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Apples

Applesauce is an easy project if you are new to food preservation and an old standby for experienced canners.

I think I preserve a lot of apples but there is no way I will ever match my mother and grandmother. Their goal was to can a minimum of 100 quarts of applesauce each year and they worked like a well-oiled machine to achieve that.

Most people have a pantry but we had a commissary in the basement of our farmhouse. I don’t know why the original owners called it that, other than it was big enough to store food for a small army, but that’s what we always called it. It was a dark and scary place and I always hated being sent down there to put jars away or retrieve something for dinner. Nowadays I have a pantry in the basement, thanks to my handy husband, and there isn’t anything scary about it.

Applesauce is an easy project if you are new to food preservation and an old standby for experienced canners. It’s great to have applesauce on hand for a dinner side dish, baking or adding to oatmeal or yogurt for breakfast. I don’t add sugar to my applesauce but that’s a personal preference.

Here’s an applesauce recipe from OSU Extension publication SB 50-446.

Wash, peel and core apples. Leaving peels on might result in a higher incidence of spoilage during storage; peeling windfalls is especially recommended. Cut large apples into slices. Simmer until soft, adding a small amount of water to prevent sticking.

You can also microwave the apple slices; put two quarts in a covered bowl and cook for 12-15 minutes on high. When the apples are tender you can put them through a food mill or grinder for a smooth sauce.

If you’re like me and like a chunkier sauce you can omit this step. Add sugar to taste, or leave out completely. Reheat the applesauce to boiling and pack hot into jars, leaving one half-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.

After processing, take the canner off the heat, remove the canner lid and wait five minutes before removing jars. This will help reduce the chance of siphoning, where the applesauce oozes out of the jar. Siphoning is caused by air expanding; there’s quite a bit of air in apples and it expands during processing.

Another way to reduce siphoning is to make sure you remove air bubbles before putting the lids on. Maintaining a constant rolling, gentle boil during processing also helps reduce siphoning. Even if siphoning occurs, your applesauce is still safe to eat as long as the jars seal. Just wash the outside thoroughly after you remove the rings.

Hint: When you are peeling your apples, put them in water with an ascorbic acid mixture to prevent browning. I personally have switched from the commercial products to crushing vitamin C tablets because it’s quite a bit cheaper.

Preserving my own food lets me explore foods other than what the big food companies think I want to eat. Relish is a good example of that. At most stores you can find pickle relish or hot dog relish but there is so much more to a relish than cucumbers.

The first written record of relish was in England in 1798, from the Old French word reles, meaning something remaining. That’s a great way to describe how a lot of relish recipes came into being; using up whatever remains in the garden. Piccalilli was the first relish sold commercially in the U.S., by H.J. Heinz in 1888. This recipe was bright yellow, thanks to the turmeric in it, and was replaced the following year by India Relish, a sweeter and greener version.

Because I have so many apples, I am always looking for new ways to preserve them. Here’s an apple relish from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, a good source for tested recipes and instructions. I’ve used this recipe a variety of ways; it gives a twist to potato salad, egg salad sandwiches, it’s good on grilled bratwurst and as a tasty topping on baked chicken.

Sweet Apple Relish

• 4 pounds apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin

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• 1-1/4 cups distilled white vinegar (5% acidity)

• 1 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup light corn syrup

• 2/3 cup water

• 1-1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

• 4 pieces stick cinnamon (1½ inches each)

• 1 teaspoon whole allspice

Yield: About 4 pint jars

Procedure: Wash apples, peel, core and slice thin. Immerse cut apples in a solution of a half teaspoon ascorbic acid and 2 quarts of water to prevent browning.

Combine vinegar, sugar, corn syrup, water, cloves, cinnamon and allspice; bring to a boil. Drain apples and add to syrup. Simmer 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove cinnamon from syrup and place one piece in each jar. Pack hot apple slices into hot jars, leaving a half-inch headspace. Fill jars with boiling hot syrup, leaving a half-inch headspace, making sure apples are completely covered. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

You can find relish recipes using pickles and summer squash, along with a host of other pickle recipes in the PNW 355, Pickling Vegetables publication (catalog.extension.oregonstate.edu/pnw355/html).

Browse nchfp.uga.edu/search.html for other relishes like Rummage Relish (this has a variety of veggies in it), Oscar Relish (peaches and tomatoes), Pear Relish (a great way to use up excess pears) or Chow Chow (the classic “something remaining” type recipe) and have fun with the variety of things you can use.

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Taraleen Elliott, who has been involved with the Master Food Preserver training program through Oregon State University Extension Service, is writing a series of columns on food preservation.

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