You should know that I'm no stranger to fast food.
On occasion, when Daddy's traveling and it's been a long day, the drive through line looks like sweet respite from the impatient starving mongrels chasing me around the kitchen and the dirty dishes that they leave in their wake.
Sometimes, the shortcuts are necessary to preserving my sanity.
Other times, I need to take the long road, meander a bit. On those days, a little preserving of a different sort is just exactly the deep calming breath that I need.
I need to stand over a pot of something rich and warm and inhale the memories that rise from it.
Here, at the end of summer's harvest we have in our freezer and lining our pantry shelves, all the evidence of a summer well spent, and a mama who has had plenty of time to boil and stir and meditate on her many blessings:
10 half pint jars of pesto with which to remember long summer days, the smell of green and a little boy who couldn't get enough;
7 pints of plum jelly – just like my Momo made with me at her side, begging to lick the spoon;
4 pints cherry jam, which is really more like cherry syrup, but makes a truly fantastic frozen treat when combined with yogurt;
3 pints of pear preserves that will go to make Pear Cake just like my Granny does;
1 quart of blackberries – not nearly enough, if you ask me, but the return in purple grins will be great.
And now, now that we have all those spring memories and sweet summer goodness saved up for another day, it is time to savor a little bit of fall's riches too.
LIttle brown jars filled with apple butter, yes, but also filled with the cinnamon-y goodness of a fall evening that we'd like to taste again and again. Those jars are full of giggles and dancing in the kitchen, the radio on our counter spilling out a fiddle's honeyed notes, and wafting in from an open window, the satisfied murmur of chickens feasting on apple peels.
These jars are filled with rowdy laughter over made-up fruity knock-knock jokes, the warmth of candle light and the stiff-shouldered pride of one little man who likes to say, "Grandfather's favorite is apple butter, and so is Daddy's. Now it's mine too!"
They are full of a golden moment that will never be lived again, but will be savored for a long time to come.
Our apple butter calls for:
6 pounds of apples. After weighing, peel, core and chop them (It's tastiest if you use a few different kinds of sweet apples, like Gala, Fuji, Braeburn or the Delicious varieties)
4 cups of sugar (you could probably use less)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt.
Mix the dry ingredients then pour over the apples and toss. Cook in a crockpot on high for an hour and then on low for 10 hours. Remove the lid and cook for another hour.
At this point, you can put it through a food processor or blender (as we did) to make it extra smooth. Just do it in very small batches. It will be really hot and could burn you. It does some kind of crazy weird expanding trick in the blender when it's hot, so I only fill it half full and blend it on the lowest possible setting. I don't even push the button all the way in. I just sort of pulse it.
Spoon into clean jars (leaving about a half inch headroom), put the lids on and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes. Ours was gently boiling.
If you want to skip the hot water bath, you can just freeze your jars (plain old jars have worked just fine in the freezer for us – just let them cool to room temperature before putting them in the freezer). We tried freezing with one of our jars of apple butter, just to see if it would alter the texture once it was frozen and then defrosted. Nope, no difference. It worked great!
We doubled this recipe, and it yielded exactly 16 half pint jars (of course I had a lot of bowl lickers, so it might have been a bit more 🙂