A favourite fall tradition in many parts of Canada is to head out to a local orchard to pick apples. We do the same every year and always come home with a bushel because — like many moms — I have PLANS and TO-DO LISTS and a skewed idea of just how much I can get done in a limited time. Hands up if this sounds familiar.
Apple season is great because apples are such a versatile fruit and can be used in savoury or sweet recipes or for canning, and we can enjoy them when the snow is swirling outside and we’ve forgotten what the colour green looks like.
I began making apple jam by accident several years ago when I cooked the applesauce too long; it was a happy accident. I then threw in the secret ingredient that takes desserts and jams from pretty good to Woah, baby! — vanilla — a few dashes of cinnamon, vinegar, and lemon juice to change the consistency and flavour, and we now enjoy apple vanilla jam long after the season has ended.
Wash, peel, core, and slice the apples using an apple corer/slicer if you have one, or by hand.*
Throw the slices of apples into a large pot and add the water and vinegar. Cover and cook over medium-high heat.
Sterilize 7-8 250 mL jars in boiling water while the apples cook. I reuse old jam jars, but you can use canning jars, too.
Allow the apples to slowly boil and stir occasionally so that no pieces stick to the bottom.
Cook for approximately 30-35 minutes until the apples are soft and then purée them with a hand blender. Alternatively, you can use a potato masher and some elbow grease to get the desired consistency.
Once the apples are puréed add the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and lemon juice and stir well. Simmer the purée with the lid of the pot off to allow for evaporation — and stirring a few times to prevent sticking — for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Fill the sterilized jars to 1 cm below rim using a ladle and funnel. Close the lids and place the jars in a pot of boiling water so that they are submersed in water. Allow to boil for at least ten minutes.
Remove from water, dry the jars, and place them on a cooling rack. The lids will pop once the jars are vacuum-sealed. This can take several minutes to several hours.
Vacuum-sealed jars can be labelled and put in the cupboard once completely cooled. Any jam jars whose lids haven’t popped should be refrigerated and eaten first.
Makes 7-250 mL cans.
We save the cores and apple peels for pony treats, so zero waste.
* Tip: Spend $20 to buy an apple parer/corer/slicer. I bought mine at Home Hardware, but any kitchen supply store should carry them. It’s so worth it if you cook and bake with apples because it makes life easier and we could all use some shortcuts. Bonus: It’s fun to use, kids like using gadgets when helping in the kitchen, and this is an old school, non-tech gadget.
For a delicious apple dessert try replacing the blueberries and peaches for apples in this crumble recipe to keep things seasonal.