James and I finally got all of the apples off the tree and I took on the Herculean task of making sure they didn't go to waste. On day one of battle apple I started with a caramelized apple and thyme marmalade. Flavorful but since our apples are a storage variety and a little softer than many the texture wasn' quite what I had hoped for -- a little more sauce than marmalade. Still I see spring cheeses served with that marmalade and crusty bread and don't expect any complaints. Then it hit me -- Jelly. It takes a lot of fruit, which we have, doesn't require peeling and would be a welcome gift from our little yard.
I chopped and chopped and chopped. Then simmered batch after batch of apples and water. Our small kitchen looked like a science experiment as I left bundle after bundle of cooked apples tied up in cheesecloth to drip juice into waiting bowls, pots, and storage containers. Drip, drip drip, without squeezing (that makes the jelly cloudy) for 24 hours until all of the juice was extracted. Halfway there.
The next morning, batch by batch. I cooked down the juice, sugar (9 cups for 12 cups of juice) and lemon juice (6 TBs for 12 cups of juice) until the mixture boiled then simmered and reached about 225º. That's where I felt the jell had set to my liking. I stirred in a splash of bourbon (1TB) and poured the very hot liquid into sterilized canning jars, wiped the rims clean and added lids and processed the jars in a hot water canner for 5 minutes.
But, there were still the cooked apples to contend with. Sure I thought about feeding them to the neighbor's pigs or staring a whole new compost pile for apple scraps. But, I just couldn't do it. I dug out the food mill James got me last Christmas and set to work. I passed all of the cooked apples though the mill which separated the stems and seeds and left me with a vat of homemade, unsweetened applesauce.
My reward for three days of apple-ing? 12 jars of marmalade waiting for roasts and cheese, 20 beautiful, jewel-toned jars of homemade jelly and 6 more quarts of applesauce waiting to be made into muffins, applesauce cakes (that's gonna be a new family specialty), and low-fat granola. I made my first batch today.