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I LOVE fresh pressed apple cider. The sweet full flavor of undiluted apple cider, with nothing but natural flavor! I think it is one of my favorite things in the whole world. Right up there with pizza, and chocolate. And it is one of the things that helps my kidneys and liver function better when I get over-toxed by fragrances or chemicals.
So I got 10 lbs of apples. I do not have a real apple press, I have only a little centrifuge juicer, ironically and rather sadly named "Little Giant", because while it IS little, it is in no way a Giant. It was made to make a cup of juice in the morning, with no thought to the fact that the little beast is pretty difficult to clean for just one glass of juice! So I wear it out juicing 10 or 20 lbs of apples at a time, emptying the cup every two lbs, and scraping out the built-up pulp every four lbs. It is a slow task if you have a lot to do.
The PULP. All that pulp. Not quite devoid of juice, because the juicer, like all constant feed centrifuge juicers, spits out a stream of pulpy juice over here, and glops of juicy pulp over there. Not as efficient as it could be, by any means.
Still, it is all I have, and all I am likely to have until I can possibly afford the $250 juicer I REALLY want.
It bothered me so much, all that waste. Maybe it would not have if I had a REAL juicer that really extracted all the juice and left behind a sort of sawdusty stuff that smelled faintly of apples. But this pulp in this juicer was too much to be comfortable tossing to the chickens, the apples just cost too much for that.
So I came up with a plan.
The peels and seeds, and bits of sharp core, that pass through the juicer when you run apples whole, prevent me using the pulp for any kind of people food. So I determined that I MUST peel and core the apples first. It is more work, but if I can get an extra batch of food from it for the effort, then it is worth it! Let the chickens and the rabbits have the cores and peels! They enjoy them. I do not!
So I peeled and cored the next batch of apples, determined that I would make something of the resulting pulp. The juice was, as always sublime. Enough to last me a few days. It wasn't enough to can it. But it sure was good!
The pulp comes out with a few thin slices of apple in it, here and there, but it is mostly a fine pulp. Kind of smooth and finely mushy in texture. And utterly flavorless. So whatever I did, I was going to have to add some FLAVOR.
First, I tried making apple butter from it. To do that, I had to add a LOT of water to it, to get it stirrable, so it could cook down - it was simply too thick to do so without burning otherwise. The key to a really good apple butter isn't in the seasonings or the sugar, it is in letting it cook down and carmelize to a nice dark color. THEN you add the cinnamon and nutmeg, and THEN you add the sugar, and then it jells and is the most amazing flavored stuff in the world!
Once the juicing pulp had cooked down and darkened, I tried just adding vanilla and cinnamon and sugar, figuring the vanilla might help spark the flavor some. But the lack of apple flavor in it caused the vanilla to sort of get lost. It was sweet, and you could taste the cinnamon, but not the apple. It was the least impressive apple butter I've ever made. I think a little lemon juice would possibly perk it up, or maybe some apple juice concentrate, but that seems rather contradictory since I already removed the juice, and want to use it without having to put it back! Lemon juice will likely be the best I can do.
I have concluded, after two tries, that apple butter made from the pulp from juicing is always going to be pathetic. A mere shadow of the rich apple butteriness that whole apples produce.
So I had to find another way to use them! And I have finally found it!
I stirred a little sugar into the pulp, along with a good amount of good quality cinnamon. Then I added a dollop of vanilla. The funny thing is, I started exactly the same way, but this, this was different, and it worked. I wanted a little lemon juice, to perk it up a bit, but did not have any, and I thought the lime juice that I DID have might have a bit too much of its own personality to work well, so I left it out.
Parchment paper went onto the trays of my food dehydrator. (Tinfoil, teflon sheets, fruit roll trays, or anything else like that, would also work - just make sure you leave room for air circulation around the edges of it when you put it on the tray.)
The glop (there really is no other word for the darkening mass) was spread in rough rectangles onto the parchment paper. I spread it about 1/8" thick. It is fairly stiff, so it really has to be mashed down to spread it.
Dried that for about 8 hours - the new dehydrator is fast, and by the end of that time, which ended in the middle of the night, it was pretty dry. The next morning I fired it up again for about 2 hours to make sure it was dry, and to soften it a bit so it was easier to remove from the trays.
Apple leather. The flavor is mild, but it is sweetly cinnamon and fragrantly vanilla. I still think that a splash of lemon juice - just a splash! would brighten the flavor and intensify it a bit. But this worked!
Where the butter ended up just being LAME, the leather concentrated all the flavors more, and the cinnamon and vanilla carried it nicely.
This time, when peeling and coring the apples, I separated the peels and the cores. I really don't know why it never occurred to me to do that before - perhaps because we were feeding the peels to the rabbits, and the cores to the chickens, I just never thought of doing anything more with the peels. But this time I separated them out.
The peels were also put onto the dryer trays, and I dried them along with the leather. I will store those for rabbit fruit for the rest of the winter. But it occurred to me that I could make them into a treat also.
Next time, I'll sprinkle the peels with cinnamon and sugar before I put them in the dehydrator. Hubs will eat them - he likes cinnamon and sugar, and was actually snitching apple peels from the tray as I was prepping them to dry them. If I give him an excuse, he will eat them after they are dried also.
I know a lot of people who make apple scrap vinegar, but this has never appealed to me (I may have to do it anyway, due to a lack of apples).
For one thing, it isn't REAL apple cider vinegar, it is just a watered down second rate version. It ISN'T in fact "historic" at all, but something invented in more recent times by people who no longer press cider, and for whom fresh unpasteurized cider is something never seen. Real apple cider vinegar was the result of massive cider pressings in the fall, and the cider was stored in barrels where it became progressively harder through several months, then gradually converted to vinegar. Apple cider vinegar was the inevitable result from the hard cider that had not been used quickly enough, which had gone to vinegar by late winter or early spring (depending on temps). It is deeper, richer, and a lot more acidic. I like what is genuine.
I have never made apple scrap vinegar and don't really want to. But I understand why people do. It is what they CAN do, and may end up being all I can do also. But you only need so much vinegar. Even if you are making pickles each year, you still only need a few gallons. There are a lot more apple scraps than what you need for that if you are making applesauce, butter, jelly, pie filling, canned apples, spiced apples, and apple juice!
So then there is apple scrap jelly. Really all you are doing is extracting the juice from the scraps. Cooking them in water until you have a really watered down juice, and then evaporating the water until you have some juice around the scraps. Strain and press out the rest, and toss the pulp to the chickens.
(The chickens sure are getting the short end of the stick here! With each level of frugality, the chickens end up with less and less. When we must though, we must.)
But you also only need so much jelly, and jelly requries pectin (which is expensive if you buy it), because apple scrap jelly, in spite of the high concentration of natural pectin from the peels, still has insufficient pectin to jell without some added pectin. It will candy, but it generally won't jell. (Apple jelly was traditionally made from crab apples, which ARE high in pectin.)
So you COULD also make candy. Just leave out the pectin, add a LOT of sugar (as much sugar as you have juice, once the juice tastes like juice and not like watery juice), and cook it down until it reaches a hard crack stage. Then pour it out into molds, or flat and cut it while it is still barely warm (with a buttered knife). A little cinnamon would probably make it more flavorful.
In between the juice and candy stage, you get syrup. So if you want apple syrup (which you can substitute for honey), you start it just like candy, but cook it to just less than a soft ball stage - to the point where if you drop some on a cold plate, it will only run slowly when the plate is tipped. You know what pancake syrup does on a plate - THAT!
This fall when we were processing apples, we had days when we had buckets full of apple scraps, which went to the animals - far more than they could eat right away. By preserving some of this, they don't get overloaded on them one week, with none for months to follow.
Next year, I'll be doing secondary processing on more of the apples, as long as I have the energy and equipment available to do it (this year I ran out of crock pots!). I'm also going to experiment with more ways to use the scraps, to make them into either tasty bits for us to use, or into stored feed for our animals.
Please email us with your tricks for using apple scraps, and I'll add them here if they are something that would appeal to other people!
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