Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Apple Butter, Pumpkin Butter, Yes, it's Harvest Time.

Autumn is definitely here. On the east coast the seasons turn slowly compared to other places we've lived and nowhere is that more evident than here in Nova Scotia. It's easily been a month or more since the leaves began losing their summery green glow and revealing the colours underneath of gold and red, but now I'd estimate that we're at least 25% of the way there and each morning as the frost melts off the leaves the subtle march towards Winter continues. Now is the time of mists and apples. Harvest.

Due to earlier than expected frost the garden was put to bed early this year. Some things like the beets and herbs are still fine but if you even whisper the word frost near basil it'll shrivel up and die. I'm going to lift a few of my bigger plants and get them trimmed and potted indoors but apart from that it's really the time of year that we rest from our labours, examine our success and failures, and plan for the coming Spring.

Oh, and of course it's apple season again!

We sold almost all of our Gravensteins this year at the Farmers Market and we'll probably sell about a quarter of our Cortlands but the bulk of them will be saved for eating fresh, for apple butter, and for sauce and pie filling. Just the thought of it is making me hungry.

Have you had apple butter and pumpkin butter before? Not everyone makes or knows how to use it, but it's like a smooth apple sauce that is spiced. It's great on toast as a spread or even dolloped on top of your oatmeal for some sweet and spicy goodness in the morning. Today's the day for the first batch of apple butter and I'm now blessed to have another crockpot after the incident last year where Jordan melted my base. Note to self: Do not let children turn on the wrong ring and walk away while your crock pot is sitting on the cooktop. Luckily the crock itself is still fine so I can use it in the oven.

You can make apple butter on low heat on the stove but I've found the best and easiest way is to use the crock pot or slow cooker method. You can't accidentally scorch the bottom as it thickens and it can cook overnight which means you wake to a delicious smelling house in the morning. Plus if you cook overnight it frees up more time during the day for other things like canning your apple butter or peeling more apples, lol. Here's my recipe and please note, you can substitute brown or golden sugar or honey in quantities from 1 cup to 3 cups. Obviously 3 cups of sugar per 3 pounds of apples is incredibly sweet. I can double this recipe and still have it fit in my 7 quart oval crock pot. Apple butter slow cooked in the oven or crock takes on a more evenly caramel colour than the stove top version I make, even using the same recipe. It can also vary depending on the variety of apples used. For a truly gourmet butter, mix a combination of sweet and tart apples and one cup of honey to sweeten. Really, whatever apples you've got will work.

Approximately 3 lb. fresh apples- Cortland, Bramley, Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp etc.
1-3 cups sugar, white or brown
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. cloves
Dash of salt
3/4 cup water or fresh apple cider (or even frozen juice if you have it)
Fill your crock pot 3/4 full with peeled, cored and sliced apples. Sprinkle the honey or sugar over the apples and mix together. Mix the spices and salt into the cider and pour over the apples making sure it's all mixed nicely.  Cover and cook on low setting overnight or until the butter is of a thick, spreadable consistency.If apple butter has too much liquid, remove lid and cook on high until thickened. Stir often as butter thickens to prevent scorching.
Store in refrigerator for up to 6 weeks. Freeze for longer storage. You can get longer storage by canning using glass jars and the usual 10 minute hot water processing method and leaving 1/2 inch head space in the jars before boiling.

Other tips I can give you from our farm experience are that you're going to want lots of this to give as gifts to family and friends, get your kids to do some of the picking and peeling, and invest in an apple peeler, they're fun for the kids to use and get lots of peeling done quickly without wasting a lot of fruit.

Ok I'm off to peel Cortlands. They're just coming into season for the next 2 weeks but since I'm going to be visiting friends and family on the west coast I need to get all my processing done in the next week. Nothing like a little bit of pressure to get the work going!

Happy Harvest to you all.