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Fill two large bowls half full with cold water. Squeeze the juice from one lemon half into each bowl of water. Peel, core and cut apples into 3/4-inch wedges, placing wedges in the lemon-water as you slice them to prevent browning.
Combine 4 cups water, sugar, rosemary, thyme, pepper and salt in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot. Bring to boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Drain apples; add apples and onion to syrup in pot. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Using a slotted spoon, pack hot apples and onion into hot sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Ladle hot syrup over apples and onion, maintaining the 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids and screw bands.
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 20 minutes (start timing when water returns to boiling). Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks.