In Southern California, one of the harbingers of Fall is the Santa Ana winds.
These winds blow strong and unbelievably dry for days at a time, sometimes cold, but mostly hot, hot, hot. If you are not from So Cal, you may have heard this term related to some huge, catastrophic brush fire that occurred near Los Angeles. Every Southern Californian knows to scan the horizon often on days that the Santa Anas blow.
But these winds also signal a change in the weather. Summer is over, no matter how warm the temps during the day. The nights are cooler and backyard pools no longer hold the heat. The rest of the nation is digging out their jeans and sweatshirts—and it has snowed in the Rocky Mountains—and we’re still wearing shorts. But it’s Fall for sure when those Santa Ana winds blow. And when they do, I am pulled to my kitchen by thoughts of cinnamon, apples and pumpkins.
The other day, I pulled Dana with me. Over the weekend, my family made a quick jaunt to our local apple tree mecca, Oak Glen and picked 30 lbs of apples. Oak Glen is this special place, like someone carved a piece out of Colonial Massachusetts and plopped it down in the low mountains of San Bernardino.
Braeburns at Riley’s Apple Farm in Oak Glen
Miss Annie picking her first apples!
In a few weeks, these trees will be a gorgeous shade of yellow
I called Dana and invited her to come over and make apple butter and apple pie filling. She’s never canned before and we both thought this would be a good time for her to see what it’s all about.
We peeled and cored and sliced. Then we did it some more. Sixty apples are a LOT of apples to face down. But we did it.
A natural hazard of cooking with organic apples: stowaways.
And since we were on such a roll, I roasted a pumpkin and made some pumpkin butter.
Six hours of cooking and canning got us six half pints of apple butter, four half pints of pumpkin butter, three half pints of applesauce, three quarts of apple pie filling and enough pumpkin puree to make muffins or bread. Whew!*
All my canning recipes were from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.
4 lbs apples
4 cups sugar (I used 2 for a lower sugar option)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
I also added 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Wash apples; peel, core and quarter. Combine apples and two cups of water in a pot; simmer until apples are soft. Using a food mill or food processor, process apples until they are pureed.
Combine the pureed apples, sugar and spices in pot. Cook on low until mixtures darkens and thickens (usually two hours or more). Stir about every 15 minutes to prevent burning on the bottom.
2 1/2-3 1/2 lbs apples
Sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Wash, peel, core and quarter apples; simmer in pot with just enough water to prevent sticking; mash apples in pot; add sugar and spices (optional); bring applesauce to a boil.
Apples for Baking:
10 to 12 lbs of apples
Ball Fresh Fruit Protector
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Wash, core and peel apples; cut them lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices; treat with Fresh Fruit to prevent darkening (see directions on package).
Meanwhile, combine sugar, water and lemon juice in a large pot, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Drain apples and add to mixture. Simmer for five minutes before water processing.
Take a pumpkin, any pumpkin (most recipes suggest sugar pumpkins for baking, but I have used the ones they sell for jack o’ lanterns with no problems). Cut off the stem, then cut the pumpkin in half. Clean the pulp and seeds, set aside. Place the two halves face down on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and scrap flesh from inside. Puree in a food processor.
This is exactly what comes out of the can when you buy pumpkin in a store. Proceed to your favorite pumpkin recipe!
Pumpkin Butter (courtesy of www.eatingbirdfood.com)
- 5 cups fresh pumpkin puree (or 1 29 ounce + 1 15 ounce can of pumpkin puree)
- 1 cup brown sugar (or sucanat)
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- Pinch of sea salt
- Combine all ingredients in a crock pot/slow cooker and stir to mix well.
- Set on low heat and cover loosely, leaving a little space for the steam to escape so the mixture can reduce and thicken.
- Cook for about 6 hours. The pumpkin butter should have cooked down and thickened. If it’s not as thick as you would like it, just take the lid completely off and let it cook for another 30-45 minutes.
- Let cool, remove from crock pot and put pumpkin butter into jars or airtight containers.The pumpkin butter will last a week or so in the fridge, but you can also freezer preserve it by storing it freezer safe containers (or jars).
* I am not a canning expert. If you are interested in canning, please visit www.freshpreservingstore.com for products and guides, or www.foodinjars.com for recipes and how-to. Also, turns out it’s not safe to water process pumpkin butter at home, because of the chemistry.