Saturday, November 14, 2015

The end of the apples: mincemeat and even more applesauce!

Although apples do store rather well, they won't last forever and I desperately needed to use up the rest of the freebies I received from my friends Fred and Michael a few weeks ago.  We've had it unseasonably warm here for the last little while and although it's been lovely up until the past couple of days, it hasn't been great for keeping apples crisp and fresh, even out in shed.

So as a number of them were already rotten and a number more were on the edge, I figured I'd better snap to it and use them up pronto.  And today was just the day to do it!  Cloudy and blustery and totally conducive to canning in my cozy kitchen.

While searching for apple-y things to make other than applesauce, I came across this recipe for mincemeat on the Bernardin website.  Like fruitcake, mincemeat was a Christmas staple for me growing up.  There`s nothing quite like a mince tart with a glass of sherry on a snowy afternoon to put you in the holiday spirit!

When I was a child, my mother used to buy Crosse & Blackwell mincemeat and, for me, that was the definitive taste -- true, authentic British mincemeat.  And for many years as an adult, I, too, sought out Crosse & Blackwell for nothing else would do. However, for reasons unknown to me, for the last few years my beloved mincemeat has been impossible to find.  I must admit, President`s Choice from Loblaws does make a very respectable substitute that I have used when I can`t find Crosse & Blackwell.

However, when one has many apples to put up and what looks like a killer mincemeat recipe that will use up a fair number of said apples, well, it`s pretty much a no-brainer, right?  Besides, it gave me the perfect excuse to acquire a new toy tool:

This, my friends is an apple peeler/slicer/corer and if you have a lot of apples to prep, it's well worth getting one, IMHO.  I got mine at Lee Valley, the toy store for us gadget geeks!

Peeled, cored and sliced in 10 seconds flat!  Awesome!  

After that, chopping the apples was a breeze!  The recipe also calls for 2 "ground" oranges and 2 "ground" lemons.  Not being entirely sure what that meant, I decided to try chopping and seeding washed whole, unpeeled, organically grown oranges and lemons and then processing them in the food processor into a rough slurry. Since I was using the fruit unpeeled, I went with organic.  Why ingest chemical sprays?

I ended up with about a cup-and-a-half each of the orange and lemon slurries, which I then added to the rest of the fruit in the pot.

After adding the sugar and spices and giving it a good stir, it needed to simmer for about 90 minutes which gave me plenty of time to process the remaining apples for apple sauce.

On both the previous batches of apple sauce I made, I had apples burn to the bottom of the pot despite having added water, so I thought I would try something different this time and bake the apples instead of boiling them.  All we need to do is soften the flesh, right?  So why should it matter which way we do it?

So, I got out my biggest roasting pan, a cutting board and the compost pail and went to work!  Like before, I didn't bother peeling or coring -- just trimmed off any blemishes and cut the apples into quarters.

I poured a pint bottle of sparkling apple cider and about 2 cups of water over the apple segments, popped on the lid of the roasting pan, and slid it into a 375F oven to bake for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, the mincemeat was coming along nicely and the whole kitchen was starting to smell like Christmas.  With 30 minutes of simmering time left, I got the water bath and jars ready.

Once I had the jars of mincemeat filled and in the canner, I had time and counter space to set up my beloved tomato mill ready to process the baked apples when they came out of the oven.

As before, the tomato mill did a terrific job of saucing the apples and this time there was nothing burnt to the bottom of the pan.  Cleanup was a breeze!

The result:  Five quarts of mincemeat and 6 pints of apple sauce.   As before, the apple sauce is delicious and I really like the mincemeat, too.  It's a bit more citrus-y and tangy at the moment than the Crosse & Blackwell or the President's Choice brands, but it will keep for quite a while so I am hoping that over time it will mellow out somewhat and let the sherry, brandy and spices come through a bit more.

As a bonus, I ended up with an extra half-pint jar of mincemeat that I did not process in the water bath.  I will let this jar sit in the fridge to mellow for a week or two and then I'll try it in a small batch of mince tarts.  Watch for an upcoming post on that!

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