Arcadia Farms

  (Portage, Michigan)
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Crock Pot Apple Butter

red delicious apples

Last month our partner in Arcadia Growers Group gifted us with some fresh, pesticide-free produce. One of the items was a half bushel of red delicious apples. Per their name, they are delicious! But… they’re not very pretty. Pesticide-free means I choose to trade a perfect-looking apple for a perfectly edible apple that might look a little less than appetizing. (They look 10 times better in this photo than in real life!) They polish up decently but with a few soft spots here and there they really needed to be peeled before eating.

I’m not complaining at all – they were worth the 60 seconds needed to peel! But, if I’m being honest, apples are usually a grab-and-go snack at our house so even just the 60 seconds of peeling was enough to keep us from eating them as quickly as we normally would. Besides that, there were so many that I knew I’d need to process some of them before the entire batch went to waste. The problem is, red delicious apples aren’t exactly known for their cooking and baking qualities. Fresh eating? Yes. Baking and cooking? Not so much.

I asked our readers on Facebook what they thought I should do with our apple gift. The best suggestions were making apple chips and making apple butter. Honestly, I wanted to try both (and certainly had enough apples for that) but with the Thanksgiving holiday and simple busyness abounding in our lives lately, the apples sat a smidge too long. They started to get a smidge soft. And making apple chips started to sound a smidge unrealistic.

But… soft apples are right at home in apple butter.

canning apple butter

 

I’ve never made apple butter before. After looking up several recipes, using the crock pot seemed to be the most fool-proof way to go. I found lots of recipes online, many of them with essentially the same ingredients but with slightly different amounts and cooking times. I used all of those recipes as a guide to make my own.

The process takes about 12 hours, mostly hands-free. I realize not everyone has as flexible a schedule as I do. This might be a great Saturday project. Otherwise, you could cut and gather the ingredients the night before, start the process in the morning (7:30 AM) reduce the heat on your way out the door (8:30 AM) and be home in time to add the vanilla bean (5:30 PM). After dinner you’ll be ready to puree and process your apple butter (7:30 PM). The jars will be cool and ready to enjoy for breakfast the next morning!

canning apple butter

canning apple butter

Crock Pot Apple Butter Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • 6 lbs (8-10) Apples [Note: I ended up using 12]
  • 3/4 Cup Granulatd Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Apple Cider or Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp Cloves
  • 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp Ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1 Vanilla bean (or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract)
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Peel and core the apples. Cut them into small pieces.
  2. Add everything but the vanilla bean to the crock pot. Stir.
  3. Cook on high for 1 hour.
  4. Stir the mixture again. When replacing the lid, move it partially so that it remains slightly open. Cook on low for 9 additional hours.
  5. Slice the vanilla bean down the middle with sharp edge of a knife. Then run the flat edge of the knife down the length of the bean to push out the inside. After 10 hours of cooking, add the vanilla bean and simmer mixture on low for another 2 hours (12 hours total).
  6. Remove the vanilla bean. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. (You could also use a blender/food processor and puree the mixture in batches. Be careful not to slosh hot apple butter onto yourself!)
  7. Ladle hot mixture into sterilized jars. Leave a ¼ inch of headspace. Use a butter knife to press along the inside edges of the jars in order to remove air bubbles. Securely add sterilized lids and bands.
  8. Process jars for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Remove jars and set them on a towel or wire rack to cool. Allow jars to cool completely before handling. (If you don’t want to can your apple butter, you can store the jars in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. Freezer-appropriate containers of apple butter can remain in the freezer for two months.)

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.   

 
 

Canning Labels with Style

 limeshot printable canning jar labels

One of the Locavore90 Commitments our family made was to preserve at least two in-season produce items in June, July and August. So far we’ve made jelly from violets, frozen asparagus, made strawberry jam, frozen some strawberries and canned cherries. None of these preserving adventures have amounted to large quantities (usually 4-6 jars at a time) but if we keep this up, I know our tummies (and wallets) will be happy when the weather turns cool! Though someday I’d love to be savvy enough to preserve gobs and gobs of in-season produce, I’m quite proud of myself (and my family) for taking on the challenge of preserving what we can this year.

In the midst of all that pride, there is one tiny thread of shame I must that compels me to make a confession – I’m horrible at labeling. Honestly, I think the asparagus is the only item that has the contents and date written on the packaging. None of my jars are labeled at all. This is unwise – and a bad practice to get into if our goals is to become a family that shops more in the pantry than the grocery store!

My shame lead me here: www.myownlabels.com

Hundreds (maybe thousands?) of options for personalized canning labels. These are super cute!

Free Labels

If paying 35 cents per label isn’t your speed, check out these free printable labels instead:

Limshot Free Printable Mason Jar Labels

Compilation of Free Canning Label Resources at About.com

Did you enjoy this article? Visit www.arcadia-farms.net for more info on eating healthy, saving money and buying locally.  

 
 

Homemade Pure Maple Syrup Part 2

Last week I shared that we’ve been collecting maple sap for making our own maple syrup. It has been a great family-time endeavor and the first step – collecting maple sap – couldn’t be simpler. To learn how to collect your own maple sap, click here.

Our first batch of sap (10 gallons) has already been turned into 3 pints of golden, delicious maple syrup. (And a pint of that maple syrup has already found its way into a batch of oatmeal cookies!)

DSC03770

The first batch of syrup from Arcadia Farms!

From my perspective, the second part of the process (boiling sap to convert it to maple syrup) has been pretty easy too. That’s because my father-in-law (hereafter lovingly referred to as “Papa”) did all the work. This is Papa’s third year making homemade maple syrup and he’s figure out a thing or two about how to make it work. You can learn from his experience (along with other tidbits I’ve gathered from the web and a book called Backyard Sugarin’: A Complete How-To Guide by Rink Mann) to discover how to make your own syrup too.

To start, I’d like to give you a general overview of how the sap-to-syrup process works. Put simply, you need to:

  1. Collect sap from maple trees.
  2. Boil sap so that the water evaporates and the sugary syrup remains.

Easy-peasy, right? Essentially, it is. But there are nuances to boiling sap that are critical to understand if you’re going to end up with maple syrup instead of a gooey, burned mess. As Rink Mann puts it:

“the process involves boiling the sap so that the water in the sap evaporates off in the form of steam, leaving the sugar behind in the boiling pan. Sounds simple, doesn’t it, and it really is, although at certain stages of the process , particularly as you’re getting your brew close to being syrup, there can be terrifying moments. Remember, we’re talking about starting with, say, 33 gallons of sap and ending with 1 gallon of syrup.”

 Click here for the rest of this article, which includes the following info:

 
 

Bread and Broth

Now that the weather is getting cooler, I’m hoping to turn my efforts towards some of the non-gardening goals of Arcadia Farms. A major reason why we started this farming thing in the first place was to learn to eat healthy, live sustainably and to be producers instead of consumers only. Starting with this post, I’d like to introduce some topics that I’m going to categorize as “homesteading”. These topics will cover ways to create your own {fill in the blank here}, save money, save energy and generally provide for yourself. As with everything I blog about – keep in mind that I’m no expert. If you’re here looking for 100% expert advice, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you’re here for a front row seat to a novice learning from the real experts and sharing her ups and downs so you can learn from her mistakes, this is the place to be!  [Read More]
 
 
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