Yesterday we did some canning. Last weekend I picked a little over 1 bushel of apples from the apple tree in our backyard. This was very impressive, since last year we had none. There actually were apples on the tree last year, but we think the squirrels ate them all. It is possible that the chickens scared away the squirrels this year, which makes up for the fact that the chickens have eaten about one quarter of our tomatoes.
I was planning on using most of the apples, but I then realized that I didn’t have a pot big enough to do them all. We filled up our 8 quart stock pot almost to the brim with quartered, cored (not peeled) apples and about 1 pint of apple cider, and cooked them until they were nice and mushy. Then I processed them through the food mill attachment on our KitchenAid mixer to remove the skins. Then I added about 2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of cloves, and 1 teaspoon each of nutmeg and allspice, and cooked down the sauce into butter for about 3 or 4 hours. It probably could have been cooked a bit longer, but it was 10 p.m., and I wanted to finish it and go to bed. I put the butter into the jars and processed for about 20 minutes in a hot water bath (we need to process longer in Denver because of the altitude).
While we were cooking the apples, we decided to finally try making hot pepper jelly too, which I had been talking about for at least a month. We picked all of the decent looking hot peppers from the garden. We had almost 2 pounds total, but I only ended up using about 1.25 pounds, since some of the peppers were a little shriveled. I removed the stems and seeds, then put them in the food processor with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Then I put them in a pot with 1 more cup of apple cider vinegar and 6 cups of sugar, and cooked them for about 15 minutes. Then I added 2 pouches of liquid pectin and cooked for another 10 minutes, then 1 minute of hard boil per the directions. I used a tip from the Pick your own site to test for gelling by filling a cold teaspoon halfway with the jelly and letting it cool for a few minutes. It was still quite runny, so I added another pouch of pectin and then cooked for another 10 minutes. Then I processed the jars for about 20 minutes in a hot water bath.
In total, I got 7 1/2 pints of apple butter (the last half pint just went into the fridge for immediate consumption) and 3 pints of hot pepper jelly (4 1/2 pints plus 1 pint jar). The pint jar of hot pepper jelly did not seal, because I accidentally had two lids on it. So we’ll have to eat that one up soon too. Unfortunately the jelly turned out a bit runny, (and probably too hot for some tastes). Next time I think I will try adding more sugar and apple cider vinegar. The acidity in the vinegar helps with gelation.