October Apples, Sauced in a Star Anise-Brown Sugar Syrup

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….’today, in October sun, it’s all gold—sky and tree and water. Everything just before it changes looks to be made of gold.’ (“The Wide Net” by Eudora Welty, The Collected Stories)

This “changing-time” is apple season…days are still sunny and warm, but the evenings are cool and crisp. It is time to once again crank up the stove and do some more serious cooking. Apple Sauce is a favorite of mine, but it’s almost impossible to find any canned or jarred product that is truly satisfying. The best in the world is homemade and a bit chunky in my opinion.  I enjoy a bold flavor in my sauced apples so I often make my own.

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A few years ago I bought a hand crank apple peeler that clamps onto my kitchen counter and is honestly just so much fun to use that I sometimes get a bit carried away and keep on peeling ’til there is not much left but the core! For making apple sauce this is one kitchen gadget/tool that you must have.

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Beautiful apple peel ribbons.

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Apples from a neighbor’s tree.

I made up a simple syrup using cranberry juice, star anise seeds and brown sugar. The peeled and chopped apples simmer and cook down in this very flavorful syrup making the final product uniquely delicious.

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Apple sauce put up in wee jars so each bite is fresh.

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Pick some local apples and make up a batch of this recipe…any type of tart, crunchy apple works…spread finished apple sauce on toasted bread, a turkey or grilled cheese sandwich or serve with your next pork roast. These little jars make very nice fall/winter gifts as well.

October Apples, Sauced in Anise-Brown Sugar Syrup

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 lbs tart fall apples – Honey Crisp, MacIntosh, Arkansas Black or Granny Smith
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 2 cups raw/brown sugar
  • 2 whole star anise seeds
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Directions:

  1. Peel apples & rough chop. Put in a stainless steel cook pot.
  2. Add the Star Anise simple syrup to the pot. Turn heat to medium high. Stir mixture until a soft boil begins then turn to simmer. Stir every so often to keep apples from sticking. Cook down until mixture has thicken but is still chunky.
  3. Remove pot from stove and stir in lemon juice.
  4. Spoon apple sauce into small glass jars with tight-fitting lids and process in a water bath for 20 minutes. Remove jars from water & set on a wire rack to cool. You should hear a soft “thump” when lids seal properly and they will be concave. Cool completely and store in pantry until ready to eat. Depending on the size of your jars this recipe makes 6-8 jars.

How to make simple syrup:

  1. Put 2 cups cranberry juice, 2 cups raw/brown sugar & 2 whole star anise seeds in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until sugar has dissolved and turn heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes until mixture thickens slightly. Set aside to cool. Use immediately or chill in a glass jar with a lid.

How to do a simple water bath processing:

  1. If you have a canner then fill with enough water to cover the size jars you are canning up to one inch above the jar tops.
  2. Place filled jars in wire rack that comes with the canner pan and lower it down into the water. Bring water to a rolling boil. Process jars in boiling water for 20 minutes. Turn heat off and leave jars in cooling down water for 30 minutes.
  3. Remove jars from canner to a wire rack and let cool completely. Jars will seal as they cool making a soft “thump” sound. Jar lids will be concave when jars are properly sealed.

Note on canning:

I have used a large stock pot with a round wire cooling rack sitting on the bottom of the pan instead of a canner kit. You just put the rack in the pot, place jars, not touching, on the rack & gently cover tops of jars with water. Continue the processing as you would when using a canner from this point on.

Teresa Blackburn     http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Adios, Adieu, Goodbye for Now, “Pear, Blueberry Jam with St. Germain”

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September crept in right on top of the last days of August…it has been tropical…. rainy and humid and hot, windy with bouts of unusually cool days scattered in between. Most of the local fruit is gone…the peaches, berries…plums and now my pears….adieu, adios and goodbye until next year sweet ones.

In the early dark days of fall and winter I will have my consolations on a shelf in my kitchen. A few jars of preserves…peach and plum. Jars of jam…pear and blueberry with a splash of St. Germain will be there, ready to comfort me.

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Ripe and Ready.

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The evening before I made this jam I cored, peeled and roughly chopped the pears and tossed them in a bowl with some raw sugar and lemon juice, covered the bowl and refrigerated the fruit overnight.  The sugar and lemon juice help to pull some of the juices from the fruit, breaking the fruit down naturally which shortens the cooking process.

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Do you know about “Pomona’s Universal Pectin”? I like to use this brand as the recipes for  jams, jellies & preserves can be made with less sugar. I do not like cloying sweet preserved fruit so this pectin is just right. The instructions are easy to follow and there are plenty of recipes inside the package. It is preservative free, kosher, vegan, gluten-free and non-gmo. I usually buy it a Whole Foods, but it is available online at their site as well. DSC_1363

I had la few cartons of fresh blueberries left over from a photo shoot so I tossed them in with the peeled and chunked pears. The blueberries gave the finished jam a lovely soft color. A generous splash of St. Germain elderflower liqueur added another layer of goodness.

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You always want to “test” your jam or jelly after cooking to make sure it “sets up”. I do this by spooning some of the mixture out onto a chilled plate. Leave it to sit a few minutes and then check the consistency. This batch “jammed” to perfection.

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Every time I begin to can I feel like a novice….no matter how many times I have done it. This is where I am my most careful-self in the kitchen. I read the instructions, reread and double-check before starting. I gather all my canning supplies, pans, jars, ladles before hand and get everything cleaned, sterilized & all lined up ready to go. My best advice is just do what the recipe & canning instructions say…verbatim…all will be well.

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Pears, Blueberries Jam with St. Germain

  • Servings: 6-8 half pints
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Ingredients:

  • 6 cups cored, peeled & chopped pears
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups raw/turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup Elderflower Liqueur/St. Germain
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • Pkg of Pomona’s Universal Pectin (or other pectin if you prefer, most have easy, simple canning instructions inside the box. I used the directions for canning pears.
  • Equipment: clean 1/2 pint glass canning jars & lids, canning equipment (or if you prefer you can do this jam for the freezer…no hot water bath canning processing required.)

Directions:

  1. The night before you plan to can, mix the pears, sugar & lemon juice in a mixing bowl, cover & refrigerate overnight.
  2. The next day put the pear mixture in a large saucepan. Add 1 cup of water. Bring to a low boil. Add the pectin according to the package directions, turn stove to low simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes stirring often.
  3. The last 10 minutes of cook time add the blueberries & St. Germain. Stir gently.
  4. While fruit is cooking, wash & rinse canning jars in hot water. Set aside to drain on a very clean dish towel. Use new lids & rings. Put these in a pan of hot water until ready to use on low heat. There are many, many methods for hot water bath canning  so use one that works for you.
  5. When jam is almost finished cooking test the jell by spooning some jam mixture onto a chilled saucer, refrigerate for a few minutes. Test to see if the jam is the consistency you prefer. If not continue cooking another 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  6. Fill glass jars with hot jam mixture to within 1/4 inch from the top of the glass rim for hot water bath canning process, 1/2 inch for freezer jam. Wipe each jar rim clean before adding lids. When all jars are filled & wiped clean, top with lid and ring.
  7. For hot water bath place filled jars into your canner rack, lower into the canning pan, cover jars with warm water covering by 1 inch. Bring to a boil, process for 10-15 minutes. Turn heat off. Raise jar rack out of the water bath & place jars on a cooling rack. As jam cools you should hear a soft “pop” as each jar seals. If some jars do not seal then refrigerate to use immediately.
  8. For freezer jam after #6 let jars cool down completely & store in the freezer until ready to eat. Remove jars from freezer a few hours before using.