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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Canning Cookbook- Caramel Apple Pie Filling

It's officially apple season in Iowa. All over the state families pack up the kids and head to the many apple orchards that are sprinkled around the countryside. Breezy cool fall days are the perfect time to grab a pole picker and head out to the orchard to pick your own apples, or stroll through the pumpkin patches that often accompany the apple trees. Grab some apple cider donuts or gourmet caramel apples and fudge, some hot spiced cider and celebrate fall!

Sherry Chapin Block picked this bounty
Not too far from where I live is Burr Oak Farms. Located near Winterset in Madison County, Iowa, Burr Oak is the kind of place I'd love to have all my own. They are a very young orchard, so while they do have 55 varieties of apples, as well as other fruit trees, they do have limited quantities at times. The apples they grow include a number of heirloom or antique varieties, including Grimes Golden, Newtown Pippen, Delicious, Arkansas Black, Empire, Early Harvest, Cameo, Gala and Honeycrisp. They also have yellow and white peaches such as Indian Cling, Alberta and Bell of Georgia, Bartlett and Keifer pears, plums, nectarines, apricots, sweet and sour cherries and blackberries.

Burr Oak Farms is open from June to mid-November.

Over the years my family has spent a lot of time at Center Grove Orchard. When we first started going there, it was little more than a very sparsely stocked store, a pumpkin patch and some apple trees. NOW it's a full-on family adventure spot with all kinds of animals, activities, a corn maze, hay rack rides, lots of great food options and of course, the orchard shop with apples, pies, freshly made treats like caramel apples, fudge and apple cider donuts. 

2015 is a great year for apples- the trees are loaded!
We love to go for the apples, but the grand kiddos love the animals, the corn pool, the Three Little Pigs' houses, the jumping pillow, giant slide- there is so much to do now.

Of course the apples are still fantastic. There are all kinds of varieties, for fresh eating and cooking/baking. The orchard currently has Paula Red, Gala, McIntosh, Cortland, Honeygold, Empire, Golden Supreme, Jonathan, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Jonagold, Idared, Lysgolden, Mutsu, Chieftain, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith. Don't forget the pumpkins and all kinds of cute gourds for fall decorating. 

Center Grove Orchard is located near Cambridge, Iowa, in Story County. Just east of Interstate 35, it's easy to find and has lots of parking. They are open starting Labor Day weekend through Christmas.

North of The Little Lake House, in Greene County, is Deal's Orchard, near Jefferson. Like many other apple orchards, they have loads of family activities, a petting zoo, and a fantastic orchard shop with all kinds of delicious Iowa food products, apple items like pies, apple butter, and they even make their own cider and hard cider!

In the autumn I love visiting Deal's Orchard because they also have a fantastic selection of winter squash and pumpkins. As a home canner I love stocking up on winter squash such as butternut and Hubbard, and pie pumpkins. You just can't beat fresh squash for making amazing pies, and Deal's is always ready to give you a great price. 

I see a pie or six in my future.
Sometimes I really like a little road trip. Doesn't have to be a long drive, no need for a hotel. Hop in the car, and head over a couple counties to check out Three Bee Farms. Just off Highway 92 in Pottawattamie County, in Griswold, Three Bee Farms is not just an orchard it's a honey producing farm with honey bee educational programs and an observation hive.

The store at the farm features all kinds of honey and beeswax products and candles and all my farm store favorites- fresh produce, autumn produce like pumpkins, gourds and squash, apples, popcorn and more. Like many other orchard/farm destinations there is something for everyone in the family and offers group tours and activities.

In the Apple House Store you can choose from pre-picked apples including Lodi, Summer Treat, Zestar, Paula Red, Earliblaze, Lura Red, Gala, Early Jonathan, Jonafree, Jonathan, Ozark Gold, Jonadel, McIntosh, Jonagold, Macoun, Harelson, Grimes Golden, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Cheiftain, Secor, Edgewood, Arkansas Black and Idared, or you can head out into the orchard and pick your own. They also have raspberries, cherries and pears.

Cindy Davis' pie filling.
With this abundance of beautiful apples it can be hard to decide what to make with them. Apple pie is a given, and so is German Apple Cake- one of my family's favorite desserts. We are also big big fans of crunchy oaty apple crisp, topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream- so decadent and so appropriate for autumn. I mentioned apple pie and naturally, when looking for ways to can apples and preserve this taste of fall for the cold winter season, a lot of home canners look to pie filling. While I am not typically a pie filling fan, preferring instead to make pies with freshly sliced fruit, tossed with sugar and spices and piled in a flaky crust, having pie filling on hand makes super quick desserts. You can use it not only to make pies but as a topping for cheesecakes or ice cream, or a filling for crepes and other desserts. 

When you really want to be decadent, you add a little booze, right? My version of pie filling contains a little hint of rum with the spices and brown sugar to give it a caramelly delicious flavor that's so much better than the stuff in a can. The extra kick of rum also turns your apple pie and apple crisp into something really special- after spreading the fruit filling in your pastry shell or baking pan sprinkle it with cubes of cold butter before topping with pastry or the crumb topping for a Butter Rum Apple Pie or Apple Crisp that will be a new favorite for your family too. You can substitute rum extract instead of the booze if you prefer.

Pie filling made by Patty McDaniel Reyling
One more note- this canning recipe uses a product called ClearJel or Permaflo. You can find this modified starch at Amish markets or online at Amazon. DO NOT substitute cornstarch or other conventional thickener in a canning recipe. If you can't find it, you can also can the filling unthickened and use cornstarch to thicken immediately before using it.

Apple Pie Filling with Rum

25 cups peeled, cored and sliced apples 

10 cups apple juice
5 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/4 cups lemon juice
1 3/4 cups ClearJel
1/2 cup rum

Peel, core and slice the apples, adding to a large bowl of water with lemon juice added to prevent browning. When all apples are ready bring a large pot of water to boil. Add batches of apple slices and poach for about 1-2 minutes; remove with slotted spoon to large pan. Cover and keep warm.

In large stockpot whisk together the apple juice, sugar, spices, and ClearJel. Heat until thick, whisking often to prevent lumps. Whisk in the lemon juice and rum. Fold in the apple slices. 

Always adjust your processing time for your altitude
Ladle the hot filling into hot quart canning jars. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and fix lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. Allow jars to cool 12 to 24 hours before removing rings and checking seals.

A final note about apples- make sure you choose an apple variety that is suitable for baking, like Granny Smith or Braeburn. Most fresh eating apples will break apart during cooking and processing and don't work well in pies or pie fillings. 

Now that you've got the pie filling tucked away on the shelf, you have some delicious homemade desserts on hand in minutes. Just pop the top off a jar of your own homemade, and boozy, apple pie filling and use your imagination.

NOTE: This recipe has been adapted from a recipe shared on www.foodpreserving.comFor more home canning information including complete canning directions and hints, visit the NCHFP website.

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