Monday, July 18, 2011

Apple Butter and Monday Morning

I'm not a morning person. There, I said it. I don't like the mornings.

I don't get up early; and my kids don't either. Being a stay at home mom allows me the latitude to sleep in past the time most other moms (at home or the working moms) tend to be up with their kids. Granted, the Preschooler and the Toddler do share a room, but if one wakes up, eventually, the other does as well. One really great perk is that they snuggle and play together in the morning, and instead of waking up to an alarm clock's horrible and incessant beeping, I wake up to hear my kids singing, giggling, saying I love you, and playing. Occasionally, I wake up to someone hollering because she's dirtied her diaper a bit earlier than scheduled, but that's quite all right.

Either way, all those mom blogs out there have writers who get up at 4 to 5 am, do their Bible devotional, workout, make fresh muffins for their family, shower, put a full face of makeup on, and are perfectly pressed and ready to go by the time their family is awake so that they can start another perfect, sunshiny day of homeschooling. Not me. I drop my Preschooler of at class two times a week in yoga pants (or, in the winter, my brightly colored flannel snowflake pajama bottoms). I get out of bed and one eye doesn't focus for a good hour after I've inserted my contacts, and Heaven help the child who crosses me before I've had at least one cup of coffee or a Shakeology (chocolate, please). Preferably, I've consumed both. It's better for all of mankind that I have coffee every morning. I'm lucky if I've worked out, cleaned my house, and gotten a shower before noon. Chances are, I take care of that during nap, provided the kids cooperate.

Hmm...that sounds a bit angsty on my part here. I don't mean it to be, but I want to be real. I'm sitting on my couch now, drinking a workout recovery drink at 11 pm at night, watching yet another rerun, still in my workout clothes. Sure, I finished an hour ago, but the couch was comfortable and I'm just going to bed anyway. Why be someone I'm not?

I could, for example, give up canning, and just buy my jelly, jam, and butters at the store. But storebought preserves just have this taste I can't abide anymore; artificial sugar is just so offputting to me now that I've been trying to focus on cleaner eating. Sure, I'll still eat Kraft Mac and Cheese. I love Velveeta, and I can wax poetic about salsa and chips. But a few more salads a week and a few more pieces of fruit each day never hurts anyone.

Which, as I digressed, is why I can. I know what is in my jam (or jelly, or preserve, or chutney, or butter...) jar. In the case of the apple butter I made? Apples. Sugar. Water. That's it. That's all the recipe called for, besides the spices cinnamon, allspice, and clove. After about 15 hours of simmering, my apple butter was sheer perfection. I won't lie, I'm pretty proud of the result. I was a bit concerned at first due to the fact that I added way too much water. But it reduced down very nicely, and I couldn't stop taking tastes to try it out. Knowing what is in it makes me feel better when I spread it on my toast in the morning, or mix it in to unflavored oatmeal for the kids. No artificial anything. Just amazing, apple goodness, fresh from a local orchard.

Here's the recipe I used (my own):

6 pounds of Granny Smith apples. (I like Granny Smith's tartness - it's a great foil to the sugar and spice)

2 cups of water

1.5 cups of sugar (more or less to taste)

1 Tbsp cinnamon
1Tsp clove
1 Tsp Allspice

Peel and core your apples. Put in a pot with 2 cups of water that is already boiling. Recover and watch the pot for boil-overs; I turned my stove to medium high here and it was a perfect setting. Once apples are soft and gently exploding, remove pot from heat, and get an immersion blender in there. Blend the apples thoroughly; mixture maybe very liquidy. That's okay.

Add liquid to a large slow cooker. Gently stir in sugar and spices. Turn slow cooker on to 10 or 12 hour setting, grab a wooden spoon or some of those extra wooden chopsticks, use them to slightly vent the lid (I set two on the inside rim of my cooker and just set the lid on top). Walk away. Leave it alone. For at least 2-3 hours. If you're like me, you're asleep 2-3 hours later, so no worries about stirring. If you happen to do this during the day and you can stir, just give the mixture a quick stir every few hours. Once the mixture has reduced to roughly half of it's original volume (for me, this was about 15-16 hours), and takes on a thick texture, it is ready to can and process.

Once your boiling water canner is ready, put butter in jars, cover, and process for 20 minutes. Remove to a towel to cool and finish sealing. Listen for the "ping-pop" of the jars closing. Any jars that do not seal need to be refrigerated immediately. Otherwise, enjoy your Fall in a Jar!

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