Although I had intended on going to the Lincoln County Apple Festival in northwest Arkansas, the combination of feeling under the weather and high school homecoming festivities that carried on until the wee hours of the morn, made none of us relish the idea of a 3 hour drive. Instead, we took a lazy Saturday sleep in and then headed out to find some local apples. We made the rounds of several road side stands and farmer’s markets as well as co-ops in the area. We came back with some fresh cider and an oversized haul of apples consisting of Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and the coveted Arkansas Blacks.
Once they were all shiny and clean it was time to get to work. First up? A bottle of Apple Pie Rum. With fresh apple chunks, a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and a good healthy dose of light rum it will be a wonderful cold weather drink after just a few weeks of steeping.
I decided to make applesauce in the crockpot which would allow it to cook while I was working on other things. So a mix of the apples were peeled, chopped, and dunked in the pot with a little water, sugar and a dusting of cinnamon. And then promptly forgotten about as it cooked away.
Next up was Apple Cider Jelly, a wonderfully sweet concoction that is slow simmered (making the whole house smell of fall!) and tastes amazing spread on toast or stirred into steel cut oats. The kids would eat it by the spoonful for “testing purposes” as it cooked. They were then canned and processed through a water bath for long term storage (and Christmas presents!!).
At this point the kids decided music was a necessity to keep them going (they were my chopping, peeling, shredding crew) and so they turned on Celtic Thunder. With a sandwich in our bellies, Irish music in the background we moved on to the next project.
This was a bit of an experiment. I had found a recipe for tea steeped pears and wanted to turn that into an apple based recipe. The recipe was for pears fresh packed and then stored in a tea steeped syrup but what I wanted was little bits of apples in a tea jam so it would be spreadable on toast or used in french toast or as an ice cream topping. So, the experimenting began. First, the kids shredded a gazillion apples (or so they told me as they complained of tender fingers) and then I packed them into jars.
I’d chosen to use a hot apple cider tea from Republic of Tea which I thought would boost the apple flavor while adding dimension with some tea and fall spices. The tea was steeped and added to a jam sugar water mixture (which didn’t setup well but hopefully will continue to gel overnight). The test samples were absolutely divine…a warm, not to sweet, perfect essence of fall flavor (with quite a Christmassy look to it due to the apple color choices!) These too were canned and sent through a water bath for long term preservation.
As it was nearing midnight, it was time to finish up for the night. The last thing to do was finish up the applesauce that had been cooking along for hours by this point. I used an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce, spooned it into jars and then processed what the kids didn’t eat warm out of the crock.
The first night of apple preserving is done! Still over a quarter of the apples left and several things to make come Sunday and Monday. Exhausting but well worth it to have fresh fall tastes in the upcoming dark winter months.