Above: Autumn is the season to enjoy apples in Georgia. There are apple orchards to explore and even an apple festival. Photos by Pixabay.

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is explore the apple orchards in North Georgia. Whether I pick my own apples at Hillcrest Orchards, drink apple cider from Mercier Orchards or devour a fried apple pie from R & A Orchards, it’s sure to be a great visit. These fresh and juicy apples only last a season so preserving them as jams or preserves will keep your apple orchard memories lasting all year long.

Sweet fruit spreads come in many forms and can sometimes get mistaken for each other.

  • Jelly is a semi-solid mixture of fruit juice and sugar that’s clear and firm enough to hold its shape.
  • Jam is less firm than jelly and is made from crushed or chopped fruits and sugar.
  • Jams made from a mixture of fruits are usually called conserves, especially when they include citrus fruits, nuts, raisins or coconut.
  • Preserves are made of small, whole fruits or uniform-size pieces of fruits in a clear, thick, slightly jellied syrup.
  • Marmalades are soft fruit jellies with small pieces of fruit or citrus peel evenly suspended in a transparent jelly.
  • Fruit butters are made from fruit pulp cooked with sugar until thickened to a spreadable consistency.

Canning Basics

All these fruit spreads require the correct combination of four ingredients: fruit, pectin, acid and sugar. Pectin is needed for the fruit to gel. Depending on how much pectin is naturally found in the fruit, more may need to be added.

canned apples pixabayThe recipe instructions will list whether regular, liquid, low/no sugar or instant pectin is needed. Acid is also naturally found in fruit, but lemon juice or citric acid may need to be added as well.

Sugar is the preservative for the product and prevents the growth of microorganisms. It’s important to prepare your canned products by following tested directions from reputable sources such as the United States Department of Agriculture, the University of Georgia Extension or books, such as “So Easy to Preserve” and “The Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving.”

So go ahead and test your skills at canning apple preserves. While you will need to use a mason jar with a two-piece lid, you can get creative by decorating the exterior of the jar with fall themed fabric and twine.

Click for more: Food A is for Apple apple preserves

This article was written and adapted from “So Easy to Preserve,” 6th ed. 2014. Bulletin 989, Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.

Best of the Bushel

Jonagold, Winesap, Rome Beauty and Braeburn are just a few of the seemingly endless variety of eating and cooking apples that come available as the end of the year approaches. Here’s a sampling of the many north Georgia apple orchards that welcome visitors to pick and sample the fruit.

C & C Mountain View Orchard

2984 Mobile Rd., McCaysville 30555

706-492-7753, theciderhousecafe.com

Hillcrest Orchards

9696 GA-52, Ellijay 30536

706-273-3838, hillcrestorchards.net

Mercier Orchards

8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge 30513

706-632-3411, mercier-orchards.com

R & A Orchards

5505 GA-52, Ellijay 30536

706-273-3821, randaorchards.com

Red Apple Barn

3381 Tails Creek Rd./Hwy. 282, Ellijay 30540

706-635-5898, redapplebarn.com

Georgia Apple Festival

You’ll notice that many of the apple orchards are in or near Ellijay, a town that’s about an hour and a half drive from Atlanta — the quickest route starts on I-75, then continues north on I-575. Ellijay is also the home of the Georgia Apple Festival, now in its 47th year.

More than 300 vendors offer hand-crafted items, and several of the artisans demonstrate their crafts onsite. Events include a parade — Oct. 20, beginning at 10 a.m. in downtown Ellijay — and antique car show — Oct. 13 at the Civic Center.

When: October 13 & 14, 20 & 21; Saturdays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sundays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Where: Ellijay Lions Club Fairgrounds, 1729 S. Main St., Ellijay 30540

Cost: Admission is $5 for adults; children under age 10 are free. Parking is available with donations to local civic and school groups; requested donation amounts vary.

More info: 706-636-4500, georgiaapplefestival.org