I finally made some more apple butter.
Friends down the street picked me two BIG bags full of Winter Banana apples. Some were sweet for eating, some were a bit on the tart side. All were pretty much free from bug damage. Fewer/no bugs is great news when you need to prep a bunch of apples.
Any way, the apples awaited processing in two big plastic grocery bags. Surprise, surprise, I got up the next morning, washed those apples, and strong-armed my daughter into coming out to help. Apples were cored, cut into chunks, plopped in lemon-water in my gigator stock pot. On to the stove they went to cook.
They softened up fine, so I ran them through a food mill. There were not many skins tough enough to survive the mill, so my yield of sauce to make butter with was high. Back in the pot to cook VERY slowly they went. As the weather was mild I was able to put them on our stove over a flame so low that they barely simmered. They cooked and cooked and cooked some more. Finally the reduced pulp was put into my heavy-duty blender to get an extremely smooth puree.
The puree was sweetened with some organic sugar I wanted to use up, with a bit of salt added for balance. Two tablespoons of Saigon Cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of cloves were added for a bit of spice. Back to the stove it went and cooked some more. When checked again, it was still a bit on the tart side, but much thicker. What sugar was left and perfection was achieved!
After filling and processing what butter was there in the pot, I had a little over two gallons of apple butter put away.
A couple of gallons of apple butter you ask? What do you do with that much apple butter? Well, I give it away for Christmas presents. I use it to sweeten pies and fill cakes. It can be made into BBQ sauce. can be used to sweeten drinks like coffee and tea for a fruity treat. What I am really looking forward to is having a peanut butter and apple butter sandwich. And apple butter on hot biscuits ain't too shabby either. Don't forget eating spoonfuls as candy! And you know what? I might just try to run some of this stuff run through the dehydrator; it would probably make some really great apple butter leather. And since I have lots of butter, I can use it to line french apple tarts too.
Apple butter can be made by cooking it faster. But, when cooking fast, the risk is run of burning the butter; burnt apple butter is not tasty at all. I've found that cooking too fast means there will almost always be at least a bit of molten butter splashed on my arms as it really starts to get thick. Apple butter blisters are no fun at all. It could also be cooked fast by constantly stirring small amounts in a broad, shallow pan, but the amount of active time for this was daunting for the gallons of apple butter I was making. Give me the slow cook, low active time any day.
Did all the time I spent cooking and stirring on and off pay off? Yes! I love this batch of apple butter. It's the best I ever made. That being said, my desire for apple butter will most likely be sated for the next couple of years!
NCHFP Apple Butter recipe: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/apple_butter.html
NCHFP Reduced Sugar Apple Butter recipe: https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/apple_butter_reduced.html
As I drive around I check out stuff. New streets, new areas, places to shop, ideas for landscaping. Landscaping, hmmm. Cactus plants are pretty common. The big fleshy pads (nopal or nopalitos) are edible and just as tasty as green beans when properly prepared (or buy a bag from the produce section at your local Mexican or middle-American ethnic market).
At times I see the large egg-shaped fruit of the cactus (AKA prickly pears in English) in markets in big red, yellow or orange piles. These fruits, known in Spanish as “tunas” (singular “tuna”), are quite edible. Sweet, they are used to make jams, jellies, syrups and desserts and can be used to make brine to pickle other plant edibles. Oftentimes you will see prickly pear jelly in roadside stores in the southwest.
So you have some on your property? Your neighbor's property? There are some growing over someone's back fence? Pick your own or ask permission and pick someone else's. Most people are happy to let you pick, especially if you promise (and deliver!) results of your pickings from their plants.
You will want to avoid pricklies and thorns from the prickly pears. So arm yourself with a little knowledge for a special canning project. Make yourself some sweet treats and gifts from the cactus plant.
Here are some links to New Mexico State University sites for picking, processing and cooking or canning with tunas/prickly pear fruits. Remember, even though tart the prickly pears are a low acid fruit and the pads/nopals are as well:
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E217/welcome.html Cactus Concoctions: How to Prepare and Use Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit and Pads. Here you will read a brief history of the cactus used for nopals and prickly pears/tunas. You will want to follow the instructions on how to pick and process prickly pears so to avoid the spines and glochids (mini-spines).
I keep getting e-mails from a Chile grower/seller in New Mexico. They are selling the famous Hatch chiles. Hatch chiles are offered in hot, medium, or mild. Pre-roasted, you got it. Make a choice of chopped or whole; they are shipped to you frozen. Also offered up are fresh chiles, green or red chile powder, canned chile salsas, frozen chile rellenos, chile wreaths and ristras (long strings of dried chiles), freeze dried chiles, dried chile powder. . . well you get the picture, right?
Any way, if I ordered some Hatch, it would probably be fresh. I love the smell of roasting chiles; it's almost as if I were eating them. Of course it is tantalizing to order some already processed and frozen as the heat of this time of year I would be very reluctant to have to roast a bunch. In any case, the recipes at the links below can be used with mail ordered chile products, back yard chiles, store bought (try a Hispanic or Mexican market for a good selection), or from a farmer's market. With luck you might find some at a local super market because, after all, it is chile season.
Chiles are good and good for you. Whether you like them mild or mouth-burning hot, try preserving some to add more spice to your food and diet.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E326/welcome.html Home Canned Sweet Spreads Made with Green Chile. Some of these spreads look mighty inviting for a change of pace from regular ol' fruit jams and jellies.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E308/welcome.html Canning Green Chile. If you can your own green chile you will have ready-made deliciousness waiting in your pantry. You can add them to all sorts of stuff.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E323/ Salsa Recipes for Canning. There are a variety of salsa recipes here: thick and thin, green and red and a mango salsa thrown in for good measure.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E322/welcome.html Drying Chile Peppers (scroll down, look for “Chile Peppers, Green” and “Chile Peppers, Red”). You gotta have dried chiles and chile powder around, making enchilada sauce is really quite simple and quick using dried chiles or chile powder.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_e/E327/welcome.html Using Chile to Make Ristras and Chile Sauce.
https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_circulars/CR517/ New Mexico Favorites: Chile and Pecans; a bunch of recipes using chiles, pecans or both.
I say good for the young woman below! Thank you, Darrell, for passing the below to me to post here.
I wish I could taste it.
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Sorry, but it is already out of stock.
This should be an inspiration for us all.
p.s. Secret ingredient Orange blossom water.
Made a batch of chicken broth recently and pressure canned it up. For previous batches I have used a conglomeration of leftover chicken bones, carcasses, necks and such that I stash in my freezer for just such a use. For this batch I went shopping for some other things.
The shopping run was a combo of necessary and recreational shopping; heavy on the necessary and light on the recreational. Went to Smart and Final for some basic needed items. Cruised down to our bank to make a quick deposit. Conveniently across the street from the bank was a 99 Ranch Market. I needed a few things for some Chinese recipes I wanted to try AND this is where I could buy some chicken feet for my broth.
Yep, chicken feet. I had read more than a few articles saying that adding chicken feet to your broth added lots of flavor and gelatin and I am all for that. I placed my package of rather pricey, prepared, fresh chicken feet (cleaned, boiled and peeled, supposed to be ready to go) in my cart. I got the rest of my items and then remembered that 99 Ranch sells stewing chickens and went to grab one of those from the freezer case. I made my purchase and headed for home and put everything away to use the next day for broth.
Early the next morning I got up to make my broth. Dug out the frozen chicken bones and put ‘em in the pot along with the stewing chicken.
Now to prep the chicken feet. According to the recipe I had, I was supposed to cut the nails off of the feet. Kinda creepy at first, but snip-clip with the meat shears and that task was done. Next I was instructed to bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the feet for one minute and then drain and rinse, which I did.
I threw the feet in the pot, made sure there was plenty of water to cover all with a little swimming room and turned the stove. The big pot was brought to the boil then turned it down to a simmer, covered it and let it simmer for several hours.
Now about the, um, aroma of the chicken foot broth. It was, well, not stinky (the feet were supposed to be ready to use), but definitely had a barn-yardy, funky smell. It was enough to make me want to do a taste-test before processing because if it tasted like the smell, down the sink it was going. Upon tasting (I added a bit of salt for flavor) I was very happy. Though the funky aroma was there, the flavor was just fine, nice and intense. I processed it all.
I have 7 or so quarts left of the broth I canned. When I opened up the first jar, the funk was for-sure lessened. And the next couple of jars seemed to be funk-free and have added tasty depth to my chicken and dumplings and various meat sauces, soups and gravies.
Will I do this again? Yes. But I will maybe boil the chicken feet for a few more minutes and probably do it more than once!