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.
My best friend and I wanted to can as many fruit as we could this year and so far we’ve tackled strawberries, and now, cherries. We planned a whole slew of recipes for the pounds of cherries that we picked including sour and sweet cherry jam, sour cherry jelly, rosemary pickled cherries, bourbon soaked cherries and finally – these tart cherry coffee preserves. 7 hours of pitting and canning later…we had ourselves a whole stack of freshly canned cherries!
Sampling all the different cherry products we made was very interesting, and determining which ones worked better with sweet versus sour cherries. I preferred the jams and preserves we made using the sour ones. They balanced out the sugar better and gave the flavour more dimension compared to the one note sweetness from the sweet cherries.
This preserve recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning Late Summer 2015 edition magazine. The one small change I made was to double the amount of coffee beans, as the coffee flavour compliments the cherries so nicely I wanted to highlight the bitter flavour a bit more. The coffee beans also helped to bring out the tartness of the cherries, making for a lovely, syrupy-but-not-too-sweet preserves.
I wasn’t quite sure what to do with these delicious preserves at first, but inspired by the usual pairing of bread, cheese and jam on a charcuterie board, I decided to make some crostini. I wanted to keep the crostini light and simple, so I picked up a baguette and some goat cheese from my local bakery. The crunchy baguette and creamy goat cheese held up nicely with the rich cherry preserves, making for a delightful summer appetizer, or a festive party dish come the holiday season!
Preserves should be made a day in advance so that they have time to cool.
Servings6half pints of preserves
For the cherry preserves
1/2cupunsweetened cherry juiceyou will have enough juice after pitting your cherries
1/2cupstrong whole coffee beans
5cupsfreshpitted sour cherries, quartered
1 6-ozpackage2 foil packages liquid fruit pectin
For the crostini
olive oil - for brushing
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the cherry preserves
In a small saucepan bring cherry juice to boiling. Add coffee beans. Remove from heat. Cover; let stand for 30 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, reserving juice. Discard coffee beans.
In a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot combine the reserved cherry juice, the sugar and cherries. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in pectin. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon.
Ladle hot preserves into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace. Wipe jar rim, place lids on jars and screw on bands until they are just tightened.
Process jars in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks.
For the crostini:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice baguette diagonally into half inch slices and brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange baguette slices on a large rimmed baking sheets. Bake 8 minutes, flip crostini and bake 8 minutes more.
Let cool before topping with goat cheese and a spoonful of cherry preserves.
Serve with some Campari for a truly delicious starter.