October 7, 2011

buttering up

With a pile of apples leftover from my trip to Nebraska City for apple picking, as mentioned in last week's post, I wanted to make more apple dishes.

Remembering apple butter from the American Girl Felicity books I read when I was little. That seemed like a good place to start. Mom and I made apple butter while I was reading those books. In truth, she did most of the work, because while I always enjoyed cooking, I didn't always have the patience and attention span to finish it.

And patience really came into play during this recipe.

On a Sunday morning, I peeled 13 apples of varying sizes. Once pealed, I used a cheese shredder to cut up the apples. I do this when baking apple bread, and I find it enables me to use more fruit than slice it alone.

I poured the shredded apples in the crockpot along with 4 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves and 1/8 teaspoon salt. It looked thick and chunky, and I was skeptical of how this would turn out. It was hard to think that this pile of apples would actually cook down to apple butter.

Once finished at about noon, I turned the crockpot to high and set the kitchen timer for an hour. After the timer went off, I turned the temperature on the pot down to low and looked at the progress. I wasn't impressed.

I stirred the pot a little and decided to distract myself for the next nine to 10 hours. Patience has never been my greatest strength, and I knew waiting on this would be tough.

I made a grocery list. I went to the store. I bought vegetarian corn dogs. I went to the library. I paid a fine and picked out a couple of books on tape. I went home. Unpacked my groceries. Then I checked the apple butter.

It was making progress. It was now a darker brown, but it still seemed too chunky for apple butter. I looked at the clock. I still had another seven or eight hours to go.

Again, I tried to distract myself. I searched through a cabinet in our basement to find mason jars and lids. Then I cleaned them in hot water and set them aside for later use. Then I waited some more.

Making the apple butter now seemed easy. The waiting was hard. Really hard.

Finally, at about 10 I decided enough was enough. I turned off the crockpot and blended the final bits of apple with a handheld blending device (I don't know the name — it belongs to one of my broomies). I then poured the contents into three mason jars and let them cool on the counter before storing them in the fridge.

The next night, my friend Kaitlin came over for some wine, and I broke out the apple butter to have her be my first official taste-tester. First, I'd like to say I was thrilled to see that the jar had basically sealed itself, so even if I didn't already have destinations for this apple butter, I'm glad to know it would have kept.

Kaitlin and I each spread apple butter on a piece of toast and dug in.

"Oh my God," Kaitlin said. "It was really rich and sweet, but not too heavy. I liked the way the spices complimented the taste of the apple. It would go well on anything, like dipping it in other apples. You could just put on bread and it was frickin' good." She later added, "It didn't taste processed."

As an apple butter lover, I can honestly say I fell in love with this batch. I buy it in the store often, but somehow this tasted more real. You could really get the full flavor of the apples and the spices were not overpowering.

Thank you for checking out today's Reading in the Kitchen. Read previous posts and recipes by clicking on the Reading in the Kitchen tab at the top of the page. Check back next week for another bookish recipe.

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