Preserving Apples

All summer our fig tree and apple tree were very confused. Is it summer? Do we bloom? No, wait, to cold? Oh, its hot again, bloom! No wait, its cold. Poor vegetation, it must think the planets totally loosing it. The tree keeps chucking apples at me, like it knows that humans are to blame. Finally though, the past couple of weeks, we seem to have “summer weather” and got some delicious apples and figs. Well as if our own tree is not enough, we went and visited my sisters boyfriend, in Sonoma, and came back with another 20 lbs of apples. Oooops. We went through several rounds of ideas about freezing pies and making apple sauce and than my better half said, “Just make apple preserve.” I knew there was a reason I love him so much.

The thing with organic fresh picked apples is they don’t necessarily keep very long, hence we were on a tight time line to do something with them. Turns out Erica and I were both totally swamped with work and or school and stuff. So my wonderful man came to the rescue and basically took on this project single handedly.

The first and most important tool for this project was the apple peeler we procured here. Its amazing, I felt like a kid on Christmas with a new toy. Without this, I can’t even imagine how long it would have taken to peel all those apples!

Canning Apples

As Will peeled the apples he put them in a tub with water and lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Canning Apples

Then he cut and cored them. Note that the apple gadget will peel and core the apples but because these apple were very organic, they came with local residents, hence coring required a little more finesse.

Canning Apples

We based our process of making apple preserve on this recipe here, but as with all thing cooked in my kitchen, changes were made.

First of all, we tripled the recipe for each batch. We used plane old brandy instead of Calvados or apple brandy. We added more cinnamon than called for  and equal amounts of ginger and nutmeg, and added pectin which the recipe did not call for. We also used a previously tested method of canning which wasn’t quite what the recipe describes.

Of course will managed to buy 4 different kinds of brandy, so his mom and him in true Soley fashion had to have a taste testing… I wish it had been after they sealed all the bottles, but oi vey. He managed to make all but the first jar we did together seal, including a Tupperware full of the extras after we ran out of jars.

Canning Apples

A couple of words on canning. Actually just one. Botulism! My freshman year I took a intro to brains and diseases class. For 12 weeks I was convinced I had every disease discussed in that class including botulism. I’ve been a bit paranoid ever since about anything that comes in a can. My point, be very careful with canning, make sure you use sterile tools and that you read up on best practices. If things don’t go as planned, throw it away PLEASE, the food is better wasted than anyone getting sick!

Canning Apples

Apple Preserve

adapted from 

4 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup and 4 tbls of fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 lbs.  apples, peeled, cored & cut into 1/4″ slices
10 1/2 c. sugar ( in retrospect we though that we should have done a batch with brown sugar)
1 cup 2 tbls brandy
3 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1  tsp. ground nutmeg

This may have got adapted more and more every batch but only Will knows how much we strayed from the recipe.

  1. Place the apples, water and lemon juice into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add sugar, brandy, cinnamon, ginger and ground nutmeg. Stir to combine.
  3. Keep the mixture boiling and can.


  1. We used 16oz and 32 oz mason jars. When canning I always get new lids because I want to make sure I get a tight seal and don’t run into any problems.
  2. Run the jars through the dishwater to sterilize. I run the rings for the lids as well.  Boil a small pot of water and keep it simmering.
  3. The next few steps work best with two people. Have one person man the lids. Drop in a few into the simmering water to sterilize. The other person will be putting the apple mixture into mason jars.
  4. Take a clean mason jar, fill it up to about 1/4″ from the top.
  5. Take a clean paper towel, wet it in hot water and clean off the rim of the jar. The second person should be at the ready with a lid that has been boiling, place that on top, screw on the ring and place the jar upside down on a clean surface for ten minutes. The weight of the jar helps to seal the lid to the glass.

A note on the above steps:

I use paper towels because I am again worried about germs. Since this requires using multiple paper towels, I recommend cutting them into smaller pieces and then using them to wipe down the counter which will get dirty, trust me on that one. Make sure you have your paper towels and hot water at the ready.

Instead of setting multiple timers, the person manning the lids keeps track of when each jar is flipped. So for example:

Jar 1- set time for ten  minutes

Jar 2- flipped at 8 minutes

Jar 3- 6 minutes

And so on, so when the timer runs out at ten minutes I flip the first jar, reset the timer for ten, and flip the other jars over at 8 minutes and 6 minutes respectively

Once the jars are flipped you may hear a pop which is a normal sound. What you DON’T want is to be able to click the center button on the lid. That means you didn’t get a proper seal between the lid and the jar. If this happens you have three options:

  1. dump the content into a pot, reboil it and can it anew into a fresh jar
  2. Use it right away (or refrigerate it and use it soon)
  3. Throw it away

We labeled our jars so we knew which batch was which. We also had a large excess of liquid in this whole process, which mainly came from the apples themselves. We bottled this stuff with the remaining brandy with hopes of using it for some fun drinks.

Here is the crust recipe I use to make pie. I use butter instead of crisco in this recipe.

P.S. We taste tested some of the preserve. The batch we tried was REALLY sweet, so perhaps we will try less sugar next time.




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