So, Uh… What Do You Do With Crab Apples?

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

My husband and my daughters left for a little while the other day and came back with a bucket of crab apples.

Me: “Uh… what do I do with em, honey?”
Him: “I dunno. I figured you’d have some cool idea.” ūüôā

Internets to my rescue! Time for my favorite thing… research!

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

These smell delicious. I knew I wanted a recipe that would evoke how I feel right now. I want Fall. I’m really tired of the heat. Summer, I’m done with you. It’s time for Fall. Apple butters always make me feel like the air is crisp, the leaves are crunching beneath my feet, and the most delicious smell of spiced everything fills my house. So, I decided that crab apple butter was going to be my first venture into canning! My first! I gotta say, it was a MAJOR success.

I am hooked.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

After doing some foodie research, I started by following the advice on this video to take the extra time to put some love into my butter. I cut off the blossom ends, took off the stems, and cut them in half to better access the natural pectin in the seeds. I put them in a bit of citrus water to keep them from browning as I cut them. It didn’t take too long, especially the second time around when my hubby helped. I strained off the water, weighed them to assess how much sugar I would need, and added them to a big pot with 1/2 a cup of water per pound of crab apples. I cooked them until they were soft. I decided to use my hand blender to make everything like applesauce, help things along. Then I put it through my strainer, but if you had one of those applesauce grater-things, that would probably be good too.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Before straining out the seeds

I added the sugar, 1 cup for every 3 pounds of crab apples, then the spices. In all the recipes I researched, they didn’t seem to have enough spices. So I doubled or even tripled what I had seen called for. It was a good choice too. In the recipe I’ll give you at the end, I’m going to give you the very least of the spices, but more is better, take it from me. Also, I didn’t have ground cloves so I put in whole cloves, which I later had to fish out (annoying!). But the second time around I left out the cloves entirely, and I liked it better without cloves. What you use is up to you.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Adding sugar and spice after straining

This goes on the stove to simmer uncovered for two hours. I know, it seems like a long time. But it gives the crab apple butter a chance to thicken, lose some water, meld flavors, and whatever else it does. So we went outside to take pictures of the sunflowers, and the bumblebees who had decided that the sunflowers are delicious. Little beauties!

Sunflowers :: Pen Pals and Cookin' GalsAfter the two hours were up, things were looking pretty much like I thought apple butter should look like. I then canned the crab apple butter in half-pint jars. I found the recommendation for boiling apple butters according to safe home canning procedures. I don’t want to be responsible for killing anyone.

Little Helper :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals
Lucky me! I had this cute little helper who came in to help model rings as bracelets as I was working.

This is a beautiful, versatile, and delicious recipe that will help you herald Fall each year. I know it will become a yearly tradition for our family. My house smelled delicious. The whole family got involved. It was a wonderful way to start my canning journey.

Canning Crab Apple Butter :: Pen Pals and Cookin' Gals

I’m going to give you relatively small amounts of ingredients for this recipe because I always find it easier to multiply a recipe than to divide it. Here’s the recipe….

Spiced Crab Apple Butter (for canning)

Ingredients:

3 pounds of crab apples, free from holes or bad bruises, stems and blossoms removed

1 1/2 cups water for boiling (more for canning later)

1 cup white sugar *

at least 1/2 tblsp ground cinnamon

at least 1/2 tsp ground allspice

at least 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

(optional) 1/2 tsp ground cloves

*I don’t know of a sugar substitute to use in place of white sugar when canning. I have found that you can use a light honey, just cut down the amount of water you use. For those who are diabetic and want a sugar substitute, I’m sorry! I haven’t seen anything that compares to what sugar does in jams, jellies, and fruit butters. Using Splenda is apparently not recommended if you want to store jams and jellies, since odd things can happen, separation and taste changes, etc. Everything I see says to just leave out the sugar. This recipe needs sugar since the crab apples are so very tart. If you know of an alternative, please let us know all about it in the comments!)¬†

Cooking Method:

1.) Cut off blossom end, cut in half, the pick off stems of ripe, reddish crab apples. Leave seeds and cores. Seeds are where much of the the natural pectin is. Weigh the crab apples, add water, then boil until soft stirring now and then.

2.) Strain out seeds. Add the crab applesauce back to the pot. Add the sugar and spices. Taste. Add more sugar/spices if desired. Your crab apple butter should taste sweetly tart like cranberry sauce. Cook on medium-low for two hours, stirring now and then.

3A.) Spoon crab apple butter into clean, sanitized jars leaving a bit of head space.  Seal with a new, clean lid. Add rings, lightly tightened. Leave these on the counter for 24 hours then store in the refrigerator to eat within the next couple of months.

OR…

3B.) Process jars according to safe home canning procedures. Here is the info for apple butters:

Table 1. Recommended process time for Apple Butter in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 – 1,000 ft 1,001 – 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Half-pints or Pints 5 min 10 15
Quarts 10 15 20

This page has a wonderfully comprehensive rundown on canning apple butters if you think you need a little more information than I have given you.

Disclaimer:¬†If canned incorrectly,¬†Clostridium botulinum¬†is a real and dangerous risk. Pen Pals and Cookin’ Gals is not responsible for how this recipe is used, use of poor canning practices, or canning errors.

Enjoy!

~Veronica

Kick the Can! Homemade Tomato Soup From Scratch

I learned recently, after reading this popular article, ¬†that canned tomato products are really, really bad. Like, enough for me to boycott anything with tomatoes that is not in glass. BPA leaching out into my family’s food? Ugh. No. Here’s a great article talking about why it’s bad and what else we can do.

So in my effort to do away with this evil in our lives, I have to find a boxed or glass-jarred equivalent to the Campbell’s soup my family loves so much. No luck yet. But I looked at all the tomatoes in my garden and on my counter, and I had an idea. I went in search of a recipe to try. I thought I would have to get all witches cauldron on it to make it taste like Campbell’s. As soon as I smelled the first step of this recipe cooking, I knew I already had a winner. So here you are, the freshest, BPA-free, Campbell’s soup fake-out that had my family begging for seconds. The key to that memorable tomato soup flavor? Cloves!

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I chopped up my tomatoes, between 2-3 cups worth, and added some homemade chicken stock. A friend suggested using bone broth for added nutritional benefits, which I think is a spectacular idea. Next time I will plan ahead and use bone broth. I was so thrown off by the call for cloves that I almost didn’t put them in. I’m glad I did!

Once they had simmered for a while, I used my stick blender to help things along. I then ladled it into my sieve and used the back of the ladle to push everything but the seeds and skins through.

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I put the seeds and skins back into my garden. Maybe we’ll get volunteer tomatoes. ūüôā

This beautiful tomato juice was what I got. But there’s another important step. Roux.

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You’ll make a light brown roux of butter and flour, 2 tablespoons of each. I almost let mine go too far while I was taking pictures. Plus I had a screeching toddler on my leg. This is a bit forgiving though. Mine turned out delicious nonetheless.

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Slowly add the tomato-ey liquid, making sure everything is smooth and creamy before adding more. It’s so interesting to me how the roux seizes up and then smooths back out again. Cooking is cool.

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When I was all done, I tasted it and added salt and sugar until it tasted right. Mine needed more sugar than the recipe called for. I’m sure it will be different for every batch and for every cook. We spooned in a dollop of sour cream, added some fresh basil from the garden, a sprinkle of pepper (for the adults), and dipped gooey grilled cheese into our soup.

Amazing.

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I followed the recipe I found exactly, aside from the amount of sugar at the end. You can find it at this link.

Throw out those disgusting cans. Try this delicious soup and you’ll give your family the chemical-free dinner they deserve! Added plus: this freezes well (according to my bone broth offering friend, thanks V!) so it’s just as easy to pull out and heat up as a can of soup.

For the love of food…
~Veronica

Baked Apple Butter Pie

SAM_1781

Author: Cassie Stevens

Let me tell you this was amazing! Hand made sweet pie crust, with fresh homemade apple butter is the best way to end any meal.

Baked Apple Butter Recipe

about 10 peeled and cored Granny Smith apples

3 cups granulated white sugar

2 cups packed brown sugar

6 Tbsp Butter

2 tsp Cinnamon

2 tsp Cloves

2 tsp Nutmeg

4 Tbsp Cornstarch

1/4 cup lemon juice

Step One:

I start in the morning peeling and coring Granny Smith apples (about 10). Then I slice them and put them in my large crock-pot. Next, I added 3 cups of granulated white sugar, 2 cups packed light brown sugar, 6 tablespoons butter, 2 teaspoons real (not cassia) fresh ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons nutmeg, 2 teaspoons cloves, and let it simmer on low for about 4 hours.¬† The apples start to break down a little, and become chunky. Yours may take shorter or longer time to get to that consistency depending on your crock-pots heat and size. So, once they start to fall apart I turn my crock-pot to high and¬† I added 4 tablespoons of cornstarch in a mixing bowl with a little water, and mixed it into the apples to thicken it up some.¬† Let it come to a boil for a few minutes and shut it off and add 1/4 cup lemon juice (trust me it tastes great).¬† Mix, Stir, Mix, and Stir…and they should look something like this. It is a chunky apple butter consistency.

It’s A Very Nice!!

SAM_1772

Step Two:

So once the apple butter is ready, I started on my pie crust (recipe below).  I heard somewhere that a secret to really great pie crust is a little white vinegar, so I wanted to try it out. I must say I really like how it came out. It was a really amazing crust and baked up nice without any vinegar smell or taste at all. It was flaky and sweet, and just really great. I was very pleased with how it came out.

SAM_1780

Pie Crust Recipe:

2 1/3 cups all–purpose flour

2/3 cup shortening

4 Tbsp butter (softened)

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp white vinegar

2-4 Tbsp ice-cold water

Place the flour sugar salt in a large mixing bowl, then cut in the shortening and the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Next I added 1 Tbsp cold white vinegar and mixed it in well, then place the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes to firm up a bit.  After it has firmed up I crumble it again with my pastry blender and add more ice-cold water (1 teaspoon at a time) until the dough has become workable and I can press it into a ball nicely (I think I used about 3 teaspoons).  Cut it in half place one half on a piece of saran wrap and the other back in the bowl and back in the freezer to harden again.  Roll out the dough on the saran wrap until it has reached the size of the bottom of your pie pan. Then I placed the dough on a cookie sheet and placed it in the freezer while I worked out the other half of the dough, doing the same thing to it. Pull out the first dough that has had a chance to firm up  flip it into the bottom of your pie plate.  Work into edges with fingers, and cut off the excess around the edges and top.  Place it back in the freezer to firm up again for a few minutes, then add a layer of apple butter in the bottom of your cold pie crust plate.  Flip the second round crust on top and cut out a center hole (I chose a star shape) then trim excess around the edges.  Ball up the trimmings and roll it out to a rectangle, and place in the freezer for a few minutes. Once firmed up cut out stars and place on a small cutting board.  Crimp your edges around your pie to seal the top and bottom crusts together and egg wash the top. I used one egg and two Tbsp melted butter.  Then I put my stars on top and egg washed them, and sprinkled the whole top of pie with granulated white sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden brown. If edges seem to be browning faster than the rest wrap edges in aluminum foil and continue to bake.

SAM_1785

Step Three:

Top it with some homemade whipped cream. BOOM!

Homemade Whipped Cream Topping:

2 cups Heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1Tbspoon vanilla

Whip with an electric mixer on high speed until it forms stiff peaks.  Done!

* note if you over beat it you could make butter

SAM_1793Step Four:

EAT  & ENJOY!!!!!

Kid-Pleasin’ Zucchini Apple Muffins

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It’s that year again! Tis’ the harvest season. And, though I’m sure this happens everywhere, there is a joke in the Mormon community, “You might be a Mormon¬†if you have to lock your car in the church parking lot to keep it from being filled with¬†zucchini, tomatoes, and eggplants.” It’s a total knee-slapper, right? Yuk yuk.

Well, the point is, whether you are overrun with zucchini or are looking at the one on your counter wondering if you can choke down any more zucchini bread, having another recipe up your sleeve can come in handy! This recipe also makes a delicious addition to your toddler food repertoire.

Here’s why, two reasons:

  • Fiber – Keep the skin on (only if you know your zucchini are organic!) and you’ve got lots of hidden fiber.
  • Vitamin A – Zucchinis are high in this vitamin that is important for eye health and immune function.

I was happy to see my kids (4-years old and 20-months old) chowing down on these healthy snacks. We even had some for breakfast one day.

And when I shredded the zucchini for this recipe, I just shredded all the zucchini I had on hand in my food processor, used what I needed, then froze the rest in 2 cup allotments for next time. I tracked down the original recipe here.

And now, without further adieu. The recipe for these delicious muffins.

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Zucchini Apple Muffins

Makes 18 large muffins

  • 2 cups flour or flour substitute (for gluten-free)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (Try sucanat as a cleaner substitute. it has a mild brown sugar flavor.)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 medium apple, skinned, cored, and grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1/2 cup oil (y’all know I use coconut)

Method:

Mix the flour, sugar, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Add the shredded zucchini and apple In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients. Add this mixture to the rest and stir until just combined. Spoon the batter into lightly greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Fill them almost to the top. Bake on 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Pull them out when a toothpick comes out clean. (Tip: No toothpicks? Use a piece of dry pasta!)

These freeze amazingly!

You won’t be disappointed in these moist, flavorful, healthy muffins. Thanks to Try It You Might Like It for the recipe I ended up seeing in Parenting.com!

~Veronica

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