Monday, July 12, 2010

wild apple butter

"Windfall: Function: noun; Date: 15th century
: something (as a tree or fruit) blown down by the wind

: an unexpected, unearned, or sudden gain or advantage"

I went to visit my sweet friend on St. Simons Island over the 4th of July weekend. As always, good times, juicy conversations, and rolicking laughter were abundant. Also in
abundance? Beautiful, small apples from my friend's tree. The best surprise was the bag of almost 10 pounds of apples that came to me after she had taken her little Westie on his morning promenade! The naive, yet ambitious canner in me decided to try for a batch of the richest, spiciest apple butter to rival even that which is spread on your raisin toast on a midnight run to Waffle House. (really. sort of.)

see those sweet, little apples?

Anyway, I've never really been good with a recipe, but I peeled every last apple, and then steamed them in the microwave with scant apple cider vinegar. Working in batches, I fed them through the food mill on my Kitchenaid mixer. I had forgotten how fun it is to watch the yummy puree plop into the bowl while the yucky pulp, seeds, and core head out the back door of the extruder.

the food mill is the neatest thing!

Some 80 ounces of puree later, I pulled out my crock pot and dumped every last bit of the apples in. I cooked the puree on high for one hour, and added a generous tablespoon of cinnamon, a heavy teaspoon of ginger, and then irresponsibly sprinkled nutmeg and allspice in unknown quantities over the apples. After one hour, I gave the apple butter a good stir, and then set the temperature on my slow cooker to low. I allowed the mixture to cook overnight, and then was thrilled to be greeted by the most fantastic smell in the kitchen the next morning.

As soon as the baby was settled in his bouncy seat, I got to the business of preparing the jars, lids, and water bath. When everything was ready, I carefully ladled out enough apple butter for 10 half pint jars--and just enough leftover to spread on toast! I processed the jars for 12 minutes, and then got to hear the glorious, "POP! POP! POP!" as they cooled on the counter.

The more I read about "windfall" fruit, the more intrigued I am. There seem to be account after account of produce going unclaimed. Now I'm starting to have fantasies of getting the call to dash off and rescue 15 pounds of ripe plums, the fruit of a mysterious blackberry patch or a tree full of Turkey figs in the middle of a city. Getting this bounty from my friend has just fueled the excitement, which, of course sort of reminds me of that scene in the movie Juneau when the title character sarcastically tells her stepmother to "Dream big!" upon hearing about her desire to have Weimaraners.

Maybe it's not dreaming too big, but there's something therapeutic and satisfying about "putting up" jar after jar of food. There's some base level feeling of security in knowing that (go ahead, dramatically put the back of your hand to your forehead.) your family will have food squirreled away.

What's next? Peach Jam. After that? Peach Salsa. Must make the most of the last few weeks of the season in middle Georgia. In the mean time, if anyone has a line on a tree of neglected something or other please let me know!


  1. Sounds absolutely delicious! I wish I had the time and patience for such tasks.

  2. We have about seven apple trees, but they have not been cared for. The apples have been falling off for weeks now, even though they are the size of apricots. They seem quite buggy, too. The only year we got anything remotely edible was 2007. I read that trying to bring back fruit trees is a real labor of love, and not worth it if all you really care about is getting edible fruit. There is enough labor going into this property and very little fruitfulness, so I've been in favor of chopping them down. Applewood smoked pork, anyone?

    My grandma used to make apple butter. I'm so proud of you for making it - i can imagine the heavenly spiced scent and the thick texture. I'll be thinking of you at breakfast tomorrow morning, though my toast will have cold apricot jam on it.

  3. I loooooooooove canning. Done any this year? No. Dammit.

    Yours look like perfection!

    P.S. Hang in there.

  4. Peach salsa is crazy cool to make. You know, you have a natural aptitude for recipe writing--the way you lay out how to make exactly what you did, but make us readers feel inside a larger story, is a gift. So is getting even one damn thing done with three kids (esp a baby) in the house. Whoa.

  5. Here's a link I thought you might like:

  6. Love love love apple butter. After reading all these posts in one day, I'm inspired to go find some fruit and start canning. I'd better lie down until the feeling goes away.