We had such wonderful comments and responses to our first article on apples, we decided to do it again! Last Friday we went out to an apple orchard not far from our farm. We had originally intended to stick with honey crisp apples, our absolute favorites, but unfortunately I missed much of the season while in the hospital and then recovering. So this time around we chose to try Braeburn apples. Braeburn’s were the first bi-colored apple to hit the commercial market, and are highly regarded for their sweet and tart taste in baking. Luckily they are a late season apple that tends to hit it’s peak in September-October in our area. We were able to pick up 2 bushels of seconds, with minor skin blemishes and smaller size for only $12 a bushel! Saving money is always a good thing. Although they were seconds, they appeared to look just as good as those apples found in commercial grocery stores.
So last time we processed one bushel of honey crisp apples into cinnamon apple sauce and apple butter. This time, I was eager to can some un-spiced sugar free pints of apple sauce for our new baby who is due in the next few weeks. We make all of our own baby food to ensure our children only get nutritious fruits and veggies free of chemicals and high amounts of sodium or sugar. Not only is this healthier, but it saves us a HUGE amount of money not having to buy little jars of food.
We put up 13 pints and 2 ½ pints of “Baby Sauce.” Next on the agenda was some more apple butter, but this time we made Apple Cider Apple Butter for a slightly different flavor. Basically, the only difference in the recipe is the addition of 3 cups of apple cider and the reduction of sugar by one cup.
With the apple butter cooking and the baby’s apple sauce done it was time to hit bushel #2. For these apples, we had several different plans! The kids had been wanting some chicken salad, and it just so happened I had recently baked a hen. So we pulled out the leftovers and Andrew set to scavenging the remaining meat off the bone while I worked on putting the other ingredients together. Our kids absolutely love this fruity and light chicken salad.
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Fruity Chicken Salad
1.5 pounds cooked, shredded chicken
2 stalks of diced celery
½ cup diced onion (red looks attractive!)
2 small/medium apples, diced
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin oranges (drained)
½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup golden raisins
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1 cup light mayonnaise
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon sugar
Dice celery, apples, and onions. Drain mandarin oranges and finally chop pecans. Shred chicken. In a large bowl combine the chicken, celery, onion, apple, raisins, pecans, and mandarin oranges. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve immediately, or for better taste refrigerate over night.
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With the kids munching on crackers and chicken salad, it was time to continue with the apples. Andrew pulled out the dehydrators and worked on setting them up while I continued peeling, coring, and slicing. Half of our second bushel was eventually dried, placed in freezer bags, and put in the freezer for snacking later.
At this point the apple butter was coming out of the canner, the dehydrators were both running, and I still had apples left! So, we went ahead and put up another 3 quarts of Sweet Cinnamon Apple Sauce. And there were still a few more more apples in the box!
So what do you do when you already have enough apple butter, sweet and un-sweet apple sauce, dried apples, and Fruity Chicken Salad? Well, you make baked beans. I know, baked beans and apples don’t really sound like they go together but try it and you just may be surprised!
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2 cans baked beans (can substitute pork n’ beans)
6 cooked slices of bacon, chopped
½ lb. ground hamburger meat, browned and drained
1 onion, finally sliced
¼ cup yellow mustard
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup brown sugar
2 small, or 1 large apple peeled, cored and diced
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. In a 9 x 13 baker, combine all ingredients and mix well. Bake in pre-heated oven for 45 minutes or until bubbly. Cool 15 minutes before serving so they set and do not run in the pan.
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By the time we reached the bottom of bushel number 2, we had accumulated a table full of apple products! Lucky for us we recently found a steal of a deal at a local estate auction. We purchased 167 canning jars for just $5! I also found jar lids and rings on clearance at the local Tractor Supply. So our total cost to put up 3 bushels of apple products this year was roughly $62, including all spices and sugar used. Since I used many of the jars I already had, I still have 145 “extra” jars and another 4 dozen jar lids! Here is the product of our second round of apples.
So between our last run and this run we have done two kinds of apple sauce, two kinds of apple butter, dried apples, Apple Fritters, Apple Cinnamon Cookies, Fruity Chicken Salad, and Baked Beans. The only thing missing was a cake or pie. Now, I’m not a big fan of apple pie but I sure do enjoy Apple Stack Cake. I have tried for several years to find an Apple Stack Cake recipe that reminded me of the ones I loved as a child. After several failures, I asked GRIT for some assistance. Thankfully, Jean Teller quickly came to the rescue with several recipes for us to try out. We started with Grandma Welsh’s Apple Stack Cake (from "Apple Stack Cakes" in the GRIT Recipe Box blog).
So far, this is the most similar taste and texture to what I was looking for. The only change I made in the recipe was to use butter in place of shortening. I like the buttery flavor, and I was out of shortening at the time! The recipe called for 6-8 cups of apple butter, apple sauce, or cooked apples to put between the six layers. So we used 2 pints of apple butter and 1 pint of apple sauce. Absolutely delicious! But you really must resist the temptation to eat it right away and refrigerate it for at least 6 hours, preferably over night in order to let the cake “soak” up all that nice apple flavor!
And thus ends apple season 2011. Final tally from 3 bushels:
Not a bad year!