Canning Apple Pie Filling

theveganfarmer.com applepieIt’s that time of year we amp up the canning and prepare for the winter. It’s apple season which means all the things apple are being canned- cider, applesauce, apple pie filling. Filling is great to have on hand to whip up a quick pie or cobbler. We host once a month family dinners and most major holiday events so lots of pies are being made. It’s also super tasty on toast, in oatmeal, and honestly, straight from the jar. We canned 15 quarts this weekend. This will last us the winter. It’s a large recipe. You’ll need to reduce it for smaller batches.

What You’ll Need

15 lbs apples, peeled and cored

13 C sugar

3 TBSP cinnamon

3/4 TSP nutmeg

6 TSP salt

3 TSP cardamom

3 C cornstarch

9 TBSP lemon juice

30 C water

In a very large pan mix the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and 15 cups of water. Cook until dissolved. While that’s dissolving, whisk together 15 cups of water and 3 cups of cornstarch. Once the sugar mixture is dissolved, add the cornstarch mixture and stir frequently until it’s boiling, bubbly, and thick. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.

While all that is happening, sterilize your jars in a water bath. Remove, and while hot, fill 3/4 with apples. Pour in the filling leaving 1/2 inch room at the top of each jar. Slide a knife around to rid the jars of air bubbles. Put the lids on and loosely screw on the bands. Return the quarts to the water bath. Once the water is boiling, can for 20 minutes. Remove the jars. Allow them to cool completely before removing them. Be sure to check each sealed properly before storing. Enjoy!

theveganfarmer.com applepiefilling

Ask Andi

theveganfarmer.com marketI’ve received some questions lately about Harper Farms and what we do so I thought I’d share a few. Feel free to contact me with any and all questions. I’m more than happy to answer them.

I’ve noticed pictures of chickens in your Instagram feed lately. What made you get chickens and how hard are they to keep?

We’ve talked about getting chickens for a couple of years. We knew after our move in 2013, it wouldn’t be too much longer. We finally had a nice size chunk of land to devote to them and the time to care for them. We’ve settled on 6 and so far, 4 are laying eggs. As someone who reads every label and is super picky about what we eat, this just made sense. I love knowing exactly what my daughter and husband are eating. Our chickies have lots of space to roam, plenty of fresh food and water, and most importantly, tons of love from Emme.

As for their care, they are super easy. I clean the coop daily. Chickens poop A LOT. As long as they can roam, have fresh food and water, some sand to bathe in, they’re pretty happy. We occasionally give them treats of kale or lettuce. When it’s hot I give them frozen watermelon and carrots. They are a pretty quiet bunch. We live in the city and several of my neighbors didn’t know we had them.

How hard is it to build a chicken coop?

It can be as simple or as difficult as you make. You can build it yourself or buy one already fabricated. We started with 3 chickens and used our daughters old play house. She had outgrown it and it housed our chicks perfectly. We built an insulated rolling base, attached a prefabricated run and called it a day. Then we decided we needed 3 more chickens. We had a storage shed attached to our garage we weren’t using so that became their new coop. We cut a few milk crates to use as nesting boxes. Since we doubled the number, the run was no longer large enough. We put up fencing and gates and now they have room to roam on one side of the house. They love lying under the fig tree.

Your farm doesn’t seem that big yet you have a huge variety of fruit trees and vegetables. How do you squeeze it all in and did it cost a lot to get started?

The best advice I can give regarding this is to start very slowly. Figure out what is important to you and how much time you currently have to devote to your garden. You don’t want to go into debt and/or burn yourself out. We started with just a few vegetables and have added a few new things each year. Starting slowly also allowed us to build our skills, make errors, and for me, learn how to be a better from scratch cook. As for our yield, we use every inch we can that isn’t dedicated to our chickens, dogs, or daughter. We plant in containers, raised beds, fenced in ground, and pots in the house.  Inside plants are mostly herbs and mint. We also pair complementary plants together like tomatoes and basil.

How hard is it to can/preserve food? Can you recommend some books to get me started?

It can be quite simple. My husband and I tend to can different things using different methods. This works well for us since I have less patience for the more labor intensive canning. Which isn’t really all that labor intensive. It just takes more time. I tend to use the water bath method more. I also like to freeze some things like bell peppers and fruit. The peppers can easily be thrown into stir fry’s. The fruit I bag with either spinach or kale and dump directly into the blender for smoothies. A quick Google search or trip to your local library will offer some great books to check out. Here are a few to get you started-

Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff

You can Can by Better Homes and Gardens

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

What are some of the ways you’re living more simply or sustainably?

Canned Spiced Cherry Jam (without pectin)

theveganfarmer.com spicedcherryjamYou guyyyyysssss. This jam. It’s everything. We have a sour cherry tree in our yard. It is sour cherry season. I’ve spent the last several days arguing with the birds over how many I’m allowed to have. Seriously. An Oriole almost took my eye out this morning. Anyway, if you’ve never had jam made from sour cherries, I suggest you RUN to the nearest pick your own farm and get some. It was super easy to make.

What You’ll Need

lots of cherries. LOTS. I used about 2.5 quarts

4 cups white sugar

3 cups brown sugar

4 TBSP lemon juice

cinnamon

nutmeg

ground clove

Remove stems and pits from the cherries. This is much quicker to do if you have a cherry pitter. Throw them in a big pot with about 1/2 cup of water. Bring it to a boil then reduce and simmer for 15 minutes or so. Add the sugars, lemon juice, and spices. I don’t have measurements for the spices. Just add them in small amounts until you find the flavor you like best. At this point I took a potato masher and mashed some of the cherries. My next batch I’ll puree half before adding to the pot. Bring it back to a full boil and stir constantly for about 10 minutes. Sterilize your jars and lids. Once the jam has thickened a little, go ahead and pour it into the sterilized jars. Leave about 1/4 inch space at the top. Place lids and bands on until just tight. Lower the jars into a water bath, cover, and bring to a boil for 8 minutes. Remove the jars from the water bath and let sit for 24 hours. Test the lids to make sure they’ve sealed. Enjoy this cherry deliciousness on toast, ice cream, in oatmeal or straight from the spoon.

Canning Homemade Applesauce

IMG_9647Let’s talk apples. One medium apple contains about 4 grams of soluble fiber, half the daily fruit quota, and a fair amount of vitamin C.   This makes for quite a satisfying sweet snack. All for only 100 calories!

Even though we’re not quite in apple season, our trees are bursting with ripe ones.  As in, oh, 60 pounds.  We spent a good chunk of this week harvesting, chopping, freezing, and canning apples.  One of our favorite forms of apple is applesauce.  Not only is it a tasty snack on its own, it’s awesome in baked goods.  Here is how I turned 30 pounds (16 pints) of apples into applesauce-

What You’ll Need

30 pounds of apples, chopped – adjust the amount  for  your lifestyle, of course

4-6 C sugar – this is totally optional. depending on how sweetened you’d like it

cinnamon – also optional

water

6 TBSP lemon juice

16 pint jars

Chop as many apples as you can stand.  Apparently 30 pounds is my limit. My partner in crime was more than happy to amuse me while I chopped.

IMG_9631  IMG_9643  Here’s the next apple, mom.  There are a bajiliion more in here.  Keep chopping.

Sterilize your jars and lids in simmering water.  Combine the apples and just enough water to keep them from sticking in a pan. Bring them to a medium boil, reduce to a light boil and stir occasionally, until they are tender.  Remove them from the heat and let cool a few minutes.  Transfer them in batches to a food processor and puree to desired smoothness. We made this batch smooth for ease.  We have reusable pouches we fill and the chunkier the sauce, the harder it is to squeeze out.  I also prefer smooth applesauce in my baking.

theveganfarmer.com-applesauce

Pour the sauce back into the pan.  Stir in the lemon juice and sugar.  Bring the sauce to a medium boil, stirring often.  Spoon the hot applesauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Put the lids on the jars and process in a boiling water canner for roughly 20 minutes.  Check the lids in a few hours.  There shouldn’t be any flexing.

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Allow to cool completely before storing. Enjoy!

Homemade Mulberry Jam

 

mulberry tree

We had this ginormous mulberry tree in our backyard when I was a kid.  I loved climbing it and eating the fruit straight from the tree.  Sometimes we’d pick a bowlful and sprinkle sugar on top.  My dad hated that tree.  Mainly because it constantly dropped fruit and stained everything it landed on. He should have just painted his car purple.

Sadly, most people find it a nuisance.  It doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Nutritionally, mulberry berries are a powerhouse:  They’re low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, iron, dietary fiber, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium. They are amazing on their own, spiced or turned into jam. Last night we did just that- turned these amazing berries into jam.

 

What You’ll Need-

lots of mulberries

sugar

half pint jars

We didn’t use pectin for this batch.  We started by cleaning the berries, tossing them in a giant pot and letting them cook down. This is super easy- turn the heat on low until the berries begin releasing juice.  Add a little sugar to thicken the jam. Taste it to find the right balance.  Mulberries are quite sweet on their own.  Turn the heat up as more juice is released.  Be sure to stir occasionally. Once they are a bit bubbly and have released their juices, they are just about done.

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While all that goodness is happening in the pot, sterilize the half pint jars.  Fill the hot jars with mulberry.  Leave about 1/4 inch headspace.  Put the lids on and place in the canner  for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and let cool completely (8-12) hours) before storing.

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Spread it on toast, biscuits, waffles or eat it from the jar. I like mine on biscuits with a side of Chai. Enjoy!