Notes from Windward: #66

Kerry's First Week



Apple butter.

     My Mom always enjoys picking some of the stuff up whenever we meander into a small gourmet food shop. It is good, but I never thought much of it. She would devour it on any sort of flat carbohydrate, most often Triscuit crackers.

     Skip ahead to my time here at Windward and a table full of wild apples rolling around before me. Pie? It seems we could only, and should only eat so much pie. Hmm.. . Aunt Elaine makes an apple cake, I think . . .applesauce . . .what else is there? I usually just chop up my Granny Smiths and smear some peanut butter on my plate to dunk them into. I also used to only have a maximum of three apples on hand at a time. Now, here I am with a stomach too small and not nearly enough peanut butter to follow through with that plan. I recalled the apple butter suggestion and decided to dive in, hoping that I could figure it out as I go.



     As I scanned the short recipe, I noticed the need for apple juice . . .an item we haven't got on hand . . .an item that is about an hour away at Safeway. We did have a bunch of elderberry extract hiding in the refrigerator that I had conveniently extracted the other night. Perhaps it wouldn't be a bad substitute. What did I know? I still hadn't even tasted the extract, but I know someone had mentioned a possible good match between the wild apples and lingering elderberry extract.

     A pile of apples, a wee bit of water, a cup of elderberry extract, 2 cups of brown sugar, a pot, a sieve, and a few hours can easily buy you some apple butter at Windward. Here the cost of things is in time, not monetary sums.

     Spend some time coring the fruit and coaxing the apples into cooking down into mish mash with a bit of water. The skins must be kept on, as that is where we obtain the pectin to keep the mish mash nice and thick. After about an hour, there is a plethora of mish mash apples that must be put through a lovely little sieve. It takes a long time. Don't make plans for later, later doesn't exist anymore. It's like squeezing into a taffeta dress, one size too small. You'll fit into it, but it won't be a pretty process, and you'll probably turn up late to the party.



     At last, you have apple mish mash, freshly sieved (meaning that you have captured the skins and other less desired items in the sieve; the mish mash seeps out like water through a colander.) Add the elderberry extract, add the brown sugar, and stir, stir, stir until you have a smooth "butter-like" texture. Cook in a pot on a stove for about an hour or two.

     The part that I fear the most, the jarring process. Ok, ok, I read the instructions, and then I sought other instructions, and then one more peek into yet another cookbook. Apparently, the key is cleanliness. So, keep stuff clean. Then when it's opened in the middle of January, it will still be edible. So, I sterilize everything in a softly boiling pot of water, lids, screw tops, and jars. Ok, place the now super tasty mish mash (I know it's good because myself and a few anonymous others were enjoying it with biscuits while still on the stovetop) into the jar, then another, and another until you have no more apple mish mash in the pot.

      Place the lid on the jar and tightly screw on the screw top. Keep the water boiling from before and place the jars in, totally submerged, for 10 minutes. Take them out. As you wonder why the little snap seal hasn't yet been sucked in, you will read a book nearby (I imagine.) Eventually (within about 30 minutes or so) you will hear a pop. That was the seal. The little snap thing has been sucked in and you have stored magical apple butter for a hungry soul in the middle of the winter. Now, and only now, is it officially apple butter because at last it looks like the fancy pants stuff my Mom buys at the gourmet food shop. Just stick a label on it and call it a night.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66