When we moved into our house over eight years ago, my husband and I planted a small apple tree. We were new homeowners and knew very little about gardening. We did, however, love the idea of having fresh apples in our back yard. So, when we were at the local hardware store and spotted the cute little dwarf macintosh apple trees all lined up, we had to have one.
Fast forward to the present. Our tiny sapling of a tree is now a full fledged apple tree full of apples. (Granted, it is a dwarf apple tree, so it’s not huge.) They always say that the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago, right? There may be some truth to that saying.
In years past, the apples were very small and rotted or fell to the ground before we ever had a chance to pick them. This year, though, the tree was full of apples. So, on a sunny Saturday morning a few weeks ago, we headed out to the back yard to pick some apples.
I was just hoping for a handful of apples to make a pie, or perhaps an apple crisp. We got to picking and having a good time (the kiddo LOVES to pick apples), and pretty soon we had two giant baskets full of apples. I didn’t weigh them, but I think there were 30 pounds of apples.
The apples aren’t pretty… We don’t spray pesticides or anything else in our yard, so they have some black spots on the skin. Inside, though, they are lovely tart apples for baking.
I made my pie… And, then I made a batch of apple butter. And a batch of apple pie preserves. And an apple crisp. But, I still had apples left. Lots of them.
So, I set out looking for another good recipe for preserving apples. I came across this recipe for Cranberry Apple Jam from Food in Jars. Conveniently, I still had a few bags of frozen cranberries tucked away from my cranberry hoarding last fall. I adore all things cranberry, so I knew I had to give the jam a try.
I ended up throwing in some vanilla beans, adding some spices, and making a batch and a half (did I mention there were a lot of apples?)… I’m so glad I did! The jam is lovely on toast right now, but I know that I will be even more grateful for it when the holidays roll around. It will make a great gift (just add freshly baked biscuits, scones, or bread) and I think it may even stand in for the usual cranberry sauce on the dinner table for Thanksgiving.
Spiced Cranberry Apple Preserves
Yields 7 – 8 pints
(Adapted from Food in Jars)
Vanilla, cinnamon, and cardamom add a special touch to this bright jam. It makes a great gift, but I think you’ll want to save a jar or two for yourself!
- 12 cups peeled and diced tart apples
- 6 cups whole cranberries, thawed if frozen and rinsed
- 9 cups granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups water
- 3 lemons
- 2 vanilla beans
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
Combine the apples, cranberries, sugar, and water in a large pot or dutch oven. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook over high heat for 15 – 20 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, the apples will soften, and the cranberries will pop so that you have a lovely red mixture.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the zest and juice from the lemons. Split the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add both the seeds and the remaining whole beans to the pot. Add the ground cinnamon and cardamom. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the preserves thicken.
Meanwhile, prepare a boiling water canner and keep the jars in hot (but not quite boiling) water until ready to fill. Have lids and bands prepared and ready.
Ladle the jam into the hot jars leaving ½-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims clean and fit each jar with a lid and band. Process for 10 minutes (starting the timer after the water has returned to a boil). Then, turn off the burner and let the jars stand in the canner for an additional 5 minutes before removing from the water. Let the jars rest at room temperature for 24 hours before moving.
First time canning? Be sure to check out these guidelines for boiling water canning! I have done my best to ensure that this recipe is safe for canning, and I used a reputable source. However, it is always important to double check the guidelines to make sure a recipe is safe for canning.