preserving: apple thyme jelly
I am loving canning, jarring, preserving. Not only do I love all the yummy flavors, and so many recipe options (pickling, chutneys, relishes, jams, jellies, salsas... yikes!), but I love knowing how to CAN. You don't have to know about acid/ph levels and pectins and ratios to be a home canner---but I like learning. So.
Canning beckons me to become acutely aware of 'seasonal' foods. It used to be you could only get cabbage or asparagus or strawberries at a certain time of year. But today's grocers offer 'fresh' food year round, and 'seasonal' has blurred. BUT when you start canning and preserving, you are looking for food at its absolute height of growing goodness---what is bursting at farmer's markets? Or inexpensive and front-and-center at the grocers? (Off season produce is often super expensive, since it had to be shipped in or stored and all of those costs add up...). But what is local and bountiful is where I migrate: peaches just came from Eastern Washington---so I made brandied peaches. And the markets were recently bursting with bell peppers---so I made spicy red pepper jelly. It won't be hard for me to remember what I was preserving in May versus September. I am just saying.
Back to the apples:
I climbed 3 apple trees to fill a small box with apples---'free apples' was all it took for me to start swinging. Half the box went into an apple pie for my son's birthday (with homemade vanilla ice cream). The other half of the box went into making this Apple Thyme Jelly... with an added bonus of applesauce.
I have been canning and preserving for a few weeks now---ever since 5 flats of figs landed on my doorstep. My most recent jars are full of Apple Thyme Jelly from the Herbfarm Cookbook. Now page 303 is dog-eared and splattered, and has a handwritten 'applesauce' scrawled across the bottom.
I learned: apples have a high pectin content. So I didn't need to use pectin. I learned that steeping thyme in the boiled jelly for 15 minutes is a brilliant way to insert herb flavor. AND because I boiled the jelly beyond the 'cold plate wrinkle test' point and it 'over-jelled'---I learned that some more boiling water mixed with the jelly and a small food processor work to loosen the jelly up again. De-jelling. Un-jelling. Or re-jelling? Which... I was happy to learn.
Apple Thyme Jelly 8-10 large apples (4 pounds) 8 cups water 3 cups sugar 1 bunch thyme
1. Make apple liquid: wash apples, slice whole apples into 8ths (no coring, peeling or pitting). Add water, boil then simmer (partially covered) 45 minutes---until apples are soft. Drain through cheesecloth and/or fine sieve over bowl. Let drain 4-6 hours (don't press on the apples).
2. Boiling the Jelly: put apple liquid (about 6 cups) in pot with sugar. Bring to boil, skimming off foam. Boil uncovered 35-55 minutes. Remove from stove RIGHT when it passes the wrinkle test: drop tsp of jelly onto chilled plate (have a few small plates chilling in fridge). When tsp cools, touch surface of jelly---if you detect a 'wrinkle' on top you are done. Drop 1/2 the bunch of thyme in, cover and steep for 15 minutes (off the stove). (I let my jelly go too long, so it became rubbery---which I later remedied with more hot water)
3. Sterilizing the Jars: Boil 2 pots of water, one for the lids and one large enough to boil submerged jars. Place 3 half-pint canning jars in the boiling water for 10 minutes. Drop the lids and screw-bands in small boiling pot, then remove from heat.
4. Canning: Remove thyme, squeezing the thyme to release extra flavor in apple jelly. Bring jelly back to boil, remove 1 jar from boiling water, place single thyme sprig in jar. Fill with jelly to 1/4 inch of rim, wipe lip clean, use tongs to place lid on jar. Secure with screw band (not too tight). Flip jar upside down for 5 minutes. Repeat with the other 2 jars. Pour remaining jelly in dish and store in fridge for immediate use. After jars have been upside down for 5 minutes, flip them right-side-up. Let cool. If they seal properly, the lids will 'pop' down/decompress. If not, then store in your fridge and enjoy that jar too!
Apple Thyme Jelly pairs brilliantly with sharp white cheddar on toast.
On another happy note: when I had boiled the apples, then let them drain, I was left with a large pile of very boiled, very soft apple pieces. Which the recipe [guffaw] says to just throw away. I know, right? Instead: I made applesauce. It gave me 2 quarts of homemade applesauce---thus labeled and waiting in my freezer.
One humble box of apples and a whole lot of happy: from swinging among the limbs of 3 trees to yummy birthday-pie bites to preserving jelly and stocking my freezer with applesauce. Sigh, happy.