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The Apple Harvest

A number of years ago I was out doing my regular biweekly shopping trip with my (then) four kids in tow when I was lured into the discount grocer's garden centre by the promise of an end-of-season bargain. The kids were unhappy enough with being pulled from their pursuits to face a long, boring grocery trip. Imagine their shagrin to now be faced with a grocery trip AND a garden centre trip wrapped into one.

I was undeterred! I maneuvered my way past the rows of wilted flowers, and spindly shrubbery with four miserable children sulking behind me. I knew my target - fruit trees. We had moved into a newly built neighbourhood a few years prior and I had a big dream, I wanted to grow as much of my own food as possible on my tiny city lot. I had been dreaming of fruit trees, but had not planted any yet. I had been busy with hedge rows of raspberries and replacing lawn with a strawberry patch. Apple trees were in the plan eventually, but they were so expensive and I was commitment shy.

I can't say that I expected to find a bounty of late season apple trees, and I certainly didn't expect them to be 90% off! But there I was, faced with a handful of exactly that! For some reason the kids didn't share my enthusiasm, in fact, they seemed slightly embarrassed of my jubilation!

The thing about apple trees is that they take a while to produce a harvest. Three years on average. When you buy them late in the season after they have been in an exposed parking lot for months on end that timeline is more like five years apparently. If they survive at all (sadly two of the five did not). But when they establish themselves all that waiting is SO worthwhile! Because then you can have way to many for even the most apple-enthusiastic family of seven to devour. Which means there is an abundance of apples left for all kinds of things. Because we love hot apple cider in the colder seasons, I decided to make apple juice so we could enjoy the harvest all winter long!

Because I have a chronic illness, and often have to be mindful of how I use my energy I wanted to make this process as simple as possible. I decided to use my cold pressed juicer to juice the apples, then heat it to sterilize it before pouring it into jars. There are other ways to process the apples into juice, but I do not have the stamina for any of those, so this method is my preference.

Here is how I do it:

Boil water in a canner or large stock pot. Make sure the pot is tall enough to completely cover the jars in order to process them properly. This will take a while! Jars need 10 minutes in boiling water to be thoroughly sterilized. Since we will be processing the juice for 10 minutes it may not be necessary to pre-sterilize the jars, but since I am using precious, home-grown apples, I don't want to take the chance of a contaminated batch. I add the lids for the last five minutes so they are clean as well.

Wash and quarter apples. I don't bother to take the core out as my juicer can handle the extra work. I do take out the stems though (usually) because they sometimes get stuck. I process as much juice as I can fit in a second stock pot and guesstimate how many jars it will fill (always overestimate - it is better to have too many sterilized jars than have to wait for more).

Bring apple juice to a rolling boil to pasteurize. There is usually a layer of foam,

this can be skimmed off or strained out, or just embrace the rustic feel of it. I usually skim off what I can and leave the rest for that homemade vibe.

Carefully pour the juice into the sterile jars leaving about 1/4 inch of headroom. Cover with lids and rings, being careful not to touch the lip of the jar or the inside of the lid.

Process the full jars in the water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from canner and place in a location where they will not be disturbed for 24 hours to ensure a good seal.

And there you have it! Fresh, homemade apple juice. I use it to make apple cider. Here is my process.

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