I don’t mean to be rude, but stop what you are doing and go stick your head outside. Or open a window. I’ll wait for you to get back to the computer.
When you get out there take a deep breath. Smell that? That fresh, spicy clean smell? That’s Autumn, folks. Hopefully these sunny temperate days and crisp cool nights are here to stay for a bit. It has been a long, hot summer, and I for one am so excited to pull out my sweaters and my soup pot. Fall also means the return of my favorite fruit—the locally grown apple.
I saw the first hint of them at the Farmer’s market last weekend. We got there kind of late, and it looked like other eager apple disciples had swept through before us. I consoled myself with the fact that my bag was too laden with beets (for pickling and canning) and corn (headed for the freezer) to wrap my head around working with apples anyway.
Since I’m now such an expert canner (which means I have done it once and didn’t burn myself horribly-- although I really should have sprung the five bucks for the jar picker upper thingie), I am going to attempt to put up some apple butter this year.
I love saying I’m going to “put up” my food.
Despite its name, apple butter does not contain any of Wisconsin’s valued export. The “butter” part of the name must come from its inherent creaminess. It is essentially a caramelized applesauce, one that is cooked a long time, and in which the flavors are allowed to deepen and the sugars evolve into an almost smoky richness. A lot of people use apple butter as a conveyance for cinnamon and nutmeg. But me? I like just the pure apple goodness. No spices need apply.
I love apple butter on pancakes, spread on good bread with a slice of sharp cheddar, or even stirred into a bowl of the ten grain high fiber (aka tasteless) hot cereal I’m forcing myself to eat these days. The recipe I have used for ages is very simple--just apples, cider, sugar and lemon juice (see below). But I decided this year that I might try something different. I went online to see what I could find, and pretty much without exception, everyone’s recipe is a variation of the same theme (except for Paula Deen, who for some reason puts cream cheese in hers!) My twist this year is to try it in my slow cooker. Can you think of anything better than to come home after a long day at work and your house smells like apple pie? Like an invisible grandmother has spent the day baking in your kitchen. Sounds good to me.
So I’ll be at either the farmer’s market or the Apple Hut (between Beloit and Janesville, open 8 to 5) this weekend. And I’ll be the one loaded up--one giant bag of Galas, one giant bag of Macs.
And maybe an apple cinnamon donut or three.
So have you gotten any apples yet? What kind and what are you doing with them? Please share.
--By the way, if you are up with the chickens this Friday, you can catch me on Joy Cardin’s show on Wisconsin Public Radio between 6 and 7 a.m. We will be talking about apples and inviting listeners’ comments. Tune in!
Slow Cooker Apple Butter
This recipe can be varied in a lot of ways: throw in more than one variety of apple; add cinnamon if you must; or even toss in a pear or two if you want to be a rebel.
4 pounds apples, whatever you like, peeled, cored and cut in ½ inch dice
2 cups apple cider
2 cups sugar, less if your apples are really sweet
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt
Add all ingredients to a large slow cooker and mix well. Cover and cook over low heat for at least 10 hours or until the apples turn a dark golden brown color.
Run ingredients through a food mill or use an immersion blender to blend until desired consistency. I like it smooth as, dare I say, butter.
Refrigerate, freeze or process to canning jars (see freshpreserving.com, Ball Canning’s website for details on how to preserve applesauce).
Lisa Parsley is a Janesville native writes about food and cooking for Gazettextra.com. Lisa is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.