7 October 2013

Spiced Apple Rings for The Canadian Food Experience Project

Spiced Apple Rings 
It is difficult for us to grasp just how labour intensive preparing food was in the simple kitchens of Canada's early settlers. Cooks throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries had to do everything by hand. Imagine going out into the woods to cut down trees for firewood which then needed to be cut and split and then carried to the kitchen wood box. Fireplaces, and later wood stoves, required constant attention. Refrigeration was provided by cool running springs or a cold box buried in the ground. Bread was made at home. Butter was churned by hand. It makes me exhausted just thinking about it after a weekend of work and fun.

The foods available to Canada's pioneers depended largely on what region of the country they settled in. Years ago I used to follow a more sustainable lifestyle like my own mother and her mother before her. At the end of the growing season we would spend countless hours pickling, boiling, prepping and canning fruits and vegetables for a long Canadian winter. Over the years I have many excuses to no longer do as much canning..in fact my canning is very limited due to lack of time and an aversion to the kitchen in the summer heat. Over the years I have given my jars and canning equipment away thinking I would never can again. A far cry from the years when my counters used to be filled with mustard beans, salsa, canned tomatoes, pickled onions, icicle and dill pickles, pickled beets and the odd fruit jam. The most special treat I would afford myself was a nice canned cherries jubilee or my favourite recipe for blueberries in a simple syrup. I would make it really special with the inclusion of a tablespoon or two (or three) of Grand Marnier or Cointreau. For the holidays I would give these treasures away as gifts until the following year when I would start the process all over again. Christmas baskets were once laden with my efforts.

I was initially drawn to canning and preserving because it produces something that endures – there’s a finished product that you can enjoy over time. My mom taught me the basics but it wasn’t until I grew my own garden or frequented farmers’ markets that I realized I could buy produce in season and make it last throughout the year.

How dull life would be if new ingredients, new ideas for cooking, new dishes and new fashions did not inspire cooks and tempt appetites. The introduction of surprising combinations and new ingredients from around the world has always been a part of cooking. Magazines, cooking columns in newspapers, books and television programs are swift to respond to new ideas, and each new decade has had its favourites. In Canada, the art of cooking -- as well as the art of dining, exemplified in early 20th-century menus and dinner cards -- has inspired a delicious culinary heritage. In spite of the global food market, nothing compares to the fresh taste of local foods. And there’s no better way to safely capture those flavours than home canning.

'Preserving - Our Canadian Food Tradition' was this months challenge in The Canadian Food Experience Project which began in June, 2013. As participants in this project we  have been sharing our collective stories from coast to coast through our regional food experiences on the 7th of each month. Please join us or on Valerie's Facebook Page as we embrace our nation.

This story and the recipe below continues my year long challenge from Valerie of A Canadian Foodie called The Canadian Food Experience Project. Valerie was one of the lucky few who attended the very first Canadian Food Bloggers Conference north of Toronto in April. Her experience inspired her to dig deep within herself, to discover what it meant to be a Canadian in our melting pot of food culture. She has challenged us to find our truly Canadian voice and connect with each other coast to coast through food, stories and experiences. The hope is that we will discover our truly Canadian voice and identity in this diverse country as we share our discoveries. By recounting local experiences such as this we are able to be inspired by the amazingness of other people, the world around us, and a sense of place. You can’t help but come out the other end loving what is unique about yourself. Through this exercise we will find our own individual – not to mention collective – voice.  After a year of discovery we will hear ourselves a little more clearly. 

To discover what it means to be a "food enthusiast" in Canada it is like peeling away the layers of an onion. By methodically removing each layer of the onion, you are able to appreciate the complexities at each level as you eventually reach the core where you can objectively define the answers. When you use a metaphor, such as "peeling away another layer," you visualize a central concept (a heart or core) that is buried within. 

At this moment in time I am getting closer to the central core and defining what it means to be a Canadian in our food culture. I have lived in 4 out of 10 provinces, grew up in a British family where Yorkshire pudding and jello were the norm. My perception of how the melting pot of Canadian cuisine can be defined is muddled. By participating in Valerie's challenge I hope to sharpen my senses and dispel this mental fog.

British Columbia’s southern interior boasts fertile soil and a wonderful climate that facilitates the growth of fruit and an exploding wine industry. This region was ripe for the development of an agricultural sector. With reference to the British Columbian interior this can refer to the tobacco industry, packing houses, canneries, transportation companies, refrigeration companies, amongst other ventures that have all blossomed at one point in time.

The canning industry in the Okanagan can be seen to have existed for about one hundred years. The first significant event occurred in 1892 and this is where the story of the canning industry in the Okanagan begins. The first cannery, Vernon Canning and Jam Co., was established when Lord and Lady Aberdeen purchased property at Coldstream Ranch in that year. The Okanagan’s first cannery was established to produce jam, but never entered production commercially and was eventually purchased by Dominion Canners and then Southern Oksnagan Cannery Ltd. The company initially canned tomatoes under the Alymer brand, but later canned just fruit. There was a terrible fire at the site in 1919 and operations ceased altogether in 1922. There were many other canning companies in the Okanagan which met their demise from Lake Country to Oliver. The Okanagan fruit canning industry reached its zenith in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Thereafter the industry fell away and had dwindled significantly by the mid- 1960s. From my research it is clear that demand for canned products such as those once produced in the Okanagan has disappeared almost entirely by this time.

 In 1937 the Kelowna based Modern Foods was established. The plant processed dehydrated apples, concentrate, juice and vinegar. The Sun Rype brand was established in 1939. The plant was sold to B.C. Fruit Processors (which later became Sun Rype) in 1946. This is the only company that is still in operation today manufacturing fruit juices available across the country and other products.

Home canning is not complicated. It is a simple procedure that applies heat to food in a closed glass jar to interrupt the natural decaying that would otherwise take place. Growing up there was always a side dish of spiced, candied apple rings on my neighbours Thanksgiving table. They were a tradition from her Pennsylvania Dutch background, served on a relish tray alongside sweet pickle chips and cubes of headcheese. The apple rings always had an old-fashioned quality about them, typical of the un-fancy, un-fussy but always delicious dishes in my neighbours legendary Thanksgiving dinners.

I would like to fix just this kind of homey, traditional Thanksgiving feast this year, so the apple rings will be right at home.

I learned this particular recipe at this years Okanagan Food and Wine Writers Workshop from a canning session with B.C. Tree Fruits. They are made by simply simmering cored, sliced apples in a sugar syrup that's been spiced with cloves and, if you wish, dyed red with food colouring. Stack the cooked apple rings on a cinnamon stick in clean, heated canning jars and ladle the hot syrup over them. Close the jars with canning lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath to seal them shut.

**Spiced Apple Rings**
recipe from BC Fruit Growers

6 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups white vinegar
3 cups (preferably bottled) clean water
apples (2-3 per jar)
cinnamon sticks
dry whole spices, such as star anise, cardamom, cloves
lemon juice (to prevent apples from browning)

Special Equipment:

6 x 24 oz (tall asparagus style) jars
6 x 2-piece sealer and ring lids
Apple corer
Jar lifter
Large stockpot with canning rack


COMBINE sugar, vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Be sure sugar has melted, then turn off heat.

WASH and dry apples. Have lemon juice standing by. Cut a thin slice from the top and bottom of each apple, then core the apples.

CUT 4-5 thick horizontal slices from each apple and dip in lemon juice. Put some spices in the bottom of each jar – just 2-3 of each spice. Rebuild apples in the bottle, stacking them so hot liquid can circulate. Insert a cinnamon stick through centre of apples (where the cores used to be.)

STERILIZE jars by cleaning in the dishwasher. Place lids in boiling water to soften the sealer ring.

POUR enough hot sugar/vinegar mixture over apples to completely fill to the rim – no headspace. Gently push down on apples to loosen any air bubbles.

CLEAN jar rims, put hot sealer lid on and screw tight.

PLACE jars in canning pot and bring to a rolling boil for 15 minutes. Add some cool water to the canner at the end, wait 15 minutes then remove jars and allow to cool. Let sit for several weeks before serving.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. That is an interesting recipe! Those pickled apple rings must taste unqiue and delicious.



  2. I love the spices you used for these! Such perfect fall flavors.

  3. sounds delicious thanks!

  4. Love the apple rings. Not only are they beautiful in their jar, they must taste divine. Exhaustive is a great description for the life our of ancestors. My great-grandmother came to the Arkansas Territory as a teen right before the American Civil War. I think of her life often and it helps me appreciate all of the conveniences we have today.

  5. How pretty too..
    I must say I like seeing brollies in orchards etc:)A different look.

  6. I love the idea of these old homey kind of recipes.

  7. Lots of great pictures from that wonderful session with the BC Tree Fruits home economist.

  8. Val, I too think of our ancestors and am in awe when I compare our lives today to the burden of work they endured each day just to survive.
    Thank you for the recipe, and I really enjoyed seeing the photos ~ thank you for sharing.

  9. What a great story - particularly as you learned how to make these rings just this year, but had this connection to the recipe from your childhood! Love it... and can truly relate to the harvest memories... and how you would have very little reason to work so hard to preserve for the winter living alone....

  10. lovely idea and what beaitiful apples Val!!

  11. Val, it's interesting that you mentioned how hard it was to get food on the table in the past. Funny because as I was drying the (huge) pile of dishes it took today to make and eat a simple bowl of pasta, vegetables and a salad I was thinking that very thought. All I had to do is shop at a store and cook a simple meal, yet it was a lot of work to make and clean after, imagine how it was for those people back then. It's all relative, we have it made. Good post, as always.

    1. Thank goodness for a plethora of fresh ingredients available all year round Dina.

  12. What a simple and delicious idea, Val! :-) I grew up canning as well and have laid off considerably in recent years. It is SO much work and I found I really like doing it WITH people, not by myself. :-)

    1. I think if I were to have helping hands I'd be more inclined to can all the wonderful produce as well as share all the bounty.

  13. It seems to me you described our ancestors life here too! How could they live without refrigerators, washing machines, internet???? Hahaha a tough life!
    I love the idea of canning seasonal foods to eat them when you cannot find them in the market :D. Thanks for the recipe Val and huge hugs :D

  14. Love your post, Val. I have vivid memories of my grandmother and mother canning fruit all summer. We lived on a farm and they put up everything from applesauce to sauerkraut. There was no fast food back in those days.

  15. I find this topic fascinating - not only since we are raising multi-cultural children and trying (with them) to get to the root of each separate culture they have inherited - and using food to do that - but as an American, growing up in a melting pot and trying to sift through the mish mash to see what is what and who we really are. So many cultures surround us and sometimes we don't even see them individually, we just take the larger picture for granted. I have followed some of this project on Val's blog and am so fascinated. What an incredible project that thrills me. I have never canned, am sort of afraid to... but I love the idea of these spiced apples!

    1. It is a year of discovery Jamie. I imagine that in many, many ways the American journey is the same. Just as tourtiere and Jiggs dinner are ingrained in our kaleidoscope of culture so is étouffée and red velvet cake part of the culinary journey in the United States.

  16. It's true what you say about the work that went into food prep. Such a different life. GREG

  17. I have recently discovered a love for canning and preserving. I just happen to have a 20lb bag of apples. I think I'll give this a try!!

  18. We definitely have it easier than our ancestors did. :) I don't can as much as I used to, but I still love to make jam and pickle. I want to make these for Thanksgiving- I love spiced apples! These sound so much better than the red ones in jars at the grocery.

  19. Fantastic post, Val. I love the insight's you've shared with us and your apple rings look and sound spectacular. They'd make a perfect accompaniment for Thanksgiving dinner. Have a wonderful. Blessings...Mary

  20. apples might just be my very favorite thing about fall! i like this idea. :)

  21. We have no idea how much work putting food on the table used to be. Your apple rings look lovely.

  22. I so need to get into canning and preserving.
    Val send me some mojo!

  23. How fun, my grandma use to make apples like this! Love your word pictures of "the old days", we are so spoiled now days and yet miss out on some wonderful treasures because of our crazy modern lifestyle.

  24. These look absolutely delicious and I thank you for this recipe.

  25. A wonderfully descriptive and evocative post, Val. I felt like I was back home in Kelowna with my family reading this. Like the oral tradition of our ancestors, you've done much to preserve the essence of what it is like to live in and be from the Okanagan. Thank you.

  26. Even my mother and grandmother did a ton of preserving...from veggies to jam. Chili sauce was a favorite too. I've done very little, jams are about it for me, but I love reading about it. The apple rings look marvelous and easy enough to do.

  27. These look amazing! I bet they are just delicious. Our family did a lot of preserving but we weren't in an apple growing region except for crab apples. We did can the crab apples similarly.


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