Friday, September 21, 2012

Apples. Apples. Apples.

It is fall around here now and that has me thinking of many of my favorite things. Hayrides. Bonfires. Apples. Pumpkins. Thanksgiving. I love fall! It is probably my favorite season. I love the coolness in the air. I love the anticipation of the upcoming winter. After a busy and crazy summer I always long for the cold of winter to "trap" us indoors with lots of family time.

But, for now, I am thinking apples. I was blessed this year when someone offered to let me pick their tree clean and take as many apples as I wanted, FREE. I came home with two 17 gallon totes, a laundry basket, and several grocery bags full of apples. I have been canning apples non-stop with only short breaks for the past eight days. I have canned almost 50 quarts of applesauce and 20 quarts of apple pie filling!!! The shelves of my new pantry are filling up. But I have also made some other yummy treats this week with apples and I wanted to share those with you.

Apple Chips

Basically these are just dried apple slices. So, I peeled, cored and sliced my apples. Then I laid them on a metal cooling rack over a cookie sheet. I then placed them in a 200 degree oven for about 2-3 hours. This drying time depends on how crunchy you want your chips and also on how humid it is that day. Just check them occasionally until they suit your needs.

Drying in the oven.

These are great by themselves as a snack or I break them up and use them in granola, in breads, and even in cookies at times. They store in an air tight container for a very long time.

Spiced Apple Juice

Next thing I did was to take all of those apple peels and cores and place about half in a large pot and cover with water. I brought them to a boil and then reduced the heat and allowed the peels to simmer for about 4 hours, adding water as needed. After they had simmered, I strained the juice off of the peels.
Straining the peels.
 I put the juice (roughly 48 ounces) back into the pot and simmered for about 20 minutes with 5 whole cloved and a coffee filter with cinnamon inside. I just put about two teaspoons of ground cinnamon into the middle of a coffee filter and tied it shut with a twist tie and let it float in the juice while it simmered.

Coffee filter with cinnamon floating in the juice.
After it had simmered I removed it from the heat and allowed it to cool slighty. Then we enjoyed warm spiced apple juice on a cool evening. I love that I made this all myself and know that it doesn't have any HFCS in it or any extra colorings or flavors added.

Apple Cider Vinegar

With the other half of the apples peels I placed them in a glass jar and again covered with water. But this time I left some head space and room for expansion. And then I went back after two days and removed even more peels and water because it was still "bubbling" over.

Brewing vinegar.
Basically once you have the water and the peels "steeping" you just need to vent it. Cover it with something breathable but that will keep bugs and dust out of your vinegar. Place the jar in a cool dark place and allow it to sit for about 4 weeks. When the water turns a nice burnt red color (think apple cider vinegar color) it is ready to use. Just strain off the vinegar, discard the peels and cores and store your vinegar as you always would. I sure didn't realize it was that simple until this year.

I hope that with the coming of fall you are able to use these apple recipes to warm your home with the sweet scent of apples and to create memories with your loved ones that will last a life time!

Written by Happily Domestic contributor - Amanda Sikes

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