Thursday, November 10, 2011

Autumn, Apples, and Artdolls

The trees around town have been breathtaking this week. Any window in my house looks out on another spectacular explosion of color...

This is why I adore fall. Well that and the cooler temperatures and of course, apple butter!

Yes indeed I made apple butter this week...LOTS of apple butter...and as I talked on Twitter about the amazing way the smell of baking apples permeated my house, several folks asked me to post my here it is!

The recipe I use does make quite a lot...about 4 quarts...but feel free to cut it in half because I've done that in the past and it works fine. It is also usually a 2 day process so give yourself plenty of time. The first stage requires about 2 hours but the second takes all'll only need to be stirring the butter occasionally though so it's not as bad as it sounds.
To start you'll need about 12 pounds of good apples, ones that are crisp and more toward the tart side but not sour. I like Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Cortlands, or Macintosh...but use whatever is available locally...and since you won't be peeling these, you'll need to get organic or wash your apples REALLY well with some kind of veggie soap.
Okay you now take your clean apples and core and quarter them and throw them in a big pot. I usually have to use two pots for this part as it's so many apples.

Next add some water to the cut up apples...fill the pot(s) about half way...bring this to a boil and then cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours. Your apples will be nice and soft and your house will start to smell wonderful. You'll need to puree the apples, either in batches in your food processor, CAREFULLY because they are very hot, or use an immersion of the most useful kitchen gadgets I own. When you're done they'll look like this...

Now you add the yummy extras, for each cup of pulp you'll add 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Stir that all in and then to the whole batch add :
the grated rind and juice of 2 large or 3 small lemons
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamon seed (do this fresh if you can, it makes Such a difference)
1 cup port wine (yep, this is the secret ingredient shhhh)
...I know it sounds like the spice amounts are too small but trust me on this...
Now set this aside to cool.

The next day place 3/4 of the puree in a large oven proof pot and place it in a cold oven. Set to 325F degrees and bring the puree to a simmer. You'll want the pot to simmer all day and as the butter shrinks down you'll add more puree by the cup and stir it well. You may have to adjust the temperature up or down as the day goes by, you don't want a hard boil but you do want it to be evaporating the liquid out and turning into yummy apple butter. It will take time. This batch took about 6 hours, but I did all sorts of other things while it cooked merrily away and my house smelled incredible. One thing you need to do while this is cooking is get your jars, lids, and boiling water bath do that.

Once you've used up all the puree and it's cooked down to a nice thick consistency (if you're wooden spoon will stand up unsupported it's done!) then it's time to put it into clean sterile jars. Process your jars in a boiling water bath for 10 mins....and you'll have this... probably some extra to put in the fridge. A nice stash to remember Autumn all year...and enough to give as gifts too.
And since no post of mine should be without a doll, here's my latest Fall fairy with more of those gorgeous trees!