Thursday, October 14, 2010

Respecting Apple Butter

How time flies! It seems like not all that long ago we were sweating away long hours, now I’m looking for a sweater! The copious amounts of water and Gatorade have given way to warming cups of coffee and sore throat soothing teas. Oh, and the food, what a rollercoaster. First the ramps, fiddleheads and soft shell crabs, then we got slammed with a ton (literally) of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant. Now I’m staring at a butternut squash the size of my leg! I wonder to myself “Did we give all the food its proper respect? Did we cherish our short time with each?”

Apples are something we tend not to cherish or respect as much as a proper apple deserves respect. By a ‘proper’ apple I’m talking about one without wax, without a sticker on it, one that hasn’t been on an airplane, cargo ship, or big rig truck. Luckily this is the best time of year for just such a thing. While taking a bite out of a big sweet rosey red apple is awesome I prefer to stretch out my apple expedience by making apple butter. On a whim I tossed in a bunch of butternut squash in my apple butter pot and was very excited about what turned out.

Apple-butternut squash butter

Five large local Macintosh apples
Equal amount of butternut squash
Half cup liquid (apple juice, cider, hard cider, whiskey, bourbon, applejack….water)
One teaspoon each ground cinnamon & coriander
Two cloves
One quarter to three quarters of a cup brown sugar
One pinch salt

The key to making successful apple butter is understanding that this will take some time on the stove and if you try to hurry things up at any point there is a good chance that it will burn! Also a stick blender is perfect for this recipe because you keep it a one pot dish, and a stick blender is a very inexpensive and useful piece of kitchen equipment.

Start with a large heavy bottom pot and add diced apples, squash and liquid. Leave the peel on the apples because this is where the natural pectin is and this will help the butter firm up upon chilling. As for your choice of liquid it just depends on what flavors you want to add to the game. Water works just fine for the purpose of breaking down the apple and getting those juices flowing without burning anything.

Over medium heat cover this pot and cook for ten minutes giving a stir every so often until the apples give up their liquid and everything starts to break down. Now comes the patience. Turn the heat to low, keep off the lid, and wait. It doesn’t do any harm to give the pot a stir every so often. It is tempting to turn up the heat at this point, but I guarantee you it will burn if you do. I’m guessing this will cook for about 45 minutes and at this point blend the mixture smooth and add the spices.

When is it done? I test the doneness by taking a teaspoon from the pot, let it cool off for a few seconds and putting it out onto a plate. If liquid separates from the mound of pulp it’s got to cook some more. Once enough liquid reduces out of the butter this will not happen. When this happens add the sugar and cook another five minutes making sure to keep the heat low and stir. Adding the sugar earlier, and/or not keeping a stir on the pot at this point and I guarantee it will burn. Why can I make such bold promises of burnt butter, because I’ve made those critical mistakes before.

Now it’s apple butter.


amarillo said...

Thank you! Just in time: my friends are trying to drown me in apples. My liquid of choice is cognac. Imagine what it smells like right now :)

Michael Walsh said..., not something most people have around the house. I actually like Jack Danials. In cooking I find JD brings alot of flavor after cooking. I don't drink the stuff, but it leaves nice smokey carmel flavors in whatever you add it to.

amarillo said...

I'm out to get Jack Daniels. There still tons of apples left...