The family activities that take the most amount of hustle often pay the sweetest dividends.
I’ve always wanted to have that house, that neighborhood hangout house that kids flock to after school. Since we’ve moved to Chicago, we’ve been living that dream, and with it comes the reality of a yard filled with bald patches of grass and wrappers of snacks eaten in a hurry in the midst of a fevered game of infected tag. On the weekends, when we want to get out to do a family activity, pulling the kids away from their neighborhood friends can be tough.
When I announced my plan to go apple picking yesterday morning, you would have thought I was ordering the kids to crawl through a town dump. There were tears. There were accusations of being the MME (Meanest Mom EVER). There were even one angry threat to run away from home. Nothing deterred me from my apple mission.
Getting all four kids in the car was nothing short of kidnapping, and forty five minutes later, when we reached Garden Patch Farms, their faces were no happier. But somewhere between the chicken patch and the purple rows of cauliflower, we became a family again. By the time, we reached the apple orchard, everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves.
We brought home three giant bags of sweet blushing apples that I can’t wait to turn into gleaming jars of apple jelly. We use this sweet and pretty jelly on everything: not only on toast, but also on roast chicken and as a glaze for tarts. Each spoonful will remind me of the hard-won fun we had on that beautiful autumn weekend day.
I’m already plotting our next outing. Just don’t tell the kids or this time I may face a full fledged mutiny.
- 4½ pounds of quartered apples – use a variety but make sure they are all sweet
- 2 lemons
- 8 cups of water
- 5 cups of sugar
- Cut your apples into quarters.
- Throw them in a large stock pot. Squeeze the juice of the lemons on top. Cover with water and boil for an hour.
- Cover a sieve with cheesecloth. Place the sieve over a large bowl. Put the cooked apples in a sieve in two batches and squeeze gently to collect the juices. Repeat for the second batch. You should have about 7 cups of liquid. You can now discard the apples.
- Place the liquid back in the stockpot. Add the sugar and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer for an hour or two, until the jelly is thickened and darkened.
- Meanwhile, in a separate large stockpot, boil your canning jars.
- There are two ways to tell if your apple jelly is ready to go into the jars. The first is to measure the temperature until it reaches 220 degrees Fahrenheit. As the water evaporates, the temperature increases, but it can take a very long time to go from 218 degrees to 220. An alternative is to drop a little jelly on a chilled plate. If it looks gelled, then it's ready to can. I like to live dangerously and vary the consistency of my apple jelly, having it be a little runnier sometimes depending on the apple variety. If you don't like this variation, use sure jell or pomona pectin.
- When your jelly is ready, remove the jars from the boiling water carefully with tongs. Pour the jelly in using a canning funnel, leaving a half an inch of space at the top. Screw on the lids.
- Place each jar back into the boiling water for 10 minutes to process the jars.
- Remove them again and place them inverted on the counter until completely cooled to complete the sterilization process.
- As they cool, you’ll hear a delightful pop as the jar lids seal completely. They’ll stay tightly sealed until you open them, hearing the same pop again. These jars will keep a year in a cool, dark place. The jelly is delicious both on toast and chicken!