Thursday, November 3, 2011

Preserving Apples Like a Pioneer (at heart, anyway)

We're up to our elbows in apples this week, thanks to friends being up to their necks in them, and insisting we take a box home with us after church on Sunday.

There's just something about a big box of apples on a cold fall morning, to make a person feel like a pioneer, filling up the pantry, or root cellar if we had one, preparing for the winter ahead.

The girls jumped right in, following instructions from Barbara Greenwood's A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family, for drying apples in the oven.


It's not exactly the way the pioneers would have done it, but it was a lot of fun for them to slice up cored and peeled apples...


...arranging them in a single layer on a greased cookie sheet, to dry in a 175 degree Fahrenheit oven (as low as ours would go)...


...turning them every hour for even drying.


The book suggested six hours of drying time, but ours only took three. Of course, we only had room on the cookie sheet for slices from about three apple - so it could take days to preserve the entire box worth that way. But then, we subtracted two more, sliced up fresh for lunch, and another five or six pounds worth for making apple butter, also a pioneer favorite.

In fact, we found instructions for turning apple sauce into apple butter using the oven, in David C. King's Pioneer Days, from the American Kids in History series.


But, since we were starting out with apples instead of apple sauce, and we wanted to keep the oven free for drying apples, and regular use, we opted for the "all day" crock pot method. I think I originally found the recipe at AllRecipes.com, but we've been using it for years. It's so simple. All you have to do is peel and chop apples into a crock pot...


...dump in about four cups of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, and two teaspoons of cinnamon (though from the looks of the picture below, I'm pretty sure I grabbed a tablespoon by mistake)...


...mix it all together...


...cover the crock pot, and let it simmer on high for an hour...


...then turn the crock pot down to low, and let the apples bake down for the rest of the day - somewhere around 10 hours, stirring everyone once and a while (a good job for supervised little ones)...


...until it looks something like this.


I like to plop the whole mess, carefully, into a blender to smooth it out...


...and back into the crock pot, uncovered, on low...


...until a spoonful can cool in a dish, without any water pooling around the edges.


Then, I know it's ready to transfer into clean freezer containers for cooling, and storing in the freezer, safely set aside for Thanksgiving rolls, and Christmas toast.


First though, I thought we should sample a bit, to make sure it was to our liking. We didn't mind the extra cinnamon...


...but the children were divided on the use of apple butter in place of jelly in their peanut butter sandwiches. They loved the leaf cut-outs (an idea from Little Nummies) though, especially once they realized I'd saved the cut-outs, so they could put the bread back together for eating.


You can click the link above to view Little Nummies original, cuter version, of the sandwich.

Or, click over to The Ramblings and Adventures of a S.A.H.M.'s Whatcha Making Wednesdays link-up, if you're in a baking with kids kind of mood, or over to the History and Geography link-up hosted by All Things Beautiful for more history and geography themed projects and ideas for children.

It's great to be a homeschooler.

11 comments:

Phyllis said...

Oh, the apple butter looks yummy. About how many apples do you use with that recipe?
Thanks for linking up.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Phyllis - I just chopped until the crock pot was full, so I'm not sure - but the AllRecipes.com recipe says 5.5 lbs.

sarah in the woods said...

Cute sandwiches. And the apple butter looks so yummy.

Debbie said...

I have to remember this recipe for next fall. I wonder if after that cooks down if you could process and can it. I guess I don't see why not it isn't much different then apple sauce.

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

Debbie - My mother always cans hers.

Laurie said...

What an adventure! It looks like a lot of work even with modern day tools. And the spoils of the day look delicious!

Raising a Happy Child said...

I love crockpot recipes - will have to keep it in mind if we are gifted with apples. I was always thinking reading Little House books how different life was back then.

Christy said...

YUM!!!

Ticia said...

Mmmm, that sounds so yummy! I can't convince my kids that it is good, but they're on the fence about applesauce anyways.

Sparklee said...

I loooooove apple butter, and I bet the homemade variety is amazing! We normally make homemade applesauce, which is very similar. Would like to try the drying method, too.

I bet your house smelled soooo good!

Annette W. said...

Thanks for the tip on the blender! I had icky apples to use...and this was the quickest thing to do. Honestly, my first time making apple butter and my second time having it! I think I convinced the kids it's good, too.

Oh, that was my first cooking of any sort since Esther's arrival...unless you count toast and hot water!