Drive through just about any neighborhood in Payson and you will see it -- fruit trees so loaded with ripening fruit their branches are touching the ground.
"They're going crazy," said Grace Martin about the apple trees she has in her yard. "The branches are going every which way."
One of her trees, a small one that is supposed to produce apples so big only one of them is needed to make a pie, is so heavy with fruit she is afraid it is going to be killed by the weight.
While apples will be the primary fruit harvest in the coming weeks, plums and peaches have also done well this year. "And we're seeing fruit we usually don't see," said Glen McCombs, owner of Plant Fair Nursery. "We're even getting apricots which is almost unheard of here.
"We didn't have the late freeze to kills the blooms," he explained. "We have one of these bumper crop years about every four or five years."
Now the question is -- What do you do with all the fruit? McCombs said get out the canning jars.
If you have had the trees as long as Martin, you already know what to do. She uses the apples from one of her trees to make applesauce, another produces the red delicious apples that are perfect for eating raw.
Apples can be preserved by freezing, as well as by canning, or they can be dried. The most common methods are freezing and canning.
According to information from the extension service, to can you need:
- A water bath canner -- any large metal container with a fitted lid deep enough to fit a rack on the bottom, plus the canning jars and 1 to 2 inches of water above the jars.
- Standard canning jars and lids -- using recycled commercial jars is not recommended. Check jars, ringbands and lids for defects. Look for chips, cracks, dents, rust and anything else that will prevent airtight seals. Wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Prepare two-piece metal lids according to manufacturer's directions. While ringbands may be reused if they are not rusted, dented or damaged, use lids only once.
Choose fresh, firm fruits for canning. Wash all fruit thoroughly whether or not it will be pared. Do not soak; soaking may cause the fruit to lose flavor and nutrients. Handle gently to avoid bruising.
Some fruits darken when peeled or cut then exposed to air. To retard darkening, there are three different methods recommended:
- Use a commercial ascorbic acid mixture, available in grocery and drug stores, prepared according to package instructions.
- Drop fruit in a solution of 1 teaspoon or 3,000 milligrams ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and 1 gallon of water. Vitamin C tablets also may be used. Drain fruit before proceeding.
- Drop fruit into citric acid or lemon juice solution (1 teaspoon food-grade citric acid or 3/4 cup lemon juice to 1 gallon water). Drain fruit before proceeding.
Sugar helps canned fruit hold its shape, but it is not required to prevent spoilage.
To make a sugar syrup for canning, mix sugar with water or juice, heat until the sugar dissolves. For a very light sugar use 3/4 cup to 6-1/2 cups water; a light sugar syrup results when 1-1/2 cups of sugar is combined with 5-3/4 cups water.
Sugar can also be mixed directly with the fruit -- add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar to each quart of prepared fruit, bring to a simmer over low heat and pack fruit while it's hot in the heated juice that has cooked out of the fruit.
Light corn syrup, light brown sugar or mild-flavored honey can be used for half the sugar needed to can fruit. The only artificial sweetener that will work in canning is Splenda, those with Saccharin can turn bitter during processing and those with aspartame lose their sweetening power.
There are a couple of ways to can fruit: raw pack method or hot pack method.
Raw pack -- Place raw prepared fruit into jars and cover with hot syrup, juice or water. Pack tightly because the fruit will shrink in the processing.
Hot pack -- Heat fruit in syrup, water, juice or steam before placing it in jars. Pack this loosely and cover with desired hot liquid. For apples a 1/2-inch of headspace is required between the fruit and the jar lid.
Once the fruit and syrup is in the jar, the containers need to be tightly sealed:
- Remove trapped air bubbles by sliding a nonmetallic spatula around the inside of the jar walls.
- If needed, add more liquid.
- Wipe jar rim with clean, dampened paper towel to remove any food particles.
- Place prepared lids on jars and secure with metal ringbands, following manufacturer's recommendations.
Fill canner half-full with water and preheat to 140 degrees for raw packed fruits and 180 degrees for hot packed fruits. Place sealed jars in canner and add boiling water as needed to bring water 1 to 2 inches over the jar tops.
Bring water to a vigorous boil, then cover canner with lid, lower heat to create a gentle boil and start timing. Apples need about 30 minutes to be fully processed. Add boiling water as needed during processing to keep level 1 to 2 inches over jar tops.
When processing is complete, remove canner lid and use a jar lifter to remove jars and place them on a rack, dry towel or newspaper. Allow the jars to cook, undisturbed, away from drafts for 12 to 24 hours.
Apples can also be frozen in syrup.
2-1/2 cups sugar
4 cups water
3 pounds apples
1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid
To make syrup, dissolve sugar in lukewarm water, mixing until the solution is clear. To prevent browning add 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid powder (1500 mg) or equivalent in finely crushed vitamin C tablets. Stir to dissolve. Chill syrup before using. Select fresh full-flavored apples that are crisp and firm, not mealy in texture. Wash, peel and core. Slice medium apples into twelfths and large apples into sixteenths. Place 1/2 cup syrup in each pint-size container and slice each apple directly into chilled syrup. Press apples down in containers and add enough syrup to cover apple slices. Leave 1/2 inch headspace in each pint (or 1 inch in each quart-size container). Place a small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper, such as waxed paper, on top of each container to hold apple slices down under syrup. Seal, label, date and freeze at 0°F or below. Use within one year.
This syrup recipe will make 5 1/3 cups syrup which will cover approximately 6 pints or 3 quarts of apple slices. Use rigid freezer containers or zip-closure freezer bags.
Freezing Apples without Sugar
Apples frozen without sugar are generally used for cooking, as well as pie making.
Wash, peel and core apples. To prevent darkening, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon (1500 mg) ascorbic acid powder or equivalent of finely crushed vitamin C tablets in 3 tablespoons water. Sprinkle over apples. Place apple slices in zip-closure freezer bags, label, date and freeze. Treated apples can also be frozen first on a tray leaving space between each piece. Pack into containers as soon as slices are frozen (approximately 2-4 hours). Freeze for up to one year at 0°F or below.
Apples can be preserved in different forms too, such as spiced apple rings, applesauce and apple butter.
Spiced Apple Rings
12 pounds firm tart apples (maximum diameter 2-1/2 inches)
12 cups sugar
6 cups water
1-1/4 cups white vinegar (5 percent)
3 tablespoons whole cloves
3/4 cup red hot cinnamon
candies or 8 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional)
Yield: About 8 to 9 pints
Procedure: Wash apples. To prevent discoloration, peel and slice one apple at a time. Immediately cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices, remove core area with a melon baller and immerse in ascorbic acid solution. To make flavored syrup, combine sugar, water, vinegar, cloves, cinnamon candies (or cinnamon sticks) and food coloring in a 6-quart saucepan. Stir, heat to boil and simmer 3 minutes. Drain apples, add to hot syrup and cook 5 minutes.
Fill jars (preferably wide-mouth) with apple rings and hot flavored syrup, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 15 minutes.
Quantity: An average of 21 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 13-1/2 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints. A bushel weighs 48 pounds and yields 14 to 19 quarts of sauce, an average of 3 pounds per quart.
Quality: Select apples that are sweet, juicy and crisp. For a tart flavor, add 1 to 2 pounds of tart apples to each 3 pounds of sweeter fruit.
Procedure: Wash, peel and core apples. If desired, slice apples into water containing ascorbic acid to prevent browning. Place drained slices in an 8- to 10-quart pot. Add 1/2 cup water. Stirring occasionally to prevent burning, heat quickly until tender (5 to 20 minutes, depending on maturity and variety). Press through a sieve or food mill, or skip the pressing step if you prefer chunk-style sauce. Sauce may be packed without sugar. If desired, add 1/8 cup sugar per quart of sauce. Taste and add more, if preferred. Reheat sauce to boiling. Fill jar with hot sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process. Process for 20 minutes if canning pints, 30 minutes for quarts. Cool quickly. Pack in rigid containers. Leave headspace. To serve cold, thaw in wrapping at room temperature. To serve hot, unwrap and heat at 350 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes. Thaw at room temperature.
8 pounds apples
2 cups cider
2 cups vinegar (5 percent acidity)
2-1/4 cups white sugar
2-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
Yield: About 8 to 9 pints
Procedure: Wash, remove stems, quarter and core fruit. Cook slowly in cider and vinegar until soft. Press fruit through a colander, food mill, or strainer. Cook fruit pulp with sugar and spices, stirring frequently. To test for doneness, remove a spoonful and hold it away from steam for two minutes. It is done if the butter remains mounded on the spoon. Another way to determine when the butter is cooked adequately is to spoon a small quantity onto a plate. When a rim of liquid does not separate around the edge of the butter, it is ready for canning. Fill hot apple butter into sterile half-pint or pint jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Quart jars need not be presterilized. Adjust lids and process 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts.