Today is Apple Butter Day. No, that’s not some sort of holiday (as far as I know, and also, it probably should be) but the first fall day where I make apple butter.
If you’ve never done it, it’s just about the easiest thing in the world. I spent half an hour this morning peeling and chopping apples into my crock pot, listening to alt-rock with my earbuds and mouthing the words as I worked because it was 5:45 am and I’m kind to my neighbors.
A five-pound tote of Galas just about filled the basin to the brim. After I washed all the apple guts off my hands, I tasted one slice to see how sweet they were (not very) and added some sugar. (For five pounds of apples I never add more than one cup of sugar, and often much less. Since these weren’t very sweet I put in 2/3 cup. I can always add more later.)
Then, the spices. Or, in this case, the one spice. Traditionally apple butter is like pumpkin pie–some combination of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Since I try to make more than one batch of butter a season (when the harvest, and thus the apple prices, cooperates), I’ve branched out into specialty flavors. (My most memorable batch, several years ago, was Pink Lady apples with ginger. Sweet and spicy!) For this batch, it’s just cardamom, my absolute all-time-forever-favorite spice.
I popped open my tub of cardamom (yes, tub, I use it a lot and I can get it from a Mediterranean grocery not too far away in copious amounts) and chucked in probably two teaspoons’ worth. (When I bake, I measure accurately. When I cook, approximation is fine.)
On goes the crock pot. In a few hours, when the sugar has melted and the apples are disintegrating, I’ll open it and give it a stir, mashing up any big chunks that are left. After that, the mass of delicious-smelling goo will start to brown, darkening throughout the afternoon from pale yellow to that rich gingerbread-brown.
And just before I make dinner tonight (it’s Taco Tuesday, observed with zeal Chez Elena) I’ll spoon all the apple butter out into containers to cool. After dinner they’ll go in the fridge. (Sadly no one in my family cans, so I’ve never learned how, or I’d see if I could actually preserve this stuff. I’m in love with my freezer instead, and some of this batch may end up there. It does freeze pretty well, if you put it in a plastic bag and smush all the air out before you seal it.)
And tomorrow morning, for breakfast, this apple butter will get dolloped onto my oatmeal instead of brown sugar.
Apple Butter Day. Fall has arrived, and it tastes amazing.