Ever make an apple dish that you have to peel and core your apples for (like apple pie, for example)? What do you do with all those peel leftovers? Before you toss them or compost them, consider saving them to use for apple jelly.
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My dear old mom taught me this trick one year when we were canning apple butter. We carefully bagged up all those peels and cores and set them aside in the freezer for when we had time. Then, we simply followed the recipe on the box of pectin for apple jelly, using the scraps in place of the fruit.
The jelly was successful, but I have never liked how much sugar goes into a traditional pectin recipe. My pectin box says to use 5 cups apple juice to 7 cups of sugar!!! Holy cow, that’s a cup of sugar per jar! (And the jar is only a cup!) You get the idea that you’re really just having apple-flavored sugar…
You can purchase low-sugar pectin, but I’ve realized that adding extra pectin isn’t entirely necessary in many cases. Making jam without additional pectin requires a little more patience for the cooking time, and the yield is much lower without all that added sugar. However, the process is very simple and the product you do get is much healthier for you.
The nice part about apples is they already have a lot of natural pectin in them- mainly in the peels and cores! So your leftover apple scraps actually provide just what you need to make a nice no-pectin added jelly.
(Psst… If you are planning on prepping any amount of apples this year, do yourself a favor and buy one of these peeler-corer slicers… you’ll thank me later.)
This week, after prepping my apples for Thanksgiving Day pie, I decided to try the old apple peel trick again- this time, without using any pectin and sweetening the jelly with a small amount of honey. The recipe is super long and complicated. Are you ready for this? You’ll need:
- Apple peels & cores
- Honey to taste
Are you feeling burdened by the sheer length and complexity of the ingredient list yet? 😉
Here’s how I made mine:
1) Put apple peels and cores in a pot and cover them with water. I used approximately 8 cups of apple peels & cores. I didn’t measure the water, and you don’t have to either.
2) Bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
3) You should now have a nice batch of apple juice filled with floating scraps. Strain the mixture through a colander into a wide-based pot. If you want a more clear jelly, let the scraps drip into the pot for a while without squeezing them. If you want more pulp in your jelly, then press the cores and peels with a spoon to squish out extra good stuff into your pot.
4) Add honey to taste. I used just under a cup and that was plenty sweet for me. Simmer, uncovered, for about another hour, stirring occasionally. (The time cooking will vary depending on how many scraps you had. Mine took probably an hour and a half more, but if you have less it will go faster. Watch your pot accordingly, please!)
5) Meanwhile, if you’re canning the jelly, wash and sterilize jars and lids and prepare your water bath canner.
6) When the liquid gets extra-bubbly, you’re getting close to the end. It will start to get sticky on the spoon. You’ll want to watch more carefully at this point & stir more frequently. Once the jelly sheets off the spoon cleanly, it’s ready to be jarred. You can also check Common Sense Home’s visual explanation of the plate test for jelly.
NOTE: This is a rather imperfect process. If you end up with apple syrup because it’s a little too thin, embrace it. If you end up with apple gummies because it’s too thick, embrace it. With a little practice, you will find the gelling point more easily.
7) Ladle into hot jars, leaving a quarter inch head space. Wipe down jar rims, add lids, and screw on rings tightly. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Let cool & seal. As the liquid cools, it will look more like jelly.
I think I let my jelly get slightly past the proper point for jelling up, but it’s delicious and really tastes like apples- not pure sugar!
This recipe just one more way to use up what you have to make something good. (And it might make a good Christmas gift, too!) If you try it, let me know how it turns out. Hope you enjoy it!
For more healthy recipes & homestead ideas, be sure to check out the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle– only available for a few days!
I’m not really into zombie-apocalypse style survival preparation. But I am into saving as much of our own food as possible for the winter. Why?
- It saves us on grocery bills through winter. A LOT.
- It’s really satisfying to eat the food you grew yourself in the middle of the winter.
- It tastes way better. (Ever compared home canned tomatoes to store canned tomatoes come February? Hardly a comparison to talk about.)
There are certain foods I’m really excited about preserving, and others that I find either impractical for us. Things that have to stay in the fridge, for example, are rather difficult to keep long term because we just don’t have a lot of fridge space. (What we need, my friends, is a real root cellar… building project???)
We try to save every last scrap of food from the garden that we can. But the top preservation items for us this year have been… drum roll please…
1) Tomatoes. Canned whole tomatoes, canned sauce, canned salsa, sun-dried tomatoes, frozen chopped green tomatoes. That’s my list for this year. My husband planted about 40 tomato plants last spring, mostly Brandywine and Amish Paste. While several of them fell prey to blight, the rest are producing a lot of scrumptiousness that should really be saved for when the snow flies.
2) Squash. For zucchini and yellow squash, I chop, grate, and freeze. Winter squash actually keeps a good long while just sitting someplace cool and dry, but you can also freeze purees or mashes (such as those from pumpkin, Turk’s turban, or acorn squash). You can safely can cubed winter squash at home, but not pureed squash (read why here– we actually canned pureed pumpkin for about 3 years before hearing that we shouldn’t, so I guess we were in the safe zone, but it turns out we were taking a risk!)
3) Cooking Greens. Cauliflower greens, broccoli greens, turnip greens, spinach, chard, etc. Collect them, wash them, blanch them, freeze them. Then they’re all ready for side dishes, casseroles, sauce, soups, eggs- you name it- they’re an easy and super nutritious add-in.
4) Broccoli & Cauliflower. Why should the greens have all the fun? I’m blanching and freezing florets as well, since in the past I bought the frozen versions on a very regular basis all year round.
5) Berries. We live near a couple of pick-yer-own farms around here, so we turned somewhere in the neighborhood of 31 lbs of strawberries and blueberries into frozen food and home-canned jam. We also made this elderberry syrup recipe. (Thanks mom & dad, for all of your help picking and preserving those berries!)
6) Apples. We have 3 old apple trees on our property that were not very well cared for before we arrived. While Tim is working on pruning them back to reasonable size, we do still get some good tart green apples. I do pick out what I am able to salvage and make apple sauce, apple butter, etc. to put away for winter. It’s more of a pain than orchard apples, for sure, but hey, they’re free!
7) Peppers. I try to pick my peppers and freeze them at different stages so we have green & red. I also add them to canning recipes (salsa, for example). I would like to try preserved roasted red peppers… has anyone else done this?
7) Fish. These aren’t home-grown, but they are fresh-caught close to home. We live just above a creek full of bass, sunnies, and trout. My hubby catches them, guts them, and we freeze them. We don’t have the right type of equipment or a lot of experience to do a really good job of this yet. However, we try to eat them fairly quickly (within a couple months), and it’s always been tasty, almost-free meat for our family.
While there are certainly other things we are working on preserving for winter (black walnuts, beets, etc.) the ones listed above have been our biggest producers and best savers so far this year. What is easiest to preserve in your area? What do you use most frequently throughout the winter?
The moment when you open a can of home-grown green beans to meet a putrid stench rising from the jar. When you sprout your own wheat berries but waited a day too long to dehydrate them and they are beginning to grow mold. When you go to collect pears from your tree and have to cut out huge brown spots and you feel that you are throwing out half your crop.
I hate it. I hate the waste of food and money, I hate the frustration of hard work ruined, and I hate that I failed somehow in my efficiency and skill of providing for my family in this way. There’s not much that’s more disappointing to me in the way of homemaking than to see good food gone bad.
But amid the maddening mistakes that come with growing and preserving your own food, a positive outlook can still be had. Here are three pluses that counterbalance the challenges.
1) You are making an effort to know your food. When you choose to preserve on your own, you know where your food came from, how it was grown, and what kinds of additives are in the can. Even if you make mistakes occasionally, you are still, on the whole, doing well by eating more fresh and local food. Your preservation failure is not reason to give up the cause. (Chances are that supermarket food can and does get wasted just as much, if not more so, than your home-preserved food- it’s just that you blame yourself a lot more when your hard work goes to waste!)
2) You are probably experiencing less waste by preserving at home. It seems sometimes like cutting out all those buggy spots on the apple has to be more wasteful than buying a jar of applesauce, right? But not so. If you weren’t taking the time to cut out the spots, the apples would simply be falling to the ground and rotting. And what we don’t realize is that tons of good food gets wasted in the industrial food market. If an apple isn’t perfect, it gets rejected. If the basil is too tall, it gets thrown out. If an animal is sick, it gets killed instead of treated. You get the point. You are actually saving food, even when it seems like a lot needs to go into the compost.
3) You are honing your skills. It can be really disheartening when you find your canning jar lids didn’t seal properly. But just think- from every mistake you make, you learn a lesson, and you’re unlikely to make the same mistake again. Think of it as a bump on the path that taught you how not to trip. Mistakes are there to teach you to pick back up and do better when you try again next time.
I am preaching this to myself as I’ve had a few big discouraging preservation mistakes this past week… Take heart! It’s not reason to give up. Keep trying and you will continue to learn and get better at saving your own food to eat year-round.