jeudi 21 décembre 2006

If you think I'm kidding when I say that nearly all of my meals for the past several days have consisted of wine and lots of cheese - I'm not.

Standing over a stupid pot full of boiling caramel and watching it for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour? You mean that's not your idea of fun? I can't imagine why not. Do you really have anything better to do with your time? Oh, you mean you're not procrastinating on your work because you have real jobs that don't include homework? How nice that must be.

But in a sense, this recipe is even better than the caramels for procrastination. Apple butter - which, as far as I can tell, is applesauce that's been boiled down for forever - takes several hours on the stove to reduce, so as long as you're home and not doing anything but yet you don't want to have to attend to whatever it is you're making, you can easily make a batch. As an added bonus, your house will smell all wintry and apple cider-y. Which is never a bad thing.

You don't even really have to pay any attention to the canning process, which was new to me too. (So hopefully, recipients of this present will not all die from salmonella or botulism. I really really hope not.) And you don't need any special equipment, either! (Because the last thing I need is yet another kitchen item I use once a year). Instead of a canning rack, I put a dish towel at the bottom of the pot I used to boil the cans in, the idea being that you just don't want the boiling action to cause the jars to hit each other or the pot with breakage ensuing. And I looked for canning tongs, so I could use them to take the jars out of the hot water, but in their absence I instead drained the pot of boiling water, waited a couple of minutes for the jars to cool down, and then used another dish towel to take the jars out of the pot and put them onto a rack. See? I can improvise!

Oh, yes, to sterilize the jars and lids: I washed the jars really well, then set them upside down in my oven at 225 degrees Fahrenheit until I needed them (you should leave them in there for at least 15 minutes. And for the lids, I let them simmer (but not boil) in a pan of water on my stovetop.

Incidentally, perhaps I didn't let the mixture reduce enough (another way to check to see if the butter is reduced enough is to put a small spoonful on a cold plate - if you get a ring of water, you're not done yet. But I didn't get a ring of water!), but I ended up with enough apple butter to fill 8 8oz. jars, with a full 16 oz. tupperware container leftover. Not that I'm complaining. Spread on some multi-grain toast with thin slices of aged cheddar, it made for a very satisfying breakfast, lunch, and snack (not dinner also, a girl needs some variety).

Apple Butter
Recipe courtesy Gourmet Magazine
Show: Cooking Live
Episode: Basics of Preserving

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Yield: about 2 pints

6 pounds Granny Smith or other tart apples, unpeeled, cored, and sliced
2 1/2 cups apple cider
2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 strips of lemon zest, each 2 1/2 inches long
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan cook the apples in the cider over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Puree them through the medium disk of a food mill into another saucepan and add the remaining ingredients.

Cook the mixture over very low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until very thick. Discard the lemon zest and spoon the mixture into 2 sterilized 1-pint Mason-type jars, filling them to within 1/2-inch of the top. Wipe the rims with a dampened cloth and seal the jars with the lids.

Put the jars in a water bath canner or a rack in a deep kettle and add enough water to cover the jars by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and process, covered, for 10 minutes. Transfer the jars with canning tongs to a rack and let them cool. Let the apple butter mellow in a cool, dark place for at least 1 week.