Treat Those Apples Right
Apple season is a blessing and a burden. Excited by early October's glut of local fruit—so strikingly different from the homogenized four varieties that pack grocers' shelves the rest of the year—I tend to overdo it. There's at least one more bag of apples than I can eat. Regifting is out; my friends and coworkers are all in similar situations. So the orphaned apple sack sits whithering in a corner of my kitchen, scowling at me, until I finally throw it out. My guilt makes that trip to the dumpster even weightier.
But, thank god, I've found salvation. Its name is apple butter.
Old, soft and bruised apples made sweeter by their sugar-accelerating imperfections are magically transformed into something I get excited about eating again. The trick is spicing it as you like it, then cooking it low and slow in the oven.
Spicy Gingery Apple Butter
"If you like spice and ginger, you will love this," says Laura McNamara of Sacred Mountain Adventures in Edgewood, who enthusiastically shared her aromatic apple butter recipe with us."To store, you could place the hot purée in prepared canning jars and process in a hot water bath. We're lazy, though, so we put our apple butter up in the freezer in small plastic containers. This is delicious swirled into oatmeal!"
6 pounds apples, cored, peeled and chopped
2-3 cups unfiltered apple cider, as needed
2 cinnamon sticks
2-3 cups dark brown sugar, tightly packed
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons powdered dried ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (Vietnamese is the spiciest)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1) Preheat oven to 275°F. Place apples, cider and cinnamon sticks in a large stock pot and cook over medium-high heat until the apples are soft, stirring occasionally. Add liquid as needed to keep the apple mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. 2) When the apples are soft, remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks once the apples have cooled to room temperature. Purée apples in a blender or large food processor until it's the consistency of apple sauce. You should have about 8 cups of purée.3) Add brown sugar and the remaining spices to the purée. Taste and adjust for seasonings.4) Divide purée equally into 2 9x12-inch baking dishes. (The mixtures should come halfway up the sides of each dish.) Place uncovered dishes in the heated oven and stir thoroughly every half hour until the mixture is thick, rich and dark brown, about 3-4 hours. Remove from oven, cool completely and enjoy.
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