Posted in Book Lovers Community

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm

No talent is wholly wasted unless its owner chooses to hide it in a napkin.

In 1868, Louisa May Alcott published her most famous novel, Little Women, featuring four sisters and their varied experiences of growing into womanhood. The next year she published another beautiful story of the same ilk. An Old Fashioned Girl seemed to me to be one of the first great American coming-of-age stories for wholesome girls. Very different from Little Women, it was, in my opinion, almost more interesting.

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In 1903, Kate Douglas Wiggin published a story that would build on that kind of old-fashioned girl power and contribute to a great standard for stories of its kind. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is a lively, moral, creative, and enchanting story about a little girl whose irrepressible good nature gets her into scrapes that are both funny and relatable. Rebecca Rowena Randall is larger than life and absolutely darling.

At this moment the thought gradually permeated Mr. Jeremiah Cobb’s slow-moving mind that the bird perched by his side was a bird of very different feather from those to which he was accustomed in his daily drives.

While reading Rebecca for the first time last year I was struck by how much Wiggin’s style reminded me of Alcott, but her characters reminded me of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s. Rebecca opens with a journey that features a tenderhearted but practically mute old soul and a gregarious little lady who speaks in dreams and poetry. Sound familiar? It was not the first time that I was instantly reminded of the Anne of Green Gables.

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Throughout this story, I had to remind myself that this was set in the American Northeast and not on Prince Edward Island. I also had to convince myself that precocious and cheerful Rebecca was not Anne Shirley (1908), Jerusha (Judy) Abbot (1912), nor Eleanor H. Porter’s Pollyanna (1913). Rebecca predates them all and I cannot escape the suspicion that she may have had a hand in inspiring those other iconic young heroines.

If you happen to be feeling that your faults are too numerous to overcome, rejoice that you have a few warm little faults and be glad you aren’t burdened with an over abundance of chilly virtues.

Like those other worthy stories for girls (and their brothers), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is not only a joy to read, but is also filled with nourishing goodness for readers young and old. Like any great heroine, Rebecca has the right kind of heart but makes a lot of mistakes in learning to use it properly. Like Anne Shirley and Judy Abbot, Rebecca is an aspiring writer who is dependent on the sponsorship of outside benefactors. Like Pollyanna, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm tackles Victorian ideas about the role of children in society, and their ability to bring meaningful, positive change into the lives of their neighbors.

The brimming glass that overflows its own rim moistens the earth about it.

I would recommend Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm to older elementary school-aged listeners and late middle school independent readers. It is utterly wholesome, but probably won’t be terribly interesting to the youngest listeners. The audiobook with Barbara Caruso is wonderful to listen to. Sadly, the Shirley Temple movie is radically different and really ought not to bear the same name.

I would consider this book a “must have” for any good family library. It can be shelved right between Alcott and Montgomery. Because the story covers several years worth of Rebecca’s life, it really is a coming-of-age story. As Rebecca matures, the situations around her also mature. As in Little Women and the early Anne books, readers will walk with Rebecca through loss, some small suffering, and some challenging decisions. As in Pollyanna, Rebecca’s resilient optimism is central to her winning the respect of those who need her love just as much as she needs theirs. Similarly to Daddy Long Legs, Rebecca’s path is made easier because of a mysterious benefactor who ultimately becomes more than just a donor.

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Fancy the job of finding a real mind; of dropping seed in a soil so warm, so fertile, that one knows there are sure to be foliage, blossoms, and fruit all in good time.

This is my favorite copy of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm – it is out of print but the color plates make it worth the effort to find. This is my daughter’s favorite copy of Rebecca.

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Posted in Book Lovers Community

The Princess Bride

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In 1973 William Goldman penned a quirky but endearing story about a beautiful princess, a mysterious pirate, a lovable giant, a Spanish swordsman, a cunning Sicilian, a six-fingered villain, a duplicitous prince, and an out-of-work miracle man. Perhaps a little bit like A.A.  Milne’s Once On A Time, The Princess Bride is tough to categorize or even describe. It is a romance. It is a fantasy. It is an adventure story. And, notably, it is a comedy.

Typically in our reviews, we try to capture the essence of a story and highlight its merits while also drawing attention to things that readers may wish to know in advance of reading. In this review, however, we are going to cover slightly different ground. We are going to assume that most readers have, at least, a passing knowledge of The Princess Bride either from the movie or from the book. We are going to assume that readers know that it is a bit of a spoof on a fairy tale. Instead of focusing on plot points or story arc, we are going to focus on format, family friendliness, and the abridgement joke.  

Let’s walk through the timeline because it matters:

1973 Book

In 1973 William Goldman authored an entirely new story called The Princess Bride. In it, Goldman alleges that the story between the covers is an abridgement of an old story that his father told to him many years ago. This is a literary device. Goldman is making his first great joke on this wild adventure that we are about to go on. Stretching the joke a bit, Goldman explains that when he was a child, his father read to him from an old Floriense satire. When Goldman wants to revisit the story as an adult, he realizes that his father edited the story, reading “only the good parts” and leaving out hundreds of pages of “boring parts.” Again, this is just all part of his joke. There is no abridgement. Also included in this original introduction, Goldman includes fictional biographical details about himself. In essence he wrote himself into the cast of characters.

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Throughout the book, Goldman is really telling two stories. The Princess Bride and his own fictional creation of the “abridgement.” The main text of The Princess Bride is printed in regular font while the “abridgement notes” are in italics. So, while we are getting caught up in the romance between Buttercup and Westley, we are constantly being interrupted with funny details about Goldman’s fictional life and fictional struggles to abridge this old text.

1987 Movie

In 1987, after multiple failed attempts, inconceivably, The Princess Bride made it to the big screen. The funny, romantic, and sweet medieval adventure was at best a modest success. Most involved with it, however, considered it a bit of a failure. It didn’t receive the critical success that they were hoping for and it was misunderstood by audiences. In his memoir As You Wish, Carey Elwes attributes some of the “failure” to a terrible movie poster which only furthered the confusion about what the film was really about.

A funny thing happened in 1988. Movie rental stores could not keep the movie on their shelves. Not only was it being constantly checked out, it was being re-checked out. According to Carey, it became a cult favorite which radically increased its fan base. As the movie gained traction, it gained acclaim. Significantly, it became a family film that could be enjoyed at nearly all ages and stages. In recent decades, children of the original cult have initiated their children into the story, making it even more of a cultural icon.

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As the movie became a sensation, the book re-emerged onto the scene. Moviegoers wanted to read the book and many anniversary printings with extras were ordered. My copy is the beautiful 30th Anniversary printing. In it, I have a second introduction which takes the abridgement joke even farther. Sadly, I also have the “Buttercup’s Baby” sample chapter. (I will explain why I say “sadly” further on.)

2003 Audiobook

In 2003, Rob Reiner recorded an abridged audio version of the story for Phoenix Books. And when I say “abridged” this time, it really is abridged. The audiobook run time is only 2 hours and 34 minutes which is a super thin retelling of the 496 page book.

Family Friendliness

To answer the extremely important question about how family friendly The Princess Bride is, we have to break it into its parts. The movie is delightful and 99% wholesome. There is the famous line about perfect breasts, but for the most part it is a cringe-free family movie. It may have some slight curse words, but I don’t remember hearing them. If you are concerned, do preview it ahead of time.

The book is another story entirely. There are two ways to read the book: an edited way or the regular way. If you plan to hand the book to a child or do it for a family read aloud, be warned that the introductions have some provocative material in them. Goldman’s character is flirting with a “hot” actress while he is “happily” married, and that scene is far longer and more detailed than it needs to be. There are quite a few other undesirable bits in it as well. While some parts of the introduction are really very funny, other parts are just plain uncomfortable.

In the interest of family friendliness, I would skip the introductions and ALL of the Goldman commentary throughout the story (or keep in any parts you like and eliminate those you don’t).

Additionally, “Buttercup’s Baby” is awful in every way. It has an uncomfortable conversation between Westley and Buttercup about how they are going to lie together in bed so as to further their romance. (Keep in mind, she is technically married to Prince Humperdink). The labor and delivery of Buttercup’s baby is ridiculous and far more detailed than any reader needs. The flashback scene for Inigo is out of place and more than a little suggestive. At the end of the day, no one really wants to hear how Fezzik delivers a baby by c-section. Or how Fezzik dies. No one really wants to know about Inigo’s romantic fantasies. And, for a guy who just won the day, Westley says very little and isn’t good for all that much. It is just bad writing and in very bad taste. Frankly, I might even cut the pages out of my book.

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Another option for making it family friendly would be to get the audiobook. Rob Reiner reads it beautifully. Preview it first to determine its appropriateness to your family values but know that it is mostly just the parts that made it into the movie.

Goldman claims that he wrote The Princess Bride for his real life daughters who wanted a story about princesses and brides. The story that he crafted for his daughters is one that many of us would enjoy sharing with our children. The story that he crafted for himself is one that I regret having to read. For my family, I am willing to watch the movie again and again with my children. I am also willing to do the read aloud by only reading the fairy tale portions. I will likely turn my older kids loose on the audiobook at some point. The introductions, adult narrative and “Buttercup’s Baby” are simply not good food for anyone in my house.

Posted in Book Lovers Community

Brideshead Revisited

“Read and re-read. Re-reading we always find a new book.” ~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, “On Stories” (1947)

I have always been a big fan of re-reading. While most good books can support many readings, certain excellent books almost seem to require multiple readings before the reader can claim to really understand what the text is trying to say. Brideshead Revisited is one of those books.

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I first read Brideshead Revisited just over a year ago. On my first reading, I was overcome with a sense of sadness. I thought that I understood the book, but I couldn’t understand why so many well respected critics and authors consider it extraordinary. On my first reading I thought that it was what would happen if you put The Great Gatsby, Downton Abbey, and just about anything from Flannery O’Connor into a blender and pulsed until well mixed. I despise The Great Gatsby. I love Downton Abbey. I respect and admire Flannery O’Connor greatly. But I was still baffled by why Evelyn Waugh was considered “so good.” The second reading changed all of that for me.

“The re-reader is looking not for actual surprises (which can come only once) but for a certain surprisingness… It is the quality of unexpectedness, not the fact that delights us. It is even better the second time…in literature we do not enjoy a story fully at the first reading. Not till the curiosity, the sheer narrative lust, has been given its sop and laid asleep, are we at leisure to savour the real beauties. Til then, it is like wasting great wine on a ravenous natural thirst which merely wants cold wetness. The children understand this well when they ask for the same story over and over again, and in the same words. They want to have again the “surprise” of discovering that what seemed Little-Red-Riding-Hood’s grandmother is really the wolf. It is better when you know it is coming: free from the shock of actual surprise you can attend better to the intrinsic surprisingness of the peripeteia.” ~C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories, “On Stories” (1947)

It is mid-October in Wisconsin as I write this. The weather has been gorgeous and we have had some stunning color in the leaves this fall. On a recent sabbath afternoon we went to the Green Bay Wildlife Sanctuary for a five mile hike. It was incredible and I was taking pictures the whole time. I found the hike to be enchanting and everything was a new discovery. A few days later my husband had some time off from work so we went back. This time we knew exactly where we wanted to walk. I knew which photos I wanted to take. The second walk gave me the time to really notice things and study the detail.

On our first hike, we noticed that everyone was feeding the geese and the ducks, but we didn’t consider it all that special. On our second hike, however, we stopped to buy cracked corn and we spent more than an hour feeding the birds and getting lost in the magic of it. I got pictures of these personable, tame fowl eating out of our hands, and I took videos of the kids playing with them. I saw the personality of certain geese that was lost on me the first time. I even found one delightful goose with a broken wing who had totally escaped my notice a few days before.

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My second reading of Brideshead Revisited was just like this. Because I knew what would be there, and I had a sense of how I was going to walk through the paths, I was able to slow down, and I was able to notice the details. On the second reading I heard Charles’ voice differently. I caught the meaning of his asides. I saw Sebastian not as a teddy bear carrying freak, but as a frustrated soft soul who was terribly lost. I saw Julia not as an ice queen, but as Lady Mary from Downton Abbey in some striking ways. What had been a strange, interesting, but depressing post-modern tome had become a gorgeous exploration of vocation and faith.

“Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” – Carl Jung

This is the book about the Good Friday in our lives. Through Charles, Sebastian, Julia, and Lord Marchmain, we see what happens when we choose to remain locked into the attitude of Good Friday, and resist the mercy and graces that Easter pours out on us. In Brideshead Revisited, we get lost in the plot and forget that Easter will come rushing in whether “bidden or not bidden”. And as Easter redemption arrives in the hearts of each character, it presents itself as unsettling and wildly disruptive. One by one, each character finds his way, but never by the same path as another, and never without a war within himself.

“Lady Marchmain, no I am not on her side; but God is, who suffers fools gladly; and the book is about God.” – Eveyln Waugh to Nancy Mitford 1945

The first time I read this book, it was unsatisfying but good. The second time I read this book, I fell in love. I understand that this book still may be a bit of an acquired taste, but I am confident that it is a true book. Evelyn Waugh recoiled at comparisons between him and Flannery O’Connor, but I think they share a certain way of seeing the world. While the manners of Waugh’s characters are more sophisticated than those of O’Connor’s, they accomplish the same goal. When examined closely, both sets of characters reveal things to us about ourselves that we would prefer to ignore.

I think that to understand this book, we need to believe that like real life, characters in well told stories only show us a part of themselves. It is our job as readers to color in the rest.

“Yes I know what you mean, he is dim, but then he is telling the story and it is not his story… I think the crucial question is: does Julia’s love for him seem real or is he so dim that it falls flat; if the latter, the book fails plainly.” – Eveyln Waugh to Nancy Mitford 1945

On my first reading, no. I did not think that Julia’s love for Charles ever felt real or substantial. On my second reading, absolutely. And his for her. On the second reading, I could see how, from the very start, this was always about their love for each other. Maybe this is why this reminds me so acutely of Downton Abbey. There seems to me to be so much Matthew and Mary in this.

“Brideshead and Cordelia are both fervent Catholics; he’s miserable, she’s bird-happy. Julia and I are half-heathen; I am happy, I rather think Julia isn’t; mummy is popularly believed to be a saint and papa is excommunicated – and I wouldn’t know which of them is happy. Anyway, however you look at it, happiness doesn’t seem to have much to do with it, and that’s all I want…” -Sebastian to Charles, Book 1 – Chapter 4

Early in the text, Waugh has Lady Marchmain read aloud a story from Chesterton’s Father Brown. Much later in the story, Cordelia recalls that reading of Chesterton and this part specifically: “I caught him… with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread.” I think that in Brideshead we see that God, who suffers fools gladly, has a hook in all of us. In His way, He twitches the thread to draw us back to Him. Waugh beautifully recounts how God has twitched the thread in the lives of each of these characters and then explores the consequences of how their free will responds to that twitch.

This book is so much more substantial than I originally thought. It is hard to review without being specific about spoilers. But, as Waugh says, this is about God. A patient and invested God who loves us despite our free will and efforts to run away. In his essay on George MacDonald, Chesterton paraphrased MacDonald to say, “God is easy to please and hard to satisfy.” I think that Waugh, a lover of Chesterton, was hitting that note throughout this book.

Some friends and I set up a tiny Facebook group to discuss Brideshead Revisited. If you decide to read and want some company, feel free to join in the conversation. You can find it here.

I have this in several spines and well as audio. While I love my vintage spine best, this one has the best formatting. The audio is narrated by Jeremy Irons and is… incomparable. The BBC mini series starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews is classically BBC – a very fair retelling done beautifully.  The newer movie is prettier, but moodier and less true to the story. In fact, I think that the movie misunderstands the book a bit. I hate saying that because I love the cast and Emma Thompson in particular.

 

Posted in Book Lovers Community

The Princess and the Goblin

“I propose to speak about fairy-stories, though I am aware that this is a rash adventure. Faërie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-stories

In The Princess and the Goblin, George MacDonald treats us to a rich imaginative adventure. Like Bilbo Baggins, however, we must be a bit uncomfortable to get the most out of it. This little tale is incredibly sophisticated, and to understand it best we must become little children again.

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“…a little princess living in a castle in the mountains which is perpetually undermined, so to speak, by subterranean demons who sometimes come up through the cellars.” – GK Chesterton, George MacDonald 1929 (This affiliate link will take you to a collection of essays by Chesterton – the MacDonald essay is included in that publication.)

As adults, we have learned too much to really understand the magic of true fairy tales. When Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, I believe that one of His meanings was that we must shed our worldly prejudices and return to child-like faith and innocence. In Princess, this is especially true, for us and for Princess Irene. In Princess, childish wonder and awe are absolutely requisite for us to really “see” Grandmother. Even if she seems unsafe, remember that Aslan is not a tame lion and that Gandalf afflicted the comfortable hobbits to awaken their desire for what is the true good.

C.S. Lewis said that George MacDonald baptized his imagination. In The Great Divorce, Lewis wrote MacDonald in as the ambassador from heaven. In his own writing and in Lewis’s treatment of him, I think that MacDonald has a gift for drawing back the veil between the spiritual world and the material world. It would be terrifying for us mere mortals to look on real angels and demons, and so, in the world of Faerie, they are disguised as goblins, fairies, elves, dwarfs, princesses and godmothers. This makes them accessible to us in a guise that we can tolerate.

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In the opening lines of Princess, MacDonald tells us that Princess Irene is eight years old but will become “much older.” On a rainy day, Irene sneaks out of her royal rooms and explores her old country castle only to  discover a really old grandmother in a hidden room. Irene immediately loves the old woman and trusts her. Most children share in Irene’s faith. Adult readers, however, are skeptical and uneasy with this mysterious creature. What is magical and fairy-like to children, is dark and witch-like to parents.

“The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-stories

Irene tells her nursemaid all about her newly discovered grandmother, only to not be believed. When Grandmother explains to Irene why the nurse cannot come to her room, we understand that it is because the nurse is not capable of belief. She has not been called up to the special hidden room because the old woman only reveals herself to those will see and believe. Further, Grandmother tells Irene that she will be challenged in the days to come and that she will be tempted to think that all of this was just a dream. Grandmother promises that she will do all in her power to help Irene truly believe, but that ultimately the princess must choose of her own free will to persist in her belief. As readers, and readers of Narnia in particular, we hope that she is not like Susan Pevensie, and that she has not grown so old that she cannot grow young again.

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Readers of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien will delight in exploring the archetypes and source material for Narnia and Middle Earth in this robust little story. If we have eyes to see, we will see the parentage of Gandalf and Aslan in Grandmother. We will see that Grandmother is not tame and that she can’t be found when she doesn’t want to be. If we rightly understand the goblins as Curdie does, we will see Gollum in them. We will see those bitter and dark creatures as something that used to resemble humans before they went underground. If we wonder at the thread that Grandmother has spun for Irene and Curdie, we will notice how it resembles the rope of Galadriel and how it gives rescue and a way home to those who are lost and blind. If we listen to Curdie’s rhymes, we will be reminded of Bilbo and Gollum’s game, and we will know that both scenes are borrowed from Beowulf.

“I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality’. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, Tolkien on Fairy-stories

In The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton argues that all myths are true but that Christ is the Truth myth. According to Chesterton, we were wired for belief at our creation, so that we would be able to enter into the greatest act of faith: belief in Jesus Christ. As post-moderns, we tend to think of “myth” as being an untrue fairy story. Chesterton argues that old (and new) myths are true in that they point us to the true story of God, His creation, and His redemption of humanity. Our primal love of myth is us trying to remember what God wrote on our hearts before our birth. Myths are the echoes, albeit distorted, of Truth.

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When I read it as a child, I felt that the whole thing was happening inside a real human house, not necessarily unlike the house I was living in, which also had staircases and rooms and cellars.” – GK Chesterton, George MacDonald, 1929

This gorgeous story is ideal for children as young as you can get them. Real fairy tales like this are the best kind of nursery food to feast on. And, if you are lucky, your children will call out, “Again!” and, “Again!” giving them the chance to re-enter the magic many times over. If you can refrain from trying to make the story less scary, Irene may be able to take the children by the hand and lead them through this world that is more substantial than adults want to believe. This adventure will help to shape their moral imaginations and will prepare them to embrace the white magic of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

“…I for one can testify to a book that has made a difference to my whole existence, which helped me to see things in a certain way from the start; a vision of things which even so real a revolution as a change of religious allegiance has substantially only crowned and confirmed.” –  GK Chesterton, George MacDonald 1929

As I was writing this, a new episode of Center for Lit’s podcast series, BiblioFiles was posted. In it, the Center for Lit crew talk with Andrew Pudewa about George MacDonald and his heirs and how the genre of fantasy connects us with things that are as old as time. It is an excellent podcast and I highly recommend it.

If you want to learn a little bit more about MacDonald and his stories for adults, check out this Rabbit Room podcast about George MacDonald, also posted recently.

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The version which I photographed for this review is part of the Illustrated Junior Library series. This out of print series is one of my most favorite children’s series as most of the texts are unabridged and accompanied by gorgeous illustration. At the time of writing this, the price is around $30. I purchased my copy for less than $8. If you decide to look for this one, just be patient.

My family and I really enjoyed the unabridged Audible version of this book narrated by Ian Whitcomb. Best of all, if you buy the $.99 kindle version, then the audio is just $2.99.

Posted in Book Lovers Community

Apple Recipes

In this article, I wrote about why we can apples. I have had some friends ask me which recipes we use and how we do it. I am a self-taught canner. I am not an expert. I am just a modern mom who is trying to connect with old-fashioned good sense. That said, I will gladly share what we do in the hopes that it will help others.

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First, I consider the Ball Blue Book as the gold standard in canning safety. Over time, we have learned where we could trust other recipes. For newbies, however, I want to stress the importance of getting and working your way through the Ball Blue Book.

Second, we have a glass top stove. In traditional canning, this is a big no-no. There are some well founded concerns about the unevenness of heating on glass stoves and this can cause a bad seal in your canned goods. To be safe, we use a propane burner in the garage or on our patio, with our canning kettle.

Third, having the right materials really is a big deal. If you plan to can acidic things like tomatoes, you have to have plastic tools like these. You just do. Something about the acidic reaction to the metal… I don’t know specifically what the reaction is, I am not a food chemistry guru, but I trust the people who know these things.

Now, the recipes and our technique:

Applesauce

Applesauce is one of the easiest things to can, except for the hours and hours of labor involved in getting to the canning stage. Using this recipe as our guide, we understood that applesauce is very simple: somewhere in the process you need to remove cores and skins, you need to season, and you may need to add honey or sugar. If you get your blend of apples right, you may not need any sweetener at all. Which order you do things in is entirely dependent on the tools you have. For purposes of this article, I am going to focus on the most inexpensive tools that beginners may be more apt to have on hand already.

  1. After picking my apples in a ratio of about 50% Cortland and 50% a blend of sweeter apples, I used my fun tool to core, peel and slice them. After that, all I had to do was chop them into smaller pieces so that they would break down faster in my pot.
  2. I added about an inch of water to my dutch oven and filled it with apples.  About 25  apples fit in the pot I use.  I didn’t worry about waiting for all of them to be cored and peeled before starting the heat. I got a batch going and kept adding to it.

  3. I brought everything to a boil, then reduced the heat to a simmer to let the apples break down for about an hour.

  4. After an hour, all I needed to help the apples into a mashed state was my potato masher.

  5. After the apples were broken down to my preferred texture, I put them through a strainer to strain off the excess water. (Save the cooking water. There are other uses for it.) This step is time consuming and not absolutely necessary. I think it is worth it.

  6. Because I want to can in big batches, but my apples cannot get cold while they wait for the canning bath, I transferred this batch to my Nesco which was set to about 150 or 200 degrees to hold the apples. If you don’t have a Nesco, a crock pot will work on “warm,” as will a pot on the back of your stove. The apples don’t have to be kept at a certain temperature, but they do have to be kept warm to prevent any bacterial growth.

  7. In the Nesco, I stirred in a couple of tablespoons of honey and a heaping tablespoon of cinnamon.

  8. I repeated the above process for as many batches as my Nesco could hold (it holds three, plus I can another batch from the stove).

  9. To process, I followed the canning instructions in this recipe exactly.

Now the discouraging reality: all of that work – 4 batches of about 25 apples each – rendered a mere 12 quarts of applesauce. Tiny Jars.

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Applebutter

Doubling this recipe, I learned that apple butter is best when it is cooked very slowly over low heat all day long.

  1. After picking my 24 apples in a ratio of about 50% Cortland and 50% a blend of sweeter apples, I used my fun tool to core, peel and slice them. After that, all I had to do was chop them into smaller pieces so that they would break down faster in my pot.

  2. In my crockpot, I combined my apples with 1 cup of water, ½ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of local honey and 2 heaping tablespoons of cinnamon (I omitted the nutmeg because I don’t like it).

  3. I set my crockpot to warm and let it work for at least 8 hours.

  4. After about 8 hours, I used an immersion blender to puree the apples. If you do not have an immersion blender, a regular blender or baby food mill will also work.

  5. Depending on how much time I have, how sweet I want the apple butter to be, and how moist the apple butter is, I may take it from this step straight to canning, or I might let it work a little longer in the crock pot. Really, it is all about preference here.  
  6. To process, I followed the canning instructions in this recipe exactly.

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