Like many of you, my motivations for canning and preserving are varied. I like the control canning gives me over my food. I like knowing that the food my family eats is high quality and chosen by me, with no unsafe "non-food" surprises lurking in the bottom of the can.
I like the fact that the food I can not only tastes better than the same item purchased at the grocery store, but is healthier than its commercially canned cousin too.
And sometimes food nostalgia drives my canning/preserving. If you grew up in the 1950s or 60s you may fondly remember spiced apple rings. In an age when boxed spaghetti and sauce and brightly colored Cool-Aid (with cyclamates!) were de rigueur, spiced apple rings held a special place, served with Sunday dinner or on special occasions.
Over the years they seem to have fallen out of favor, along with the artificial coloring that made them almost beet-red. But spiced apple rings add the perfect touch to a winter-friendly comfort food meal. The other night I served them with stewed beans and a pasta casserole to rave reviews from the grandchildren. They are also a good accompaniment to chicken cutlets or pork chops. Since fresh apples are still available, winter is the perfect time for this canning project.
Before starting any canning project, it’s always a good idea to brush up on home canning safety tips. Lessons learned at Grandma’s knee might no longer be considered safe. MOTHER EARTH NEWS has published many canning articles that help keep us up-to-date, including the very helpful Home Canning Guide. You can also find a step-by-step water bath canning tutorial on my Seed to Pantry site.
• 5 pounds of 2-1/2-inch diameter apples
• 8 cups water
• 2 tbsp vinegar
• 4-1/2 cups sugar
• 2-1/4 cups water
• 1/3 cup red hot cinnamon candies
• 1/2 cup cider vinegar (5% acidity)
• 1 lemon, sliced
• 1 tbsp whole cloves
• 1 tbsp whole allspice berries
• 1/2 tbsp ground mace
• 5 or 6 pint canning jars
1. Peel and core the apples.
2. Slice into 1/2-inch rings.
3. Add apple rings to a large pot filled with the 8 cups of water and 2 tbsp of vinegar (prevents the apples from browning).
4. In another large pot (6-8 quarts) combine sugar, 2-1/4 cups water, red hot cinnamon candies, cider vinegar, lemon slices, cloves, allspice and mace.
5. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Be sure to stir almost constantly so the sugar doesn't burn. Reduce heat and let simmer 3-5 minutes (the candy should be dissolved by this point). Drain the apple rings and add to the syrup.
6. Gently stir the apple rings into the syrup and simmer for 5 minutes or so. Fill 5-6 clean, hot, pint canning jars with the apple rings. Strain the hot syrup to remove the whole spices and lemon. Pour the strained syrup over the rings leaving 1/2-inch head space. Wipe the jar lips with a moist paper towel, add lids, and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.
7. As you can see the rings are not bright red! Although they will continue to absorb the red coloring as they sit, if you really want the apples to be bright red, add a few drops of red food coloring to the syrup mixture.
If you find the thought of artificially colored candies unpalatable, substitute 4 cinnamon sticks for the cinnamon candies. The rings will not be red, but will have the same warm cinnamon flavor.
Like any pickled product, the apple rings will be better after sitting for 3 weeks. This recipe was adapted from the Heinz Successful Pickling Guide.
Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at Seed to Pantry.
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