I love this time of year! Yes, there is a lot of work to be done, but so many wonderful things take place in the Fall. The air gets that crisp, clean feel to it. The wonderful smell of acorns fills the woods around our home. The leaves on the trees are starting to turn to beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow, and it is apple time! From the time I was little till a few years back, our house was surrounded by apple orchards. Our neighbors, who owned and operated the orchards, would sell fruit right out of their garage. I loved walking in among the half bushel baskets of apples. The smell was wonderful. I still love that smell! Of all the foods that I can every year, my favorite is apple pie filling! It is so convenient to be able to pop open a jar and dump it right into a waiting pie shell! This is how I do my pie filling.
Start by choosing your favorite kind of apple. I have used many different kinds, even a bunch of red delicious that were given to me for free and they have all been good. Mostly, I prefer a tart apple, so I choose along those lines. I usually get a half bushel, and then cut that in half, doing them in two batches. You can do as many as the size pan you are going to use allows. Just adjust accordingly with your sugar amounts. I’ll get into that later.
Now you need to peel and core your apples. I have an apple peeler corer that makes this job sooo easy! It screws fast to the edge of my cutting board. I simply push the apple onto the peeler, and crank by hand. When the apple comes out the end, it is peeled, sliced and cored.
I pull the apple off, set it on my cutting board, and cut the apple in half with a knife. This makes neat little apple slices.
These then go into my large stock pot. Depending on the shape of the apples, the peeler sometimes misses a small amount of skin on the top or bottom of the apple. I don’t mind this; it goes right into the pot. If you don’t like it, just pull it off. When I’m finished peeling, the chickens get a wonderful treat of apple skins!
I do enough apples at one time to fill my large stock pot. As I said, this is usually about a half of a half bushel. I put my pot of apples on medium heat on the stove. I add about two cups of water. You want to have just enough water to keep them from scorching on the bottom until they start to cook down a bit. Then I add brown sugar and cinnamon. How much you use of these two ingredients is a matter of taste. I add about a half of a two pound bag of brown sugar, and then cinnamon till it looks right to me. If your pot is a bit smaller, use less. I've told you before I’m not good at measuring. I’m a dump till it looks right kind of girl! If you like your apple pies on the sweeter side, try a little more. If you are a tart apple pie person, go with less.
You will need to stir your apples frequently. They will start to cook down and make some juice of their own. It will get easier to stir as they go. You don’t want them to cook down to far, or you will have applesauce instead of pie filling. As soon as they begin to cook down, I add a little tapioca to my apples as a thickener. If you don’t like tapioca, you can use flour instead. You don’t need a lot. You want it to thicken slightly, but not turn into paste!
As soon as the tapioca starts to turn clear, or if you are using flour, when your juice starts to thicken, it is time to fill your jars. Have your clean jars ready to go. I use a canning funnel when filling my jars. It makes life so much easier.
Fill your jars, leaving about ¾ of an inch to 1 inch headspace. I overfilled my jars one year, and had the filling cook out from under the flats in my canner. What a mess! Now, I make sure I let plenty of headspace at the top! When the jars are full, use a knife to remove any air bubbles that might have gotten in.
Wipe the jar rims to remove any filling that might have gotten on them. Boil your flats to soften and sterilize them.
Put the hot flats on the jars, and turn the rings on so they are snugly tight. Submerge your jars in water in your canner. When the water starts to boil, set your timer to process for twenty minutes.
When they are finished, turn off your burner and be very careful removing the hot jars from the canner. Voila, ready to use apple pie filling!
This is also very good for apple crisp! Here is a recipe for apple crisp that we love:
Dump your apple pie filling into an 8-by-8 or 9-by-9 baking dish. Mix 1/2 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup of butter with a pastry blender. Spread evenly on top of apples. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and drizzle with caramel sundae topping. Serve warm with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream. YUM!