apple | brown sugar | canning | caramel | cinnamon | jam | preserved foods | seasonal | syrups & infusions | traditional with a twist | treats | unique | vegan

Caramel apple syrup that wasn’t supposed to be syrup.

October 18, 2011

A.K.A. a canning cautionary tale.

This post is not particularly Halloween-y, but it is very fall-related (the apples, the caramel, whatever & whatnot, etc). Not exactly horror movie stuff. It also does not contain a recipe, just a link to a recipe. Despite all that though, it does contain an important lesson. It’s also pretty funny, so I suggest you read it all; especially if you want a laugh (at my expense, admittedly).

Okay so, I’m far from perfect. Even though I say I am & act like I am most of the time, I’m aware that in reality I am not. I lack patience, I get frustrated easily if things aren’t going 100% smoothly, I can lose interest if it’s not going quickly enough for me and sometimes, just sometimes… I get distracted by pets/music/television/my iPhone/Jay/my reflection in the microwave/a mug of delicious coffee/shiny objects, etc. I admit this. But how could this sleeping cuteness not distract me, I ask you?

Also, I don’t know everything. I know that. Despite acting as if I am in fact the smartest person alive, I know there are things I don’t know. So yeah, I’m aware I’m not all-knowing and I am not perfect. And you should know that, too. If you’re coming here looking for perfection, or someone who’s all-knowing… keep on clicking, ’cause that person doesn’t blog here. The person who blogs here is a rebellious, at times indifferent, at times rushed, at times ill-prepared person who just so happens to love baking, cooking, canning, preserving, and all things culinary in terms of it being a “hobby”, or much-beloved stress reliever (although I will not deny the fact I’d love my own bakery, I’m aware of the difficulties & realities of it). I am not a chef, I was never trained at a Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, I have no excuse for why I think I should have a blog like this. I just know what I love to do, and as far as baking goes (and cooking, too, but that’s pretty easy)- I’m pretty fucking awesome. I rock hard at cupcakes, my ice creams are phenomenal, my stuffed shells/lasagna/macaroni & cheese dishes are legendary, my risotto is never gummy & my frosting skill cannot be beaten. I’ve made homemade pasta without a machine that was perfection. All that, I can do in my sleep.

Canning… I’m new at. Relatively. I only started in July, so I can hardly be called anything but a newbie. I knew that my first few amazing attempts at canning would be marred by an epic failure. I’ve made amazing pickles, awesome jams, fantastic preserves, much-requested marmalades, super jellies, etc. So I knew that nobody could have that much good luck when first beginning anything. The bottom had to fall out, the other shoe had to drop, all those cliches. I knew I’d probably end up with moldy pickles or a watery jelly at some point. Except I really did end up lucking out this time, even with my “failure”- turns out, caramel apple syrup that was supposed to be a caramel apple jam isn’t so bad after all.

Cute little mistake…

See this is what happened: I found a recipe I wanted to make, and obviously given this time of year, I had a bunch of apples; particularly some firm but soft-spot apples (two Granny Smith, two Gala, and one who’s sticker came off so I have no idea) that I wanted to use up and of course, there were a few sad, empty Ball® jars looking lonely. So I said, “Self, we’re going to make this nice, fall-like recipe known as caramel apple jam.” Apparently, myself and my “self” were not on the same page. I was doing about 300 other things at the same time- washing apples, peeling apples, coring apples, dicing apples, sterilizing jars & lids, measuring spices, finding the brown sugar, drinking coffee, talking on the phone, texting, watching Dr. Phil (okay that last one is a lie, I swear). And I ended up throwing these things in the pot and cooking ’em up and then plopping them in the jars & sealing them, only to realize, as they were processing in a water bath… that I did not add the pectin.


Do you realize what I just wrote? Yes, I understand that sour apples that are not too ripe naturally have enough pectin to make jam. I know that, I’ve read the books & websites. And I know non-sour, not-ripe apples have decent amounts of pectin anyway. But I didn’t let them cook long enough to take advantage of that, because I cooked them as though I did add the pectin. Not only that, but I thought I’d like a chunkier jam, so I left the apples for the most part in chunks, which didn’t cook down much, leaving even less pectin in the mix.

See the dilemma? No? Okay, maybe this will explain it. Or maybe this post where I kinda went into detail about pectin. See now? Yeah. I messed up.

Anyway, after smacking my forehead with my palm, I decided to finish processing the two jars, since I figured even if they didn’t work out at all, it was only two jars, but maybe I could salvage it and use it as a syrup, not a jam. You know, an ice cream, pancake or pound cake topping as opposed to a scone or bread topping. And I believe it worked. They seemed very runny at first, almost watery… which made me a bit nervous. But after sitting & cooling in a dark place for a week or so, it seemed to thicken a little. Not quite a chocolate fudge or caramel consistency, but more a maple syrup consistency. The seals were fine, everything was good, so why not market it as a syrup?

All dressed up, labeled, & lookin’ gooood… as if I totally meant to do that!

Sure, I could have pretended this was all intentional when I wrote this blog post. But I’m going to be honest with you all because that’s how you learn- from mistakes, right? So anyway, they processed perfectly, were sealed, and they got a bit thicker each passing day (although not to jam thickness, obviously), not to mention it looked pretty awesome in the jars. I remembered the advice I gave in my marmalade post, about using it even if it doesn’t set, so I said screw it! I called them ‘caramel apple syrup’, I made some pretty labels, hyped them up a bit (“It’s fantastic on pancakes or waffles! Believe me!”) and I gave my dad one of the jars, using him as a guinea pig. Despite him balking at first (“I don’t know if I’ll ever eat this…” “Don’t waste it on me” “What am I going to have this with?”) he decided to crack it open not even two hours after getting it. And boy, did he rave about it. He had it with a hamsteak, but he agreed it’d be perfect on pancakes not to mention on ice cream or even biscuits. Like I said, he called it “Apple pie in a jar.” He never actually got the chance to have it in pancakes or waffles… because he started eating it right out of the jar! I swear. He then finished it & started harassing me about making more! MAKING MORE OF WHAT WAS A MISTAKE TO BEGIN WITH, MIND YOU.

And you want to know something? It thickened a lot more in his fridge, as these things are wont to do. So yet another serving option is to just throw it into some of those pre-made pie shells, et voilà. Little apple pies. Or… use Pillsbury croissants and fold ’em up into little turnovers with this as the filling.

It does look pretty, too, I have to admit.

I have learned from this, believe me. No need for lectures or lessons. I know, I know. But the basic concept is that sometimes mistakes aren’t really all that bad. Yes, you should pay attention. Yes you should be careful. And if you’re preserving fruits or veggies that are low acid & you accidentally skip the lemon juice or “acid” when making a jam or jelly, the entire batch should not be eaten and it should be remade, this I know. But just like way back in the day, when my cupcakery was in it’s infancy… I learned to pay more attention when I put a batch of cupcakes in the oven without adding the eggs, this incident will make me doubly careful from now on. I reassured myself by saying “Before you know it, I’ll be canning blindfolded just like I can bake & frost cupcakes or make risotto or macaroni & cheese blindfolded.” Which I pretty much can do right about now. This was just a stupid mistake. But as far as mistakes go, this one was a really good mistake to make. Of all the canning horror stories out there, this certainly is not one of them. Caramel apple syrup, a mistake? Hell no.

Anyway, since October is National Apple Month, get yourself some apples & start making some caramel apple jam. Alternately, as you’ve learned here, make some amazing caramel apple syrup by taking this recipe & omitting the pectin. This (or it’s originally intended ‘jam’ form) would be an amazing Thanksgiving hostess gift, as well. You could also wait a few days & see my next (and much easier) apple-related recipe…

Or you could just eat the damn apple.

When the Romans conquered Britain they brought with them the apple tree. The apple was representative of the goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. She was known for her great beauty and fertility. Romans, although conquerors, were accepting of other cultures and soon accepted Celtic beliefs and the Samhain festival. The two were blended together and the apple became part of the harvest celebration that would become Halloween.

Because Pomona was a fertility goddess and because the Celts believed that the pentagram was a fertility symbol and when an apple is sliced in half the seeds form a pentagram it is natural that they believed the apple could be used to determine marriages during this magical time of year. From this belief comes the game bobbing for apples. During the annual celebration young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.

While the apple may or may not have had any ability to predict the future it brought people together from distant farms and villages who may otherwise have never had contact with others outside their own families. This was very important as most people did not live through their childhoods. Marriage and fertility were extremely important. Without children there would be nobody to carry on your genes. If you didn’t have a large supply of children there wouldn’t be enough labor to survive. In this respect bobbing for apples wasn’t just a game but a matter of life or death.

-source The Haunted Bay


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