Crab apple delight

img_3599Fall brings a crispness in the air, changing leaves and crab apple pie. Yes, you heard right. Crab apple pie.

I discovered crab apples about three years ago and fell in love with the tartness they offer. I can never look at a regular apple pie the same way again.

Crab apples don’t ripen until around October, depending on the weather that year, and they have a fairly short window in which they are ripe enough to use, but not overripe.

During that time, I am picking and preparing apples in every spare moment I have.
There are four ways I have found to use the apples. My favorite (and the most labor intensive) is for pie filling. This takes a lot of apples and involves a lot of cutting, but it is worth it in the end. img_3646

I also like to make apple sauce and apple butter out of them. This is still work, but a lot easier than the pie filling. You will need a food mill, and if you can recruit an extra pair of hands or two, it speeds things up quite a bit. A side product from the apple sauce and butter is apple juice. You have to boil the apples quite a while to start with to soften them up. Once they are done, simply mix a little sugar into the leftover water to make a great juice.

All of these have the great taste of apples, with the extra bonus of the tart flavor of the crab apples.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Crab Apple Pie Filling
(makes 7 quarts)img_3788

12 pounds apples, washed and cored
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups Clear Jel
1 T. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
5 cups apple juice
2 1/2 cups cold water
3/4 cup lemon juice

Cut sides off of apples, removing seeds and stem. Measure 33 cups. Then in a largeimg_3605 pot (I use a deep fry pan and basket), heat one gallon water to boiling and add one-third to half of apple slices, return to boiling and boil for one minute. Transfer apples to a large bowl, cover. Repeat with remaining apples.  Next, in a large pot, combine sugar, Clear Jel, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in apples, mixing well. Spoon into hot quart jars, leaving one-inch head space. Process in water bath canner 25 minutes.

Crab Apple Sauce/Apple Butter

To prepare apples, wash, remove blossom and stem ends, then cut in half. Do not core. Mix 28 cups of apples and 16 cups of water in large pot, boil for 25 minutes. Strain liquid from the apples and set aside for apple juice. Then put the crab apples back in a pot and add 1/2 cup water for every 2 cups apples. Stir until well mixed and boil 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Put the pulp through a food mill to remove seeds and peels. This pulp is then used for apple sauce and butter.
For apple sauce: Combine 10 cups pulp and two cups sugar. Bring to a boil, then pour in jars and process 15 minutes for pints.
For apple butter: Combine 4 cups pulp, 2 cups sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. cloves in large pot. Boil, about 12 minutes, stirring constantly. To test, drop a bit of the mixture on a cold plate. If it is moulded, the apple butter is ready. Pour into jars and process in boiling water bath for 20 minutes for pints.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.


The wonders of cooking with sage


My kitchen has been filled with the wonderful aroma of drying herbs the past couple of weeks. They just keep growing with this nice weather and I can’t help but try to preserve as many as I can before the first freeze gets them.

One I have an abundance of this year is sage. Each year, my sage comes back bigger and bigger. I’m going to have to cut it back quite a bit before I cover it with hay for the winter this time.

While you can use sage fresh, it has a stronger flavor once it is dehydrated.
Once dried, the options are endless for meals where sage can add a burst of flavor.

With the holidays quickly approaching turkey and dressing keep coming to mind for me. A recent dressing recipe I have been making is Sage Dressing. The sage is a nice, bold flavor in the dressing and a perfect compliment to the turkey.

Sage also is good for breakfast. Occasionally we will make some fried potatoes, with onions, garlic and ham. I always find some herbs to throw in as well, often choosing my old favorite, sage. Just make sure you add the sage in the final few minutes of cooking so it doesn’t get too crispy.

These are just a couple of ways you can use sage. Do you have a favorite sage recipe?

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Sage Dressing
2 14-ounce bags regular bread cubes
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups finely chopped celery
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. thyme
1 1/2 tsp. sage
1 1/1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook one hour on high or five hours on low, stirring often.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Making homemade bread with dill, rosemary


Two delicious herbs to grow are rosemary and dill. They both have a very distinct and strong flavor that is a nice addition to a variety of dishes. One way I enjoy using both of these is for bread.

Nothing smells quite as good as a homemade loaf of bread baking except maybe to add dill or rosemary to it.

I do take a short cut on making bread and use our bread machine. This is such a simple process with the same delicious flavor of homemade. Without it, I’d probably never find time to make my own bread.

You can add as much or as little of the herbs as you want depending on what you like, but here’s the recipe I use.

Add 1/4 cup water, 4 tsp. vegetable oil, 2/3 cup beer, 1 tsp. salt, 2 T. sugar, 2 cups bread flour and 1 tsp. quick rise yeast (in that order) to the bread machine pan. Then for the rosemary bread, sprinkle 2 tsp. ground dried rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley over the top. Set your bread machine and wait. This will make a one-pound loaf of bread. For the dill bread, add 2 T. dried dill weed and 1 tsp. dill seed. The dill bread is great with Sloppy Joes, while the rosemary bread is delicious with a little butter while it’s still warm.

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.

Adding a burst of flavor with basil, parsley butter cubes


Herbs offer a wonderful flavor to any dish. They also make the kitchen smell delightful.
I like to try adding different herbs to dishes each time I make them. A couple of my favorite, and basic, herbs are parsley and basil.

Parsley has a mild taste, that is a nice compliment fresh or dried to most dishes. Basil is a bolder flavor and is good used with other herbs or alone.

The most common recipe that comes to mind for these two ingredients is spaghetti. Add some of each to your tomatoes and other spices for a tasty sauce to pour over your plate of pasta.

A different use for basil is hamburgers. I discovered a recipe for this meal last year when I was looking for something new to do with hamburgers to grill out.

Take one of the cubes of butter and basil you have frozen (this can be done in ice cube trays by filling the squares about half full of basil that has been dipped in boiling water then topping with butter). Put that square in the middle of a hamburger patty, making sure it is surrounded on all sides with hamburger, then place it on the grill until cooked. The cubes melt into the burgers infusing the meat with the delicious taste of the butter and herb.

While you can taste it throughout the burger, the flavor gets more intense in the middle where the cube was placed. You may never go back to regular hamburgers again.

I also found a great dish for parsley that is frozen in butter cubes as well (see recipe). What ideas do you have for these herbs? I’m always looking for new recipes to try

Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!

Chicken Piccato Pasta Toss
(serves 4)

1/2 pound chicken
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cubes butter and parsley
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 shallot
1 T flour
1/4 cup white wine
1 T lemon juice
1 cup chicken broth
handful sun-dried herb tomatoes
1/2 pound pasta

Boil chicken one hour, then shred. Save broth. In skillet, add 1 T. olive oil and butter cubes. Add chopped shallot and cook until cubes melt. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk in wine and cook 1 minute. Whisk lemon juice and broth in, also garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in tomatoes (crumbled up). Let come to a bubble. Add chicken and heat 1-2 minutes. Toss cooked pasta with chicken and sauce. Top with chives.

Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener.
Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at and some will be featured in upcoming columns.