Sunday, 26 October 2014

Fall means applesauce

Last year was my first year making applesauce. My older daughter, Valerie, would specify "applesauce that  you made" so she would get mine rather than store bought. My younger daughter is somewhat indifferent. If I send applesauce in her lunch, she'll eat a few bites, but that's about it. Valerie will eat the better part of a pint if I let her.

Last year I bought apples from a local farm that we picked ourselves. It was rather expensive. I also bought some at the local grocery store for $0.59 a pound. It was a bit sad that I could buy them at the grocery store for less than what we paid to go pick them. Mainly I wanted to give my girls the experience of picking apples.

Valerie wanted to pick apples again this year so we picked a half bushel (for $17).
I knew I wanted more apples than that but a coworker had let me know about another farm where I could buy seconds (perfectly good apples for applesauce, but not perfect apples) for $16 a bushel. I think I ended up with two bushels. I ended up with a half bushel each of Liberty, Empire, Gala and honey crisp, I believe. I also bought some at the grocery store for $0.54 a pound. Those were Macs, Jonagold and Jonamac and probably a few others as the girls were randomly picking out apples. I do like that all the apples I used last year and this year were all Michigan apples. Michigan sure has tasty apples.

This year I invested in an apple peeler. I always doubted how useful they would be, but I saw the error of my ways this year. My girls were able to help me peal and with me putting the apple on the pealed and taking the core off. Cordelia could peal 3 in the time it took me to do one. I stopped pealing apples with a knife. Even when the girls weren't helping, I used the apple peeler. All I had to do was break up the spiral sliced apple in the pot, which was easy.

I have apples to make one more batch of applesauce, but I don't think I'm going to can it. I canned probably 27 quarts of applesauce this year. That's quite a bit more than last year.  Last year I put it all in pints and half pints. That was a mistake. The girls could easily polish off most of a pint, so the half pints were a single snack and hardly that. This year I put quite a bit in quarts, but I also did some pints. I ended up with a couple half pints as well because I had more applesauce than clean jars on the last batch.

My recipe for applesauce:

As many peeled, cored, and sliced apples as will fit in my pot. It's big but not huge.
A half cup of sugar, mainly to keep the first ones in the pot from turning too brown while I was peeling the rest. I ended up with about 4 quarts of applesauce, so that isn't much added sugar per serving. Did it work? Who knows.
Cinnamon to taste. This is usually a fair amount. I add some then stir and taste. I like my applesauce cinnamony.

I cook it until it looks like quite lumpy applesauce. I use a potato masher to break up the pieces to be a bit more bite size. Some people will purée it, but I like my applesauce lumpy.

I put it in the clean jars, lid them and then process them in a water bath. I do 15 minutes in the water bath for all sizes as I'm hot packing and usually have a couple different sizes in the bath and figure that a bit of extra time won't hurt.

I also tried a batch of apple butter this year. I made it like my applesauce, but I puréed it, added cloves and nutmeg and simmered it for a long time.

The applesauce puréed to be made into apple butter.
The apple butter ready to be put in jars.
Here it is on toast. It was quite tasty, but I do not believe it will become a favorite of mine on toast though. The slice on the right has strawberry freezer jam on it. That is my favorite.

Our house was built in 1928. It has a pantry built under the stairs in the basement. I love putting stuff I've canned in that pantry. Right now it has a fair amount of applesauce, mulberry jam, blueberry jam, peach jam, apple butter, and maple syrup in it, along with some store bought stuff. This makes me a happy Michelle

The final product. Apple butter in the half pints. Applesauce in the pints and quart.

Friday, 10 October 2014

New toys

My new toys arrived today:
My husband declared them to be "terrifying".

As I mentioned in my last post, I had purchased a raw fleece. It was this gorgeous brown. I started combing it.

This past weekend at a crafting weekend, which will need its own post, we did a bit of dyeing. I threw some of this fiber in the dye pot after the original fiber was taken out. It turned a beautiful, rich purplish brown.
The top two locks are undyed. The bottom are dyed. I wanted more of this color...although the picture doesn't do it justice. 

The dye is Wilton icing colors. The nice thing about using this as a dye is that it is (obviously) food safe, so I didn't need to worry about what pot to use. 
The down side to this dye, as we found out later, is that it breaks easily. By "breaks", I mean it breaks down into the component dyes. The original ball of yarn has red on the outside and blue on the inside because the blue traveled farther. 

The fabulous part was what it did to this skein and to some fiber that Carol threw in the pot with my fiber. 

The fiber on the right is case you couldn't guess. The tips caught the purple/blue where the rest ended up a fabulous pink.

With these results I wanted to try to get more of the purple. I bought some dye of my own and put it all (one container of dye) in my large pot I use for water bath canning and let it heat up. I added as much fiber that would fit reasonably in the water and let it sit for a half hour. I rinsed the fiber and refilled the pot with more fiber as there was still color in the pot. The first batch of fiber came out a nice purplish for the most part, as expected.

I was a bit...surprised by the result.

The farther table has the fiber from the first batch of dyeing. The closer table has the second batch of fiber. It' 

I guess what happened is that the first batch took up all the red/blue and what was left was green. According to a friend, certain dyes are notorious for breaking. Dyes that contain Red dye #3, like this violet dye, tend to break. 

I've combed some of the green dyed fiber and it is less green after dyeing. The tips seem to have most of the color and they come out in the waste. 

The interesting thing about dyeing this fiber is that it seems to be softer after dyeing. Now that I have my new toys, I'll continue combing and see what I end up with. It could be an interesting hat as now it seems like it might be soft enough. I look forward to spinning this, but I haven't done any yet. 

Working with this fleece has made me want to process another raw fleece. I think what I might do with the rest of this is try dyeing it with kool aid. I will try a small batch and see how it turns out. I think the purple over the brown is beautiful and the kool aid allows me to do it in my kitchen without worrying about toxicity. This fleece may end up being about playing with overdyeing the brown. If I like the kool aid purple enough, I may do the rest of it like that and make something larger. Carol also mentioned that it could be used for striping with another color...or the natural fiber. 

In two weeks is another local fiber expo. I think I'll go solely for looking for another fleece or two to process. I didn't think I'd like this so much. 

I had been using a couple combs that I bought at Meijer. At the craft weekend, I got my hands on some proper wool combs. They were so much better than the hair combs. After using them a few times, I decided I needed my own set. 

This post got a bit side tracked. I think I'll try another post about combing. I'll have to get some pictures of the process.