Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Canning Apple Sauce and Holy Moly Tomato Paste

Last year we got yellow delicious apples and made our apple sauce from just that varietal. Once we finished all our apple sauce last year, I met a gentleman at Findlay Market who started grafting apples as a hobby. He had about eight varieties of apples, and after some discussion with him, I thought our apple sauce could have a little more depth if we used several different types of apples.

I found this gentleman at Findlay this year, and arranged to get a mixed bushel of apples from him. I should have written down all the varietals that we had in that bushel, but I failed. I know yellow delicious was one of the varietals we had. I hadn’t heard of most of the others. I think cort and mollies were a couple of the others.

Apples. I think there was at least eight varieties in this box.

Apples. I think there was at least eight varieties in this box.

Apples, before they were cored.

Apples, before they were cored.

This is what a bushel of apples looks like.

This is what a bushel of apples looks like.

I do know that when we tasted the apples, I was shocked by how different they were. They varied from texture to flavor. Some were tart. Some were crisp. Some were sweet.

Making the sauce didn’t bring many surprises. We did learn the hard way that packing the pot too full resulted in burning some of the apples at the bottom of the pot. The smoky flavor that this imparted to the sauce was too intense to salvage as a sweet apple sauce. We canned the unsweeted smoky apple sauce, thinking that this would be delicious in savory dishes. I should think that sauce would make a terrific garnish for seared pork chops or roasted pork loin. It would also work in a savory crepe with a robust cheese like gorgonzola.

We didn’t make the same mistake with the remaining batches. I have noticed that when we can with vanilla, the flavor really deeps with age. So when we compared the new sauce to the batch that we canned last year, the vanilla flavor wasn’t as prominent. I expect that this will change as the sauce ages in the jars. The sauce tastes great as it is, but I would like to revisit the results in a few months when the vanilla matures.

Cooking the apples down for sauce. We used a food mill to take out all the skins. Keeping the skins on made the sauce thicken due to the pectin in the skin.

Cooking the apples down for sauce. We used a food mill to take out all the skins. Keeping the skins on made the sauce thicken due to the pectin in the skin.

We fueled ourselves with a couple of hand pies from O Pie O. They were delicious. If you don't want to master making pie crust, just grab a pie from these guys. That's the best bought pie I have ever had.

We fueled ourselves with a couple of hand pies from O Pie O. They were delicious. If you don’t want to master making pie crust, just grab a pie from these guys. That’s the best bought pie I have ever had.

Look at how cute it is! That was the strawberry raspberry balsamic pie.

Look at how cute it is! That was the strawberry raspberry balsamic pie.

This is the apple hand pie in cross section.

This is the apple hand pie in cross section.

We also snagged a half bushel of tomatoes and made tomato paste. I don’t know what I was expecting. The tomatoes cooked down into 8 little jam jars; I think those jars only hold about a half a cup. Words won’t do justice to how flavor-packed this homemade paste was. We only seasoned the paste with salt and bay leaves. The resulting paste was rich and velvety. It captured all the bright acidity of the tomatoes along with the caramelized sweetness that all that cooking and evaporation causes.

I haven’t used the paste in cooking yet, but it tastes too good to dilute in a marinara sauce. I haven’t decided what I will do with these little jars of gold. I’m sure I will blog about whatever I end up doing with them.

If you are considering trying this at home, be prepared for it to take all day. Between the stovetop cooking, the oven roasting, and the canning, this was a very time-consuming project. but now that I understand how much better this homemade paste is to commercially canned paste, I will be happy to devote the time required. It’s shocking how rich that paste is. Those little jars were well worth the hours and hours of effort.


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Pressure Canning: Shit Just Got Real

I have been canning for a few years. I knew this day would come. I bought a pressure canner. Pumpkin is what sealed this deal. Stocks and meats just don’t excite me like pumpkin. When faced with the possibility of using that sad, metallic-tasting paste that comes out of a can for another year, I went to the internets in search of pressure canners.

The first thing you should know about this canner is that it looks like it is not to be trifled with. The second thing you should know is that after perusing the directions I became anxious that I could literally cause an explosion in my kitchen. Looks, in this case, were not deceiving.

Pressure Canner

THE BEAST!

This was our most ambitious canning session to date. We planned to can a couple of varieties of apple sauce, apple butter, pumpkin butter, and pumpkin cubes. Note that we chose to can cubes because it’s not advisable to can pumpkin puree at home. The cubes will just need to be run through my food processor before they are added to my favorite recipes.

We started off with a half bushel of apples and nine pumpkins. Here’s the recipes/instructions for what we did.

Big pot of apples.

Here’s the apples when we were cooking them down. After this we put the apples through a food mill. We brought the resulting sauce back to boiling before canning it.

Here's the apples after we processed about half of them.

Here’s the apples after we processed about half of them.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

These pumpkins looked amazing.

Pumpkin cubes: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/he266

Apple sauce: http://www.freshpreserving.com/recipe.aspx?r=126 (we made half the batch plain as instructed here except with less sugar. We got golden delicious apples, and they were pretty sweet without the sugar. We made the other half the batch with cinnamon and vanilla bean w/ seeds.

Apple butter: http://www.canningacrossamerica.com/recipes/apple-butter/

Pumpkin butter: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-butter/

Here’s the random things that we learned. I think we accidentally put 2 tsps of nutmeg in the pumpkin butter as opposed to the 1 tsp that the recipe called for. Two tsps is great if you want the nutmeg to overwhelm all the other flavors including the pumpkin. (FAIL) The pumpkin butter thickened really quickly on the stove. I don’t think we cooked it for more than 20 minutes, and in that time the concoction got much darker and thicker.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Finished jars of apple butter.

Here's a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

Here’s a jar of apple butter coming out of the pot after processing.

The apple sauce was excellent. It was so excellent that we needed to stop ourselves from eating it before it made to the jars. If we do another fall canning session, it will be to do more apple sauce.

The pumpkin that we canned bears almost no resemblance to what comes out of store-bought cans. The color is a bright yellow and the flavor is closer to acorn or butternut squash. This made me wonder what they do to the pumpkin to get it that color and to get that mealy flavor. I don’t know if you have ever eaten a spoonful of pumpkin from the can, but it has that non-taste that commercial baby food often has. The pumpkin that we put in the jars had this slightly sweet, creamy flavor.

Image

I mentioned in a past blog that I get my produce for canning at the Lunken Airport farmers market (if you aren’t from Cincinnati just ignore that last sentence). The people who go there aren’t wholesalers; they are the actual farmers. For what they may lack in customer service skills, they more than make up for it with knowledge about the produce. The old curmudgeon farmer that I work with most often, while doubtful of my intentions at first, has now warmed to my tattooed self. It seems like I keep clearing hurdles with him. On my pumpkin purchase, he seemed pleased that I recognized the pie pumpkins from the mess of decorative gourds and pumpkins.

While we were bagging up my pumpkins he pointed to a huge green and white mottled gourd. He asked if I had ever made pie with one of those. I said no, because I had never seen this type of gourd before. He pushed his vintage (NOT RETRO) John Deere hat further back on his head and said, “Once you make pie with one of those, you’ll never want a pumpkin again.” I have heard of a gourd that is fabled to be more tasty than pumpkin. I’m pretty sure curmudgeon farmer just pointed out my gourd Moby Dick. Needless to say I will be going back next week to get one of those gourds. Be on the look out for the Moby Dick gourd blog post next week.