One must maintain a little bit of summer even in the midst of winter.
~ Henry David Thoreau
So my mom was over the other night, staring up at my apple tree, and she was like "Renee you have really great apples up here, you should do something with them. Don't let them rot on the ground like you usually do." True that, Mom. The past couple of years I was late on tending to the apples, and when I did, they were already mushy and brown inside, but this year, thanks to my mom's timely
Enough were hanging on the lower branches so I could stand on my trusty step ladder and pick them with ease, and surprise surprise I didn't fall on my face. Go Ren!
Apple butter is luscious stuff - a grown up apple sauce if you will. Thick and laced with spices and lemon zest it's absolutely lovely on top of Greek yogurt, or your breakfast pancakes, or as a side to roast pork, and I'm kinda crazy about apple butter spread on a flaky biscuit, because any day a biscuit makes its way into my mouth is a happy day.
So let's make this stuff! Apples! Mine are small crabapples and there's no way in hell I have the patience to stand there and core the little guys, so I just snapped off the stem and the nubby bit at the other end and cut them in half. I'm boiling them down, skins and seeds intact and will later strain out the pulpy goo. Besides, the skins will help the butter thicken. Use any apples you like, but you may have to adjust the sugar in the recipe. Sweet! Once you boil your apples and strain out your goo, simply place the mixture in a slow cooker and let it do the rest of the work while you do what you do. I called my sis and asked how her floor was smelling. Oh and I washed my curtains. Exciting stuff! Sterilize your jars and lids, get your canner out of hiding. Call your mom.
This process takes awhile, so plan on hanging around the house for a bit because even in the slow cooker it needs a little attention. I kinda like days like this at home though. Puttering around and catching up on stuff I've neglected for too long, like season 4 of Mad Men. After 6 hours of bubbling away, you're ready to put this lovely, thick, cinnamon-rich goodness into jars. Processing only takes 10 minutes but please be careful - you are putting glass in boiling water. Let it hang out on the counter and soon you'll hear pop pop pop and then you can rest easy knowing that you won't die of botulism when you dig into your first jar. Happy thoughts!
There's no shortage of scones or biscuits around this blog, but this whole wheat buttermilk recipe is pretty great. Light with crispy edges, tender crumb. Made with whole wheat so it's health food, right? I whipped up a batch this afternoon (the day after the apple butter making) and I highly recommend you slather them while still warm. Heaven, sheer heaven. With a cup of tea, it's the perfect afternoon snack. And you can smile to yourself, knowing that in the depths of winter you can rummage through your cupboard and find a jar, crack it open and smell summer.
16 - 18 cups tart apples, washed, stems removed, nubby end removed and cut in half
2 cups apple juice or cider
2 cups water
1/2 cup brown sugar
1-2 cups sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)
4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp EACH ground cloves, allspice, nutmeg
zest of one lemon
In a very large pot, cook your apple pieces slowly in the apple juice and water until very tender, about an hour or so over medium heat, stirring often. Use an immersion blender to puree. Place a fine mesh sieve over your slow cooker insert and strain out the pulpy goo and seeds. Discard this stuff. Into your smooth apple mixture add the sugar and spices and lemon zest. Mix well. Cook on high for about 6 hours, stirring every so often. I left the lid off the last hour to help it thicken up and reduce down. (You can also do this in a 350 degree oven, substituting the crock pot with an oven-safe pot). Once your apple butter is nice and thick, ladle into sterilized half pint jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Cap and seal and process in your boiling water bath canner for about 10 minutes. I had various sized jars so the bigger jars I left in longer. Makes about 10 half pint jars. Recipe adapted from a tiny booklet called Jams, Jellies and More by Carol Costenbader.
Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup buttermilk
In a bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender - you want coarse crumbs and pea sized bits of butter remaining. Whisk the egg with the buttermilk and stir into the flour mixture.
With lightly floured hands, press the dough into a ball and knead it gently on a lightly floured surface, about 10 times. Press it into a 3/4 inch thick round and cut into rounds. Place on a parchment lined bake sheet, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Bake in a preheated 400*F oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes about 12 biscuits. Serve warm, with apple butter. Recipe from Canadian Living.