Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Apple time

Ah, September, I'm so glad you're here! This might be my favorite month. Both of my children were born in September, one near the beginning of the month and the other toward the end. I always thought September seemed like a great month for a birthday and here we are today. It's a lovely month - the weather is pleasant, there's that sense of beginning with the new school year, the leaves are starting to change. Our food and clothing and outdoor activities are poised for change too. There's a lot going on and it's all pretty good. One of the best things about September is apples! Our own apple tree gave us a beautiful crop this year and we've been eating them for a few weeks already. We think they are Golden Delicious apples. They could be juicier but they are sweet and crisp.


As we do with our plums, we try to use as many apples as we can. We make dried apple bits, apple leather, applesauce, apple pies and apple crisp. I tried my hand at apple jelly last week, which I enjoyed a lot. It was so easy! I recently mentioned making apple crisp with our apples and a few readers asked for the recipe, so I thought I'd share my apple crisp recipe, along with a recipe for apple jelly. I'm always striving for even a little self-sufficiency and I'm so happy to use fruit grown on my own trees, just as I am to use our own hens' eggs and the herbs we grow in the yard.


Apple Crisp

This is my own variation on the classic recipe. I love to make (and eat) desserts and I'm always looking for ways to make them slightly healthier for my family. I based this recipe on the one in my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, modifying it to be less indulgent by cutting down both the butter and the sugar in it.. I've been making it this way for several years and I think it works well. It's light and you really taste the apples and cinnamon. And it makes the house smell delicious - almost maddeningly so!

You'll need:

About 4 cups thinly sliced apples (4-5 medium apples, or 8-10 small ones like mine).
2 tablespoons softened butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place the apple slices in a 8"x8" baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl and sprinkle over apple slices in dish. Bake for 30 minutes.* Great by itself or with ice cream!

*If your apples aren't very juicy, you can add a tablespoon or two of water to the apple slices before putting the dry topping on, then bake it a little longer - say, 40 minutes. The water will help the topping become moistened during baking, helping it to crisp a little more.


Apple Jelly

It might seem a little boring to make jelly from plain apples, but apple jelly is delicious. You get a very concentrated apple flavor and it's easy to make because of the natural pectin in the apples. For my jelly, I did not add any pectin at all. The sugar content is pretty high, though, so it might be preferable to use pectin and less sugar. Of course, other fruits can be used with the apples, too - I made apple-plum jam this summer with store-bought apples because mine weren't ready yet. I made a small batch of apple jelly this time - my not-so-juicy apples produced a little less juice during the straining phase than I had hoped for. Three pounds of my apples yielded 2 half-pints of jelly. The general ratios I've seen in recipes estimate that three pounds of apples should yield 3-4 half-pints, so your mileage may vary too.

You'll need:

4 cups apple juice (from 3 pounds apples plus 3 cups water)
2 tablespoons strained lemon juice, optional
3 cups granulated sugar

Instant-read thermometer

Prepare juice: cut apples into small chunks, discarding seeds, flower ends and stems. Place in a stockpot with water, bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for about 25 minutes until apples are soft.


Next, you'll need to extract the juice from the apple-water mixture. To do this, you'll need either a jelly bag setup with a metal stand, or you can do what I did: line a mesh colander with cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Leave it overnight, or for at least three hours, to extract the juice from the cooked apples. Don't push down on the apples; your jelly might become cloudy.

When the juice has been extracted, measure it out - mine yielded three cups of juice, so I adjusted the sugar accordingly, using 2 1/4 cups. Mix juice and sugar (and lemon juice, if desired) in a high-sided heavy-bottomed pot (a stockpot is a good choice). Boil over high heat until the mixture reads 8 degrees above boiling (or 220 degrees).

Quickly pour hot jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch head-space. Add lids and rings, close tightly. Process jars.


I think this was my favorite canning experience so far. It was simple - there wasn't all the testing of jam and it wasn't as messy or as time-consuming. It was actually relaxing. I'm getting better at this process, which is part of it. But there's something so fulfilling about it, so pleasingly domestic. And what a pretty jelly - amber-colored, softly gelled on the spoon, a thin layer of glossy gold on toast. I've been buying jam jars in thrift stores lately, intrigued by the variety in them. These crystal-design jars are perfect for a clear jelly - they make me feel like an old-fashioned lady in the kitchen. My apples, too, bring me great satisfaction. Every couple of days, I'm in the backyard picking apples, the hens jabbering a few feet away. I feel like an earth mother, not a suburban mom in khaki shorts. I'm like my favorite figure, "Automne," in Alphonse Mucha's Four Seasons: clad in diaphanous white, my arms full of fruit, flame-hued leaves in my tumbling chestnut tresses - if only in my imagination.

44 comments:

  1. Thank you for the recipe of your apple crisp !! I really hoped you would publish it - I'm a huge apple lover... We live in a region where a huge variety of apples are grown, so I'm going to try it with different types of apples !!

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  2. love your apple jelly, it looks like liquid gold.

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  3. What a perfect, seasonal post. I think your crisps are a lot like what we call a "crumble" here, just with more oats. I've never made apple jelly but just looking at that amber liquid in those beautiful jars makes me want to. x

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  4. What a very beautiful colour your jelly is. I love September too. It has a very particular light.

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  5. The crumble looks lovely! And I really love how your apple jelly catches the light. September is a lovely month.

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  6. Oh my goodness, what a fabulous post! You have completely sold September to me and the rich jewel-like colour of your apple jelly represent this mellow, beautiful month perfectly. We have apples too, yes! But the main fruit for our region is the grape. I have become so fond of our local vineyards, watching them ebb and flow with the passing seasons. The grapes here are not good to eat but are used for the famous Vouvray sparkling wine.

    May your month of September be as glorious as always. The weather these past two days has been wonderful indeed. I DO like September but the nights drawing in fast make me feel a little uneasy about the months which follow. Curiously, I love winter. Two of my three children are January and February babies and I love the poetry of winter...with spring to come.

    Stephanie

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  7. I love September too! It has always been one of my favourites months! The others are May and December, there's no doubt! Lately October is becoming a pleasant month to me.
    Happy Yummy Apples to you! And a sweet and serene September as well!

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  8. Delicious recipes, thank you for sharing. Your jelly is like a jewel so pretty as well as good to eat!
    V x

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  9. I was so happy to welcome September yesterday. I am just so excited for autumn this year :) It's been a very long and hot summer here in the southeast. I think you have inspired me to make an apple crisp... my first!

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  10. All the recipes look great, Jennifer. The apple crisp looks especially good! :o)

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  11. What a lovely image, I know exactly what you mean. There are apples and pears here too, and I really love the look of your apple jelly. I wonder if it would work with pears. They are starting to fall of the trees a little, and I don't want to waste any. I quite like September too, although I'm always a little sad that the summer has passed. There's still plenty of good weather to enjoy though. CJ xx

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  12. Your jars of apple jelly look so beautiful with the sunlight shining through them! What great uses for all of your apples. xx

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  13. Hi Jennifer,

    I love September here too, as it is the start of Spring here and the month of my Sons birthday.
    The apple jelly and the crisp looks so good and isn't it nice to be able to use them in lovely things.
    Enjoy September and your children's birthdays.
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  14. What a lovely picture of your apple jelly. I'm sure it's delicious! I think I may have had some before. But oh my, homemade is so much better. And I agree September is just so lovely. Seems like everyone, including myself and baby on the way will be celebrating a birthday this month.- How wonderful!

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  15. Apples aren't quite ready here,b ut we're looking forward to them. Your jelly is just beautiful!

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  16. Ah yes.... you are an earth mother Jennifer! Dear friend...thank you for sharing these recipes!!! I am all about apples and I would love to give apple jelly a go! It sounds fantastic and looks delicious as does your crisp! You have an awesome September breathing in all of the wonderful goodness that comes with this month!!! Happy week! Nicole xoxo

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  17. You are the most adorable earth mama EVER! I love September as well. My bday is at the end of this month. Hopefully we get a cooler all this year! xo Jen

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  18. Lovely.....spring here and loving the warmer temperatures finally.....

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  19. I just love your Earth mother image.. I get that feeling from living on our farm, with my chickens and fruit trees. We have plums ripe right now. My poor apples are covered with spots of something. They never do that well for some reason.. we don't spray them. Love your jelly and crisp! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  20. Your apple jelly must be terribly delectable for it to glow golden like that! My boyfriend and I were talking earlier today about baking a pie this weekend; we couldn't choose between apple and pecan. I think your apple crisp recipe might just have decided the matter!

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  21. Ooh, that apple crisp looks so yummy - I really should not have read this post before breakfast as now I'm really hungry! Thanks for sharing your recipes, there's nothing yummier than a delicious crisp fresh apple.
    Happy September - it's my favourite month too :-)
    Xx

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  22. It is very rewarding to grow your own produce and use it in as many ways as you can. Your apple crisp is, from the pricture and recipe, what we call apple crumble. I made two yesterday using our own apples and some blackberries. Making jellies is a great way to use up fruit - I think I prefer it to making jam. You can do it with all sorts of fruit - I've made apple jelly before and also grape, rosehip and blackcurrant. Making your own preserves and so on takes time but it is well worth the effort.

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  23. Your apple jelly looks wonderful and those jars are so pretty, Jennifer. It's a pleasing feeling to be squirrelling away the fruits of the harvest for the winter.

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  24. That apple jelly looks delicious, yes I've always loved September too :) xxx

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  25. I love those jam jars. We're not big jam eaters in our house, so I usually buy it. The apple crisp looks lovely - I could definitely sit in front of the TV with a spoon scoffing that down :D

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  26. Oh, your apple crisp recipe is what I would call a crumble, and I love crumble, the perfect autumn pudding... Tim picked some blackberries yesterday so we'll be having a blackberry and apple version tonight... I also like to add chopped nuts to the mix! x

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  27. Your apple crisp recipe sounds delicious and looks divine! I will definitely whip this up when apples in season are available on the island, which should be pretty soon. The apple jelly also looks tasty and what a wonderful colour. Wishing your little bears a wonderful scholastic year!

    Poppy

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  28. Oo yum, some new ideas for what to do with all our apples! You'll be able to smell the apple crisp cooking here tomorrow!

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  29. The recipes looks delicious, the apple jelly looks really pretty in those jars. I have a craving for apple crumble now x

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  30. How awesome to have your own apple tree! I love making apple crisp in the fall. Still hot and humid here in northern IL, but cooler weather coming this weekend.

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  31. Beautiful post. I make a similar apple crisp/ crumble; so delicious xx

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  32. Oh my goodness, that apple crisp sounds delicious. Kudos to you for using your bounty in so many yummy ways. The apple jelly looks so pretty. There are no apple orchards around here close by, but apples are grown southeast of here in Willcox, AZ. They have a place called Apple Annie's that turns out the most amazingly delicious apple pies and you can go into the orchard and pick some. It was really a fun little day road trip for us last year, and maybe we will go again this year.

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  33. Thank you for sharing with us these recipes. We're big fans of apple crumble and now I wish we have our own apple tree! x

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  34. I'm definitely going to have a go at your apple crisp recipe, it looks delicious.

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  35. Oh, yes, I can smell all these fantastic things out of apples! Great! Funny enough I'm making apple-pumpkin jam right at the moment!
    Have a wonderful time
    Elisabeth

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  36. You make me want to get up and get an apple right this second. YUM!
    Hugs,
    Meredith

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  37. Your apples looks so good, I'm glad you shared your apple jelly I have booked marked it and will make it next year. Have a fabulous weekend.

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  38. I adore the colour of that apple jelly! So pretty and jewel like. We are enjoying apples so much at the moment too.
    Marianne x

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  39. Oh my Jennifer both these recipes look delicious. I am still avoiding sugar, but I suspect a crumble of some sort will happen at some point, so I will bare this in mind. I also love September and right now we have glorious sunshine in Cheshire, with colder and crisper evenings, perfect! Sending much love xoxo

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  40. We brought apples back from France, so your recipes have come just at the right time, Jennifer.

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  41. I adore apple jelly. If you still have more apples to use why not try my apple curd recipe, I think you'll like it http://www.anniecholewa.com/2012/08/apple-curd-and-windfall-jelly.html

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  42. It all looks so lovely! Your crisp looks especially delicious. Having just moved I missed out on fruit picking and jam making for most of the summer. I'm looking forward to next summer! Thanks for visiting my blog. I'm happy to have discovered yours as well!

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  43. Thank you for sharing Jennifer! Your apple crisp looks so nice, I will definitely be trying this soon! It must be very satisfying to harvest your own fruit and to make such lovely things with them too. I don't have much luck with apples, I am hoping next year will be much better. It is a very young tree and I know they can take a while to become established. :)

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