The seasons are slowly beginning to change.
The horrid heat of summer is now just a memory, and there is a tartness in the morning air. Fall is on its way. We’ll still have plenty of hot and humid days, but you can feel the difference. Especially at night, when the air is softer and there is a gentle stirring of a cooler breeze.
As the seasons change, so does the food on offer at the farmer’s markets. I bought 12 pounds of apples on Saturday. Preserving apples was a welcome break from the craziness of Tomatopalooza. I still have a few more tomato projects I want to complete (I haven’t made salsa yet!). But I’m eager to try a few new apple recipes — if the apples hold out. Apples are small this year. I guess that I shouldn’t be surprised considering the amount of heat we’ve experienced. What they lack in size, though, they are making up in flavor.
Before Saturday, our pantry shelves were completely empty of apple products. Last year, I didn’t make any apple recipes. We’d just started building the new kitchen, and we were busy dealing with construction decisions. I completely missed apple season. Usually, I make applesauce, apple butter, and apple pie filling, so I’m eager to restock.
Homemade applesauce is the easiest thing in the world to make. And the best part? You don’t have to add any sugar. Generally, I cook down the apples, and then put them through my food processor. No chemicals. No additives. Only apple goodness. I use jelly jars for my applesauce so that my college kids can take a jar (or two) back to campus with them. Warm applesauce on a cold night is the best hug substitute that I can provide them, especially when they’re fighting colds. Warm applesauce on granola — to me it’s the breakfast of champions. You can get fancy with applesauce by adding your favorite spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. But I like just good ole, plain-Jane apple sauce.
Apple butter is so simple that it should be illegal. For years, whenever I had apple butter at restaurants or at my sister’s house, I would marvel at its mouth-watering goodness. This is one recipe that you can truly make your own as everyone makes it differently. In other words, there is no right or wrong. I like the taste of the apples without a lot of anything else. I also like to see bits of the apple in my butter. But it’s all personal choice. All you need is a slow cooker. Core, slice, and peel about five pounds of apples (I prefer to mix sweet with tart apples). Put in a slow cooker with two cups of sugar, 1/4t cinnamon, 1/4t nutmeg and 1/4t salt. Cook on high for the first hour. Stir. Turn on low for 9-11 hours, stirring occasionally. Taste test for sweetness. Depending upon how tart your apples are, you may want to add more sugar — or you can add more sweet apples. I like apple butter that is less sweet. Once the butter is cooked to the consistency that you desire, pour into jars. Then put in a water bath for 15 minutes to seal the jars. Done!
While we’re on the subject of apples, I tried this recipe for Spiced Apples from Mrs. Wheelbarrow a couple of years ago. It’s a perfect pantry item. Several times, I made a quick crust and used a jar of filling for pies to carry to potlucks or when having dinner with friends. They’re perfect on a crisp fall evening.
This weekend, from my 12 pounds of apples, I made six 8-oz jars of apple sauce and 18 jars of apple butter (six 8-oz jars and 12 4-oz jars). I didn’t use all the fruit that I bought because my son loves Gala apples, so I saved some for him to snack on. He’s been grabbing them three and four at a time. They won’t last long.
Want to make dried apple slices but don’t have a dehydrator? Check out The Kitchn’s post on drying them in the oven. Vince loves apple chips. This may have to be my next project.