October in January

100_3293When the snow is blowing around this winter, we’ll be enjoying some autumn foods that we preserved on a rainy day this week.

With fearsome forecasts keeping us inside, we made and canned applesauce and raspberry jam, and froze lots of spicy vegetable stew.

I bought eight pounds of “Utility Mac” apples for $7 at Clarkdale Fruit Farms in Deerfield, and they produced four quarts of sauce. We like to eat this spicy applesauce heated up for a nice dessert on a cold winter evening. And it’s easy to make!

First, I washed, quartered and cored the apples. (Some people peel the apples, but I don’t bother.) I put them in a big pot with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves and a little water (to avoid burning the pan) and cooked them on a low heat for an hour. If you’re using apples other than Macintosh, this will take longer.

100_3287Then I put the softened apples through a food mill, as shown in the photo. This hand-turning process doesn’t take long and separates the sauce from the peels, which get turned into compost. We then put the sauce into glass canning jars, put on lids and gave them a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes. They get stored in a cellar cabinet along with nine quarts left over from last year.

100_3290Betsy and I have been picking raspberries every other day for the past month. We squash them (I’m shown doing this in the photo), add 2/3 of a cup of sugar per cup of berries, and freeze them in plastic containers until it’s a good day for canning. The night before canning, Betsy took  them out of the freezer to thaw, and then put them in a big pot to cook down.

The trickiest part of jamming is deciding when to turn off the heat. Too soon and you get syrup; too late and the jam is rubbery. Betsy’s signal is when the jam comes off a spoon in sheets rather than drops. At that point she puts the jam in clean jars, affixes sterilized lids and puts them in the same boiling-water bath that the applesauce was processed in, for 15 minutes.

100_3292We had lots of green beans that we picked just before the frost, and they were sitting in the fridge threatening to go bad. I took off their strings and steamed them until tender and set them aside. I picked some celery and a rutabaga still growing in the garden and sauteed them with two cut-up onions. The great thing about vegetable stew or soup is that you don’t have to follow a recipe and it’s hard to completely screw it up.

I cut up five small hot peppers and two green peppers and added them to the pot. I also added three shredded carrots, a can of kidney beans, a box of chicken stock and a half-cup of tiny pasta. I cut up the green beans and added them. After a few hours of cooking, the liquid had been absorbed and the mixture was delicious — but spicy!



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