Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Crockpot Apple Butter August 20, 2010

Filed under: Canning,Food Storage,Home Made,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 11:37 am
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It may seem early in the season for apple recipes, but I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to pick a business associates early fruiting tree and I finally got around to doing something with all the apples I pulled. The apples were very small and the process of peeling and coring was fairly tedious, however we were able to do enough so that we could make about 4 pints of apple butter.

The process of making apple butter is very straightforward but it can be time consuming so I decided this year to use my crockpot in order to cook the apples down rather than the stove top which requires frequent stirring and constant vigilance in order to ensure it does not scorch. Given all of the other things I have been trying to do recently (cheese making, zucchini processing, alone time…) I decided that it would be best for everyone if I simply put the apple butter in the crockpot overnight and let it do its thing without my supervision.

I was very pleased with the results! The butter thickened nicely and while there was some scraping of the sides required in the end, all in all it was a preferable method to the stovetop. I tend to forget that things are on the stove and have had some near catastrophes (see my post about the plum preserves!). The best part about it though is that you can leave it to cook overnight. I like getting things done while I sleep!

Apple Butter
from the Ball Blue Book of canning and preserving

4 pints cooked apples
4 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves

The basics process for making the butter is as follows:

Core and peel your apples
Cook them with a small quantity of water until they are soft and can be easily mushed with a potato masher (basically turn them into applesauce)
Use either an immersion blender or a standard blender to blend them and create a smooth consistency
Add sugar and spices
Cook over low heat until thick, stirring frequently

Leaving 1/4 inch headspace, process in water bath for 10 minutes at sea level

I typically use less sugar in these recipes than called for simply because I don’t like overly sweet fruit products. The Ball Blue Book recipe calls for 4 cups of sugar to 8 cups of apples. No thank you! I use about 1 to 1.5 cups of sugar. I also add a tad more cloves to my recipe (1/2 tsp instead of 1/4 tsp) and lower the cinnamon from 2 tsp to 1 tsp.

The canning instructions are to can for 10 minutes (at sea level) with 1/4 inch head space. Due to the altitude in the City Dipherent, I add an additional 15 minutes to the processing time.

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Oven-dried zucchini August 13, 2010

Filed under: Food Storage,Garden Fresh,Home Made,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 3:24 pm
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The results!

My first attempt at oven drying anything was met with pretty fair success, if I do say so myself. Although I was somewhat astounded by the end result. When you cut up two pounds of zucchini and end up with barely a cup, it is a bit of a shocker. Of course, zucchini being 95% water (or thereabouts) makes it shrivel up pretty good. According to the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving, 20 lbs of zucchini dried makes barely two pounds of chips.

Fascinating, but somewhat anti-climactic.

Suffice it to say, the process was very straightforward. I winged it a bit, but it all seemed to work out. Using what I read from the aforementioned Ball Book and some articles on the internet, I decided to slice the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices. I then lay them on a cookie sheet and set the oven at 175 degrees, which is as low as mine will go.

I also kept the oven door open in order to facilitate the actual dehydrating process, versus cooking. The airflow provided is necessary in order to keep the moisture from recirculating back into the zucchini. If I had a convection oven this might have been an unnecessary step, but sadly I do not have a convection oven and so I simply kept the oven door open about half way.

The whole process took nearly 4 hours and I was obliged to continuously flip the zucchini rounds in order to dry them evenly. If I had a cookie sheet with a rack I probably would not have had to do this step, but again…like the convection oven issue, I didn’t. Regardless, it worked quite well. I did notice however that the pieces that I had cut too thin started to brown and I decided that they were moving too far into the “cooked” spectrum to really qualify as dried. As a result I attempted to add them to burritos for dinner that evening…which was a spectacular failure, I might add.

Regardless, the point of mentioning it was that while some sources might tell you to cut the slices as thin as 1/8 of an inch, if you are using an oven to dry your zucchini I highly suggest to cut things no thinner than 1/4 inch otherwise you may end up with burnt chips.

I will be reattempting the drying routine tomorrow as I still have four zucchini in my fridge, even though I have dried and baked copious amounts and my plants are suffering from an insect invader that is slowly killing them. I do love the abundance of summer squash!

Oven Dried Zucchini

Zucchini
cookie sheets, with racks if possible

Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices, trying to cut them as evenly as possible. Place the slices on the cookie sheet or rack, spacing them relatively close together as they will shrink as the process goes on.

Place in your oven at it’s lowest setting (mine was 175 degrees) and leave the door open at least half way. If your oven door will not remain open half way on its own you may have to rig it. I would not recommend leaving it open all the way and you cannot have it closed altogether either.

Leave in the oven for 4 – 4.5 hours, turning regularly. The zucchini is done when it is no longer flexible. Let cool completely before storing.

Happy Eating!