Apples and Thanksgiving simply go together. For many people, apple picking is a family tradition and the bounty is so beautiful in all its red, gold and green colours. A pie or crisp in the oven, apple sauce on the stove or cider simmering fills the house with an aroma of sweetness and spice, contrasting by the crisp outdoor temperatures. There’s nothing like returning home from a Fall hike to the smell of apples cooking in the kitchen.
One of the most efficient ways to preserve apples is by making apple jelly. The reason is because nothing goes to waste. The pulp from the juice extraction process can be transformed into apple sauce or used as the basis of fruit leather. Very efficient!
As with any jelly making process, the apples are cooked with water until softened. If you are using organic apples or have treated the apples with a baking soda bath to remove pesticide residue, there is no reason to peel or even core the apples. Just chop and throw them into a large pot with enough water to prevent sticking. You can add a cinnamon stick, star anise and/or nutmeg, cloves or allspice. Cook about 20 minutes until soft. Remove whole spices and pour the mixture into a dampened jelly bag or cheesecloth lined sieve. Let it drip without squeezing for at least two hours. The extracted juice can be used right away or filtered again through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any sediment. Apples are high in pectin, so it is quite easy to make jelly without the addition of commercial pectin. But if using commercial pectin, I prefer the liquid pectin for jellies. No time to extract the juice? Use filtered apple cider with or without added spices.
The residual pulp should be put through a food mill to remove skins, cores and seeds. This pulp is apple sauce which can be frozen, canned or put into a dehydrator at 125 for 10 to 12 hours to produce apple leather. A couple of tips: If you are canning the apple sauce, it needs to be acidified with lemon juice (see Bernardin or Ball recipes) and it may be sweetened if desired with white or brown sugar or honey. Pure, unsweetened apple leather will please children and adults alike. But if you wish to sweeten it, corn syrup is better than sugar which will eventually crystalize. So simple to create three recipes from 6 lbs of apples!
Why not try some spiced apple jelly with your Turkey or an apple sauce tart topped with sliced apples and a glaze made from melted apple jelly. Really, the possibilities are endless. Enjoy our wonderful apple season. Happy Thanksgiving.