Forewarned is Forearmed

The only problem with this recipe is that it smells like you’re baking an apple pie, and then you realize you don’t have an apple pie, so you need to make an apple pie.

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Now you know.

Apple Chips

Apples

Cinnamon

Sugar

Slice the apples as thin as you can get them. They don’t need to be peeled or cored, but do discard any seeds.

Put them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (I’ve tried other things – parchment is the way to go here.)

Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. You can skip this, but why would you want to?

Bake at 225 for 2-3 hours. To test, take one out of the oven and let it sit for 2 or 3 minutes. At that point it should be crunchy, not chewy.

Store in an airtight container.

Strength in Numbers

We need a lot of snacks, yes?

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It’s getting cold; it’s important we keep our metabolisms going strong.

Peanut Butter Bars

1 stick butter + 1/2 stick butter

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (Sifting’s a pain, but makes a big difference here.)

1 cup peanut butter

5 graham crackers, smashed finely

1 cup chocolate chips

Line a square pan with parchment paper for easy removal.

Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucepan.

Add the peanut butter and stir til melted.

Remove from heat, add sugar, and stir til combined.

Add graham cracker crumbs and stir til combined.

Press the peanut butter mixture into the lined pan with the back of a spoon.

In the same saucepan, melt the 1/2 stick of butter.

Add the chocolate chips and stir til melted.

Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter and spread to uniform thickness.

Cool in fridge for an hour or two then cut into bars.

Store in fridge.

Warm Wishes

We’re a bit late getting the firewood in this year.

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The just about empty shed was starting to make me feel a bit panicky. A day with the log splitter made a good start, and we’ll finish up this weekend, assuming the weather cooperates. We’re working with some very gnarly wood from a tree that was hundreds of years old. This will be the fourth year it’s kept us warm, and we made two side tables from it as well. I wish it was still standing in its old spot, but I’m glad to know none of it has gone to waste.

Good and Ready

Granola bars are a most versatile snack.

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They’re tasty at any time of day, and you can easily switch up the ingredients depending on your mood and what you’ve got in the house.

This is our standby recipe. We individually wrap the bars so they’re ready to go when we are.

Granola Bars

Preheat oven to 325.

3 1/2 cups oats

1 cup rice krispies

1 cup wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup flax seed (optional)

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

1 cup honey (approximate)

Combine oats, cereal, flour, baking soda, salt, flax seed, and sugar.

Melt butter and combine with vanilla.

Add butter/vanilla to oat mixture and stir to coat.

Add chocolate chips.

Add 2/3 cup of honey and stir well.You will probably have some dry parts that won’t combine well with the other ingredients. If you do, add more honey, up to 1/3 of a cup, until everything’s sticking together pretty well. It should be pasty, not soupy.

Butter a 9″x13″ baking pan and press the mixture into it firmly using the back of a spatula.

Bake for 19 minutes.

Let cool and then cut into bars. We cut them in thirds the long way and then into the desired width.

These will last at least a couple of weeks in plastic wrap, but you’ll likely eat them sooner.

Color Me Surprised

Last year at our local garden club’s sale I bought a plant labeled ‘tall red aster’.

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I didn’t know what an aster looked like, but I wanted to add some red to the garden and the price was right. When these started blooming this month it took me a while to put these bright pink flowers together with that tag.

Red or no, they’ve added some nice color to September. They’ve grown about 3 feet tall and are producing a ton of blooms. The foliage is not very attractive, so I’ll be planting something shorter in front to camouflage it a bit. Maybe I’ll find just the thing at next Spring’s plant sale.

Sugar and Spice

What happens if you take applesauce and keep cooking it?

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With a few more spices, you’ve got apple butter.

This recipe can be divided or multiplied. I double it for 40 pounds of apples. Well, 40 pounds of apples minus enough to make a pie.

Apple Butter

18 cups unsweetened applesauce

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon allspice

2 cups sugar, divided

Fill a crockpot with applesauce. It might not all fit, but that’s ok, you can add more later. If you’ve got 2 crockpots you could get both going – that’s what I do.

Add spices and 1 cup of the sugar.

Prop the lid on your crockpot with a wooden spoon or chopstick so the steam can escape.

Set the heat on low.

Cook for 6 hours, then add the rest of your sugar and more sauce if you’ve got room.

Continue cooking and adding applesauce as needed until it looks and tastes like apple butter. Mine generally takes a total of about 22 hours. (That includes the 6 hours above.)

Prep 12 half pint jars.

Ladle hot apple butter into jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Process in hot water bath for 5 minutes after water has returned to a boil.

Feeling Saucy

Is there anyone who doesn’t like applesauce?

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Never mind, if there is I don’t want to know.

Applesauce

Apples (As many or as few as you’ve got. Don’t forget to ask your local farmer for seconds -you’ll pay half the price.)

Sugar (optional)

Cut the apples into chunks, peeled or not depending on what you like, and put them in a pot.

Add a small splash of water to keep them from sticking before their juice starts to flow.

Cook on medium-high heat until the apples are soft enough to break with the back of a spoon.

Add sugar to taste.

Puree with an immersion blender for a smooth sauce, or leave as is for chunky.

Ladle into clean jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.

Process quarts for 20 minutes or pints for 15. If you’d rather not can, just store in the fridge.

Hot Stuff

Apologies if you end up burning your tongue, but I think this jelly delivery system is worth taking the risk.

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Jammy Biscuits

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 Tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup shortening

3/4 cup milk

Jam or jelly

Preheat oven to 425.

Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the shortening with a knife.

Add the milk, and knead just until the dough comes together.

Press dough out about 1/2″ thick, and cut circles from it with the rim of a cup.

Make a well in the middle of each biscuit and fill it with jam.

Bake 12 minutes.

Delicious while still hot, or will keep for a few days.

Use as Directed

So, grape jelly.

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This is one of those cases where using the recipe in the box is just fine. In general I have no complaints about sugar, but for jelly I want to taste the fruit, so I went with a low sugar pectin from Ball. This recipe could more accurately be called ‘lower sugar’, because there’s still quite a bit, but the grapes are not overpowered and that’s what I was going for.

Grape Jelly

5 1/2 cups grape juice

3 1/2 cups sugar

1 box low or no-sugar-needed pectin

Prep 6 half-pint jars.

Mix pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar.

Combine pectin and juice in a large pot, along with a small bit of butter. (The butter will keep everything from foaming too much. I skip this step when making jam, but it really helps to make a nice, clear jelly.)

Bring to a boil.

When you can’t stir the boil down, add the rest of the sugar.

Bring back to a boil, and when you can’t stir it down cook for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Skim any foam.

Ladle into jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.

Process 5 minutes in water bath.

Yield: 5-6 half-pint jars.

Kindness of Strangers

Just when I’d accepted I wouldn’t be making grape jelly this year, a neighbor I’ve never met stopped by and asked if I’d like to pick some of her grapes.

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She’s at the peak of a bumper crop of Concords, growing on a vine she dates to the early 1900’s. Since she has lived in her house and tended her garden for 65 years (!), I’m going to take her word for it.

We picked and picked and didn’t make a bit of a dent, and then I came home and used my steam juicer to process the piles of grapes. The steam juicer is a fabulous invention. It’s pricey, so not worth it if you don’t process a lot of fruit, but if you do it saves a lot of time and effort. I can remember my parents making grape jelly when I was a kid, juice straining through cheesecloth, making a purple mess of everything nearby. I can’t say it inspired me to want to make any of my own. The juicer, in contrast, is neat and easy to use. It consists of three pots on top of each other. The bottom holds water, the middle juice, and the top whatever fruit you’re processing. As it steams, the juice flows through a tube from the second pot into whatever vessel you choose, or, if you’d rather, the tube can be clamped and the juice will remain in the pot. More fruit can be added as it shrinks down, so I was able to fit all of my grapes in the one pot. The only thing to watch out for is that you don’t run out of water in the bottom pot.

Now I’m ready to start making jelly with some of the 10+ quarts of juice the grapes yielded. The rest I’ll can for drinking, if it doesn’t all disappear from the fridge before I get to it.