I bottled three jars of apples ~ successfully!
What's more - I winged it!
Before I started out I jumped on to Simple Savings (my most favourite savings website) and searched for methods to do this. I searched 'bottling', 'preserving', 'canning' and, while there were plenty of methods and descriptions, when you've never done this before using old pasta or jam jars and lids, it can be a little daunting. I've made pate, using butter to seal in the meat paste and stored them in the fridge, and I've cooked up sauces and beetroot with a friend, using one of those Vacola steamer things and all the new bottles and seals. I've even made jams using wax top seals. However, I've not done it solo alone.
And I've never used recycled jars, old lids and the oven alone. So I was a little daunted by the prospect. Reviewing some suggested links about 'how to' water bath, vacuum seal and other such techniques, I read up on various methods of how to boil water, put in a rack and get the lids to seal. I looked at diagrams with explanations which, by the end of it all, had me more confused than when I first decided this would be a good idea for storing apples, pears, tomatoes and ratatouille - considering there is no room left in the freezer due to frozen versions of these, and meat, potatoes, etc and more!
Mostly I kinda made it up and took pictures as I went to help determine any errors made along the way. Best news is, there were no mistakes and the pop-up buttons all sucked back in with a resounding 'thunk' - eventually. Ahhh - patience - I am glad I was *grins*
First I grabbed half a dozen glass jars and the matching metal lids. I knew they had to be metal and these all had that rubber inner rim already adhered to the top - this apparently means its limited to reuse opportunities but didn't effect the outcome this time. The jars and lids went into the sink, covered and filled with hot water.
I left them soaking while I peeled the apples (16-20) and then grabbed a scourer and went back to scrub the jars to ensure all the paper and sticky gum from the old labels were removed.
The jars (not the lids) sat in the oven - set to 160C - to dry and sterilise. You need to have the glass quite hot when it comes to putting the food inside, so always remember to use mitts or a folded tea-towel when handling them.
While the jars sterilised, I made the stewed apples. I cut and quartered the apples, then cut just over half into chunks - because this is for apple crumble, I wanted to keep some of the apples as pieces and not have it like a puree or sauce.
Placing all the apple into a pot with about 1/3 cup of hot water, I added 20 cloves, a teaspoon of mixed spice, and a tablespoon of brown sugar. If the apples were tart or granny smiths, I'd probably have added double the brown sugar. Constantly stirring and mixing the apples, they softened and mooshied down nicely. Once happy with the consistency, I removed all the cloves from the pot.
Before getting the hot jars from the oven, a clean tea towel was laid onto the side of the sink. If using a wooden chopping board, I'd probably do the same - you don't want hot glass in contact with a cold surface and risk cracking. The jars were filled with apple and the syrup/juice to about a finger width from the top of the lip and, wiping away any drips of apple from the rim, the lid screwed onto the jar as tight as possible. Again, as the jar is hot and filled with hot apples, its best to use a tea towel to avoid burning hands and fingers.
After the lids are screwed on nice and tight, you wait for the button to suck back in. This took about 30minutes ~ and all the will power in the world to not press it down, fiddle with it, check it over and over while waiting. You know that watching a kettle doesn't make it boil faster right? Well, neither does watching for vacuum seal buttons to suck back in. In fact, it was when I turned around the first one sucked in with a resounding 'thunk'.
Talk about excitement ~ you'd think something miracualous had occurred ~ this was the first bit of bottling I had undertaken solo alone in my life and I am SO proud it worked out so well. With no room left in the freezer for keeping foods stored, I can now get more out of (or in to) the pantry.
The Week Ahead
Sadly the forecast is for rain, rain and possible rain. We might get to top temperatures of 15, however 12 and 13 degrees seem to be the average expectation. *sobs* So, the fire is blazing, the house is warm and once we know what SmallBoy's options are after seeing the surgeon tomorrow, it's going to be a cooking and cleaning kind-of week methinks!!
Preserving wise ~ With new found confidence to push me on, I've got about 3 dozen pears to get bottled. I've also got zucchini, tomatoes and onions for a ratatouille type mix to bottle. I might even give green tomato pickles and something spicy with leftover cabbage. If you've got any suggestions, please feel free to contribute *hint*
Money wise ~ We've made an enormous dent into the debt with the paying down of one account completely and finalising the outstanding balance of another. This week is 'poor' week when talking about income - but horribly expensive week with the mortgage, personal loan, credit card and 'all' the technology payments. I'm considering putting my mobile on a low pre-paid account, I don't use it terribly much and can link into Internet through the wireless when home for no charge - that should suit me fine.
Entertainment wise ~ I've got some really cool stuff planned for the first week of the school holiday ~ if a trip into surgery is not required (can't give you any hints in case 'someone' reads this online *grins*). SmallBoy is a little sad, bored and disappointed he can't do things - not even simple activities like going on a tractor ride, exploring the junk store, climbing a tree. He is over playing on the computer, using the Xbox and reading books. *sighs*
That's it for tonight. We've still got $11-$12 in the budget for this weeks groceries and milk will be needed tomorrow. Husband's mum has been up and left a few bananas for us ~ better than chocolate and definitely more expensive! I've not got a lot of fresh green vegetables left however there is broccoli, spinach, peas and beans in the freezer - some bought frozen plus some I've frozen. These will go into a pie during the week, no doubt. Possibly a big pot of vegetable soup is on the cards to use lentils and other dried beans I've discovered in the pantry.
Will let you know as the week goes on ~ its a real case of how low can we go. I'll be making savoury muffins and scones for some yummy lunches in lieu of sandwiches as we are out of bread. Personally, I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce alternatives to Husband and SmallBoy, alternatives that can be included in the lunch box on a regular basis. This should be fun *cheers*
Night y'all xx