Putting up, canning, preserving, bottling – four ways to describe a process from which a sense of deep inner satisfaction is a by-product. Beginning with a pile of beautiful produce and ending with a shelf groaning under the weight of gleaming jars is a very meaningful way to spend an afternoon. Although we are not subject to food shortages, we are prone to seasonal fluctuation, and to be able to capture a crop at its finest with the ability to enjoy it year round, is a wonderful thing.
Occasionally ‘windfalls’ of produce can land in your lap. A neighbour with a productive fig tree, a market bargain or a roadside opportunity, are likely examples. To be able to bottle these fortuities to savour at a later date makes sense, economically and nutritionally. Windfalls aside, if you would like to dip your toe into the process, start with a generous selection of good eating apples. Applesauce is delicious and versatile (immediately apple pie, roast pork, danishes and custardy desserts spring to mind).
After you have peeled and chopped approximately 2 1/2 kilos, put them into a large pan over a medium heat with 1/2 cup of apple juice (or cider), three whole star anise and three cloves. Put a lid on the pot and cook the apples for about 20 minutes, or until well broken down. Stir the pot regularly to make sure the apples are not sticking. Remove the cloves and stars. Now, with a hand masher, stick blender or blender, process until smooth. At this point, add sugar (up to 1 cup). I use about 1/2 cup, but some like their sauce sweeter. Stir well. You will notice the dark colour of my applesauce and this is because I also add a teaspoon of nutmeg and a tablespoon of cinnamon with the sugar. You can do this, or for traditional applesauce, leave these out. Your applesauce is now ready to preserve.
I use a Ball Preserver but all you need is a large stockpot with a lid and a selection of sturdy jars with metal lids. Pop your jars in the stockpot and fill with water until jars are covered. (To keep the jars from coming in contact with the base of the pot, place an upturned dish on the bottom for them to rest on). Bring pot to the boil. This will sterilise the jars for you. Boil the jar lids in a small saucepan separately. Using tongs remove the jars and fill with the applesauce. Seal jars with lids, not overly tightly. Place jars back in stockpot and cover. Boil for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and leave jars to stand in water for about 5 minutes before removing. Stand on a chopping board covered with a teatowel. As the jars cool, you will hear the lids pop, meaning a seal has formed.
Admire your efforts.
Postscript: this quantity of apples will make approximately four 500ml jars of sauce and of course there will be a little over. This is the bit you pop in a bowl with some peaches and pouring custard to enjoy while the jars are sealing themselves.