning and preserving. By the time the apples are ripe, I’ve canned a million-bajillion jars of tomatoes, pickles, and jams. Approximately. So I am in no condition to make applesauce with a song in my heart. My spirits are low and my exhaustion is high.
Yet, my family is a family devoted to applesauce and I refuse to buy it from the store so canning a bushel of apples is a necessity.
While I make ordinary, plain-Jane applesauce, my favorite applesauce are the fruited blends. This year I made mucho (that’s a technical term) jars of strawberry-applesauce and mango-applesauce.
(I know your mind just exploded right then, Gentle Reader. That’s okay, mine did too when I tasted them.)
Fruited applesauce is ridiculously easy. Just add whatever peeled and sliced fruit you have on hand to your prepared apples, cook down to a nice sauce, and VOILA! Fruited applesauce. I usually do a 40% fruit/60% apple blend, but you can do whatever percentage of added fruit that feels good to you. With my 40/60 blend there’s a strong fruity presence, but the apples aren’t completely overpowered.
Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mangoes: they all get along fabulously with apples and make delicious sauce.
For years when I made applesauce I simply threw the apple scraps into the compost pile. But this year I discovered an even better use for them: Apple Rosemary Jelly.
(Did you hear the choir of angels sing when you read that, Gentle Reader? If not, perhaps you’d better read it again.)
*I found the original, fabulous recipe here and I will forever be indebted to the author.*
To make this apple rosemary jelly, put all the apple cores and peels into a large pot. Almost cover these with water and add four or five springs of rosemary. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for at least an hour.
After cooking, pour the juice/cores/peels combo into a cheese-cloth lined colander and collect the liquid in a large bowl. Be sure NOT to squeeze or push the apple stuff. If you do, your jelly will be cloudy and you will cry bitter, bitter tears. Let everything drain for a long time- over night is best.
The next morning when you’re bright eyed and bushy tailed once again, throw the used up apple junk into the compost and measure the pretty pink juice that you gathered. Pour it into the pot and add some sugar. How much sugar? The original recipe calls for equal parts sugar and juice, but I don’t like things super sweet so I only add 50% of the sugar. Therefore, if I have 6 cups of juice, I’ll add 3 cups of sugar.
To the juice and sugar add half a cup of lemon juice (you need the acidity to help it gel correctly and to make everything safe to process- so don’t skip this step.)
Heat the mixture until it comes to a full rolling boil.
At this point you have two choices: Method 1- You can boil the heck out of your juice until it starts to thicken and gets to the gel stage- usually at 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.
When I try this method I rarely have the patience to boil long enough and my jelly never gels, which causes me to mutter “What the heck!” under my breath. (In all honesty, I say another four letter h-word, and it’s not really under my breath. Then my kids shout, “Stop cussing!” To which I reply, “Hell is a proper noun, NOT a swear word.” It’s ugly.)
Or, Method 2- You can add some pectin and thicken your jelly the faster and easier way.
I choose fast and easy now, every time.
Add your pectin (following directions on whatever brand you use, but I recommend the low-sugar type) and bring your liquid back to a boil, stirring constantly to make sure everything is dissolved. Boil for a minute or so, then pour into jelly jars and process for ten minutes in your canner.
Shazam! Apple rosemary jelly that you made from nothing, you frugal thing you.
Oh apples. You never find me at my best, but despite this, you’re good right down to your core.