We went apple picking late in the season this year, so the selection was waning when we arrived at Puddicombe Farms. The most plentiful trees were the Mutsu trees, and since these apples are ideal for baking we happily filled up our bags. Mutsu apples were first grown in Japan and are named after the northern Mutsu Province. They’re a cross between a Golden Delicious and an Indo apple, and are a nice balance of sweet and sour flavours.
Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms
The weather was so warm it still felt like summer and we peeled off our layers of fall clothing as we walked up and down the rows of trees.
Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms
I’ve always wanted to make my own apple butter. I first discovered this buttery jam years ago while on a detox and was impressed with how rich the apples tasted without the use of sugar. Flavour and consistency varied a lot between brands and I eventually I became addicted to the dark, sweet Wellesley apple butter, made with Ontario apples.
Food In Jars Apple Butter
For my first attempt at apple butter I tried Food In Jars Maple Bourbon Apple Butter recipe. I like her recipes in general because she uses syrups or juice instead of sugar. After cooking the apples for about an hour, they’re pureed and baked in an oven for 2-3 hours which brings out the sweetness and should give the sauce a darker, richer look. I think we probably should have baked our sauce a bit longer, as the consistency tasted closer to baby food than jam, and feel as though the colour was too light as well. I would also add double the amount of maple syrup, bourbon and orange zest because I couldn’t taste these flavours at all, which was a shame because they sound like a delicious combination! Overall, the apple butter still turned out nicely and I’m planning to give some jars away as gifts come Christmas, but I’m still on a quest to make that rich apple butter that I first fell in love with.
My boyfriend’s “Nonna” – his Italian grandmother – grows and cans her own tomatoes and the resulting tomato sauce over fresh gnocchi is simply to die for. This year, my friend and I wanted to start canning our own tomatoes. I felt like I was preparing for the apocalypse, stocking my pantry with so many mason jars of canned goods! We didn’t have time to go and pick our own tomatoes, so we ordered two crates from the West End Food Co-Op a grocery store where you can order large quantities of produce from local farms.
For nine hours we slaved over 50 pounds of perfectly ripened, shiny red tomatoes, making homemade ketchup and 15 liters of canned tomatoes! I absolutely loved the homemade ketchup (featured below in the large jar). Homemade ketchup is a thinner consistency than store bought ketchup, but much tastier!
The canning process is very simple, we just had A LOT of tomatoes. I can’t wait to make to make fresh pasta sauce this fall! Now I just need to master making homemade gnocchi, and then I can recreate “Nonna’s” food at home.
Prep the jars in a water canner. Set them on a rack and fill with water until jars are covered and boil for at least 10 minutes. Keep hot until ready for use.
Place lids in hot water (not boiling) until ready for use.
Blanch tomatoes in a another pot of boiling water for 45 - 60 seconds. Immediately place in an ice cold water bath.
Remove skins (they should peel off easily - otherwise adjust blanching timing), remove stems and any bruised or discoloured areas.
Pack whole tomatoes into the hot mason jar, pressing them close together. Try not too pack them too tightly or too loosely, they should be comfortably placed together so that they're aren't any big gaps . Use a wooden chopstick to help pack the tomatoes and remove air bubbles.
Add two tablespoons of lemon juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace from the top rim.
Wipe rim and carefully place down lid. Screw on the bands until they are just tight (do not overtighten).
Place jars in canner, ensuring the top of the jars are covered with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 85 minutes.
Remove the jars without tilting and cool upright for one day.
Check seals (they should be curved downward, and when the band is removed you should be able to hold the jar by the edge of the lid).
Store in a dark, cool place.
Each mason jar holds 7-8 tomatoes each.
I prefer canning whole tomatoes with no added salt so that I leave my options open for when I decide to use them.
I feel like I just finished making cherry jam…summer canning season is tiring! But the fabulous Bourbon Peach Jam we made last year has been in the back of my mind. Also, my boyfriend who has never had a sweet tooth, loved the jam and will not let me forget it! So, we headed out to the Winona Peach Festival, indulged in a fresh peach sundae, then scooped up two baskets of fruit and headed home.
Peach Sundae, Winona Peach Festival
This is the first jam my friend and I canned together, and it has been a clear winner. The bourbon isn’t too overpowering and adds this wonderful buttery element to the sweet peach jam. This recipe is taken from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning Late Summer 2015 edition, and I wouldn’t change a thing! This jam is particularly tasty drizzled over some goat cheese, baked over a wheel of brie or smothered over a crisp pork chop. If you go peach picking this summer, you simply have to make this jam!
We were feeling ambitious this year so we also made peach salsa and a healthier low sugar peach jam. The peach salsa I’m keeping for myself, but the low sugar jam will be a great gift for the older folk in our family. The Bourbon Peach Jam though…only special friends who have proven their worth will be the lucky recipients of this one!
Bourbon peach jam, low sugar vanilla bean peach jam and peach salsa
1/2 of a 6-ounce package (1 foil pouch) liquid fruit pectin
In a large pot combine sugar, peaches, bourbon and lemon juice.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Quickly stir in the liquid pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon.
Ladle jam into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.
Wipe jar rims; adjust lids and screw on bands until just tightened.
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes *start timing when water returns to boiling. Remove jars and cool on wire racks, turning and tilting jars after 20 minutes to distribute fruit evenly.
Trust me, as a person who tries to avoid sugar - using seven cups of sugar is a bit cringe worthy...but you'll forget all about it when you taste this jam!