Knit Flix

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Things were going so well

I've been processing jars of jam and marmalade without any issues. I really thought that I had this canning thing down pat--just follow the recipe and everything works like magic, right?

Not exactly.

My luck took a detour yesterday.

Let's back up. My friend Debra has a apple tree in her front yard and offered to give me as many as I could use, so I went by and picked up a bag.

Apples from Debra

Aren't they pretty? That's only about a 3rd of what she gave me, and they're tasty, just a little tart, and firm. Perfect for cooking.

So I embarked on a canning adventure, Apple Pie in a Jar.

I picked a bunch of lemons and got a big bowl of lemon water ready, then went to work with my trusty paring knife. Peeling, peeling, coring, coring, slicing, and slicing 5 quarts of apples. That's a lot of apples! The lemon water kept them from turning brown and soon I had the quart jars filled and ready for the syrup.

The syrup was so easy to make--just dump the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a saucepan and cook until thick. Filling the jars wasn't too bad--it took some maneuvering with a chopstick to get the syrup into the nooks and crannies, but it wasn't difficult.

But this is when I realized that an important instruction was missing from the recipe. Headspace. How much space to leave at the top of the jar. I looked up a similar recipe in a book and it said 1/2".

Let me tell you, 1/2" isn't enough. When I opened the canner after processing, syrup was oozing out of the jars and into the water.

Here are the jars after the first processing--notice the pools of syrup in the baking sheet.

Apple Pie in a Jar - FAIL

I had 7 more lids, enough for one more try. The jars process for 30 min, so the apples were going to be overcooked, but I had no choice. Headspace was doubled to 1". I opened the canning pot after the second try and again with the oozing. WTF?

At that point I was frustrated and defeated. Almost. Darn it, I had to get this right! Off to the store for more lids.

For attempt #3, I left 2" of headspace. I haven't seen a recipe that calls for that much room, but clearly 1" wasn't enough. I scooped out apples and sauce from each jar. The apples were VERY soft. Ugh. Would they even resemble apple slices after another 30 min of processing?

Here are the jars after the final 30 min of canning. Notice the difference in the apples--they're so overcooked.

Apple Pie in a Jar - overcooked

Today I checked the seals and 3 of the jars have evidence of oozing. Unbelievable. Maybe it's because the apples are so overcooked. There's a lot of air in area where the apples are and all of the syrup is at the bottom. I don't know. Well, no more processing, they'll have to get eaten sooner rather than later.

I took one jar and dumped it into a baking dish and topped it with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, oats, butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of ground cloves (topping based on the Sunny Apple Crisp recipe). 35 minutes at 350 degrees and voila, Apple Crisp.

Apple Crisp a la mode

Although it would be better if the apples weren't overcooked, this tastes really good and was oh so quick to make (not counting the hours of work yesterday). Besides, ice cream makes everything better.

This wasn't a great experience, but I'd like to try the recipe again. The end product would be really good if I could get it right the first time. For now, I'm putting the canning pot away.

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  • That's a lot of work but the apples sure look yummy. I love apple pies too !

    By Blogger Ann, at 9/09/2009 5:11 PM  

  • I did something similar only sliced the apples and tossed with appropriate amount of white and brown sugar, spices, cornstarch and froze in gallon bags. One bag contained enough apples for a large pie. Worked.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/10/2009 6:49 AM  

  • I followed your link from Ravelry. Sorry about the oozy mess, but I have to admit that it was good to read a homemaking failure. It is one less thing to put on my list of things I really should be able or willing to do. Now, when someone tells me how easy canning is, how environmentally or economically responsible, I will think of your overcooked apples and feel no pressure to be a better human and try canning on my own.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 9/11/2009 1:10 PM  

  • Hi Jennifer,
    Don't take my one experience as a reason why you shouldn't try canning. I've been churning out jam and preserves almost weekly and haven't had any issues and it has been easy. This recipe had plenty of people who gave it positive reviews, so clearly it's not impossible, I just need to crack the code. If you want to try canning, then I encourage you to jump in.

    By Blogger Bogie, at 9/11/2009 1:17 PM  

  • Hi, Bogie, thanks for your response. I don't really want to try canning. It appeals in a theoretical sense, but not in a realistic one. I do enjoy reading about it.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 9/12/2009 7:35 AM  

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