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Walker prepares homemade apple butter for hunt guests

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Oct 12, 2017

(Oct. 13, 2017) The Eastern Shore is known for its packed beaches and bustling boardwalks.

Like many locals, I am partial to the crisp, cool air and low humidity that is indicative of this time of the year.

Crunchy caramel popcorn, vinegar soaked fries and fluffy cotton candy has been replaced with crisp apples, creamy butternut squash and tart cranberries. Embracing the various seasons gives chefs the opportunity to test their culinary skills with distinction.

Summer is long gone and a much deserved break passes my way. Crystal, clear skies and pleasant temperatures are the makings for a gorgeous day. I pour a rather sizable glass of Pinot Grigio and head to the deck.

Before I know it, the cushiony lounge chair is inundated with my family of four-legged kitty cats. Pop Pop, Sweetie, Baby, Baby Doll and Ebony compete for my undivided attention. Each one came to me by chance, each one has their own individual personality and each one is dearly loved.

My little blue house on the water is modest but my view is impressive. As I savor this sweet moment, the glistening water is a perfect fall setting that echoes a tune of leisure. But that does not keep my mind fast forwarding to a time of obligation.

The annual fox hunt that takes place at my parent’s estate is only a month away. I need to start pulling my notes from last year and focus on Nov. 4. We have been hosting this event for over 20 years. No matter how prepared you are; one can count on surprises and that’s what makes entertaining so exciting. It is showtime and anything can happen.

We normally have 15 to 20 volunteers to help with this event; I do not know what we would do without their assistance. Each year I prepare a small gift for each volunteer as a way to say thank you.

Pickled beets, pickled corn, bacon jam and chili are some examples of past souvenirs. These tokens of appreciation are served in canning jars with festive ribbon. After much consideration, I decide to prepare homemade apple butter.

Apple butter is a rich, spoonable spread that compliments toast, pancakes, fruits, cheese, meats and even ice cream. Store bought brands do not even come close to homemade versions. I am confident mother and the volunteers will be happy with my choice.

The wine is quite relaxing and allows me to take a stroll down memory lane. I can see my great grandmother taking out the old copper kettle and cleaning it with salt and vinegar until it looks brand new. She would cook the apples for hours, reduce them and season according to taste. The process is simple but it takes years to learn the coveted subtleties.

As I glance at the time, I realize this peaceful moment is coming to an end. My trusty computer records all my culinary endeavors. It has been a while since I have prepared apple butter but my notes are specific. The following recipe is straightforward and packed with flavor. A food mill enhances the simplicity but is not required.

For those who are not familiar with a food mill, it is a part strainer and part masher in that it crushes foods by forcing them through a perforated disk which also separates any seeds, core, or skin.

Because food mills do not incorporate as much air during the pressing process, the puree comes out thicker and heavier, making it perfect for applesauce, jams and tomato sauce.

Bed, Bath and Beyond carries a Moulinex Food Mill for $59.95. This is a very good one for the money. If you have a Bed, Bath and Beyond 20 percent off coupon, it makes this product even more affordable.

Before you know it, the holidays will be here and apple butter is a delicious condiment to enhance the theme of fall. Just remember, it is the small details that make celebratory occasions memorable. Enjoy!

* If you are using a food mill it is not necessary to peel the apples.

* Calvados (apple brandy) is optional. If you choose not to use it, double the amount of apple cider.

 

Homemade Apple Butter

Ingredients

4 pounds soft apples such as Fuji, peeled, cored, quartered and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cup apple cider

1 cup Calvados

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

tiny splash fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1. Combine apples, cider and Calvados in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are extremely soft and start to darken in color (1 1/2 hours).

2. Working in batches, transfer softened apples to a food mill or food processor and puree apple mixture. Discard skins if using a food mill. Stir in sugar, brown sugar, lemon juice, vanilla, cinnamon, allspice,

nutmeg, cloves, ginger and salt. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture has turned dark brown and has thickened (1 to 1 ½ hours).

3. Transfer apple butter to a container and allow to cool completely. Top with tight-fitting lid and refrigerate until ready to use. Apple butter can also be frozen.

Yields approximately 4 cups

Secret Ingredient - Apples. “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton was the only one who asked why.”

— Bernard Baruch

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