28 September 2017

The Scents (& Flavors) of Autumn: Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Now that autumn is properly here, it seemed a good time wrap myself in the wonderful smells of apples and cinnamon. Also, my most recent CSA share included five pounds of absurdly large MacIntosh apples and, while I like apples, grapefruit-sized apples seemed too big for a quick snack. I thought about stuffing and baking them, but that seemed like too much work. Then I thought about slow cooker applesauce -- it's always worked out well in the past -- but that did not excite me. And then I thought ... well, what about apple butter? My mom used to can her own apple butter and it was fabulous stuff. While I doubted I could make anything as good as hers, I could certainly try.


I used a friend's spiralizer to process the apples, because I thought the thinner ribbons would cook down more quickly than chunks might, but it probably didn't matter as I left it to cook all day while I was at work. When I came home, the whole house smelled like apple pie and the apples had reduced to a dark brown sludge -- sludge sounds decidedly ewww, I know, but it's the texture I was looking for.

I whizzed everything 'round with a stick blender and then let it cook for another hour while I futzed around on the internet. Afterwords, I decanted the apple butter into my prettiest jars (which was not a good idea as the jars are blue which means the apple butter looks greenish and that's just not super appetizing) and let it cool before storing it in the fridge.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Yield: 1½ pints

Ingredients

  • 5 lbs of apples
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground mace
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Using the straight blade, spiralize the apples, leaving the skin on.
  2. Add apples and all other ingredients to slow cooker insert and stir to mix.
  3. Cover and cook apples on low for 10 hours on low or until apples are dark brown, completely soft, and very reduced in volume.
  4. Puree the apples with an immersion blender until smooth.
  5. Continue cooking, partially covered, on low for 1 hour more or until the apple butter has reduced to your desired thickness. (It will continue to thicken as it cools, fyi).
  6. Refrigerate apple butter in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks or freeze until needed.
What to do with apple butter? Other than the obvious straight-from-the-jar-with-a-spoon? Spread it on muffins, toast, or bagels. Pair it with chopped walnuts and stir it into your breakfast yogurt or oatmeal. Whizz it with vanilla ice cream and bourbon for a boozy shake. Bake it into a bundt!

27 September 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Snoozin'

It's very tiring, being a kitty. Good thing there are lots of
squashy cushions and sunlit windows for napping.

26 September 2017

Slow Cooker Soups with my CSA Bounty

My fabulous friend, Kelly, has handed her CSA share over to me as between school, work, and raising a family, she does not have the time or wherewithal to cope with huuuge amounts of produce. So, hooray, extra fruit and vegetables for me! Except, I already have a CSA share of my own. Only a quarter share, mind you, but still a decent amount of produce. I don't want anything to go to waste, but I don't have a lot of time to cook or process everything I've been given.

So! I've made a lot of soup! "Creamy Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup" from this blog as well as Taste of Home's "Cheddar Corn Chowder," "Chicken Barley Soup," and "Curried Leek Soup."


The corn chowder and barley soup recipes were taken from the copy of Taste of Home's Soups: 380 Heartwarming Family Favorites I received in my winter Taste the Seasons box. I've made near a dozen recipes from this book now and only the barley soup came near disappointing. Still, I can see where that soup could be improved with additional seasonings and alliums and will revisit it soon.

The cheddar corn chowder recipe alone earns this cookbook a permanent place on my bookshelves. While I did tart mine up with leftover roasted CSA-share corn and Cabot cheddar the bones of the recipe are good ones. I don't doubt it will also be perfectly delicious when made as written with frozen or canned corn in the dark, cold heart of winter. It's a creamy, cheesy, rich, and filling soup that goes well with a bit of green salad and buttery toast.

The curried leek soup was also fabulous. It's a rich, fragrant, comforting soup that works well for breakfast or lunch and I very happily ate it three days running. However, I dare say it's the kind of soup that only a leek lover would enjoy as the flavor of the leeks, mellow as they are by being sautéed in butter, are still very leeky. Mind you, I may have simply used too many leeks. My leeks were medium sized compared to some of the monsters for sale at the farmer's market, but that doesn't mean they were a cookbook writer's medium. Regardless, it's a tasty soup for leek lover's and I recommend it.