You might think the glossy dark brown caramelized ‘butter’ looks appetizing, or not. I happen to know it’s delicious so to me it’s appealing, and besides I have to love apples right now. I have quite a few
. We’ll take as many as we can to the local food bank over the next few weeks – they welcome fresh produce that’s in good condition. Or contact Tilth Hotline if you have extra fruit. They have a Community Fruit Tree Harvest program that allows us/helps us to share the abundance.
Mine is just another backyard with apples ripening by the bushel. It’s happening everywhere right now. Poppy was making applesauce last week while across town I was making a crockpot full of apple butter. In fact, we seem to have the same barely identifiable old apple trees dripping with Transparents, and in our yard we think we have old varieties of Gravenstein and King.
Our house is one hundred years old and way back when was known as Goocher’s Orchards. Now it’s an urban lot, but with the added character of three obscure apple trees, relatively young pear and Montmorency cherry trees which we’ve planted, and the remnants of a beloved Italian plum blown down in the storm a year and a half ago. We’re doing our best to honor the legacy of this little bit of land – we seem to have farming in our blood so it’s not such a stretch. Go back just a few generations and we all have that in common.
The three apple trees ripen sequentially from July through September and we do our best to keep up with most of them by making applesauce, apple butter, apple-ginger chutney, a few apple pies, and a very quick and easy sautéed apple dessert (instructions below). Smear the apple butter on a piece of toast, or on a piece of cheese. Heaven.
Apple Butter Recipe
Here’s the apple butter technique passed on to me by my grandmother. You have to be willing to let apples simmer away quietly in a crockpot for two or three days without much more than an occasional stir and the addition of more apple slices.
Start with a bucket full of apples.
Core and roughly quarter enough unpeeled apples to fill a crockpot, which will be your cauldron for the next few days..
Lid on, turn on low and leave alone for a few hours/days, stirring occasionally.
As the brew cooks down add a few more apples to the top, stir them in, wait a few more hours and then add more again. We repeated this, as my grandmother demonstrated years ago, for about three days while the apples slowly simmered, reduced in quantity but intensified in flavor, and eventually became a dark auburn color. It’s done when you say it is.
You can stop this process after 15 – 20 hours and call it applesauce, or continue for another day or more allowing it to thicken and call it apple butter. Apple skins usually soften and disappear into the mix; if they don’t, run the sauce through a food processor or a food mill to minimize the fibrous character.
Add a little water or apple cider along the way if more liquid is needed, cinnamon or nutmeg, and sweeten to taste with sugar or honey.
After it bubbles away in its crockpot for two or three days the resulting apple butter or applesauce, depending on your stopping point, can be frozen in small quantities, or processed and preserved in jars for the pantry. Once you get it going there’s not much fuss, it’s efficient and with a beautiful result. Make some toast and have at it – also delicious dabbed on a piece of Beecher’s cheddar cheese.
Quick Caramelized Apples Recipe
Peel, core and thinly slice 4-5 cups of apples. Sauté in 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of brown sugar (or to taste), and a pinch of salt. When apples have softened you can add 1 cup of your apple butter or applesauce (or skip this), ½ teaspoon cinnamon and continue to barely simmer for a few more minutes.
Off the heat you can add a big splash of rum or cognac and then cook for a few more moments. Not a sauce, stop while apples are tender, but still retain their shape. Transparents, in this case, ooze their own juiciness, blend with the butter and sugar, then the rum if you like, to create the most luscious caramelized apple dessert. ‘It’s beyond’, as my sister-in-law Pam would say.
It takes just a few minutes to make, and after it’s cooled a bit it’s ready to eat, the whole process having taken about twenty mintues. Serve warm over scoops of vanilla ice cream. If you wish to gild this lily, add raisins to the apple mix and sprinkle servings with toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans. Not quite, but almost apple pie à la mode.
An apple a day comes in many succulent forms.