Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The Art of Fine Cookery ~ Apple Butter & Oatmeal
“We had wakened in the dark after moonset, leaf-spattered, twig-strewn, bug-bitten, and stiff with cold. We had said not a word to each other, but laughing and staggering drunkenly, stumbling over roots and stones, had helped each other through the moonless wood and made our way back to bed for an hour’s brief sleep before dawn.
I leaned over his shoulder now and deposited a bowl of oatmeal in front of him, pausing to pluck an oak leaf from his hair. I laid it on the table beside his bowl.
He turned his head, a smile hiding in his eyes, caught my hand and kissed it lightly. He let me go, and went back to his parritch. I touched the back of his neck, and saw the smile spread to his mouth.”
Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Drums of Autumn.”
I spent a wonderful day last week making apple butter and many of my readers asked for the recipe. Normally, the best way to make apple butter is over a hot wood fire, apples simmering away for hours in a large copper cauldron with pats of butter added and lots of brown sugar and cinnamon to finish. Lacking the 50 gallon cauldron and the woodfire, I've devised another method that works well. I use my slow cooker (which is a cauldron of sorts!) and it works verra weel!
All you do is take a bushel of apples and dice them. You can peel them if you like and that makes a smoother apple butter, but my family loves the peels so I leave them on. I put them in the slow cooker until the pot is full and then I add about 2 cups of sweet cider, about 1/2 a cup of chopped crystallized ginger, a lot of cinnamon, 1 cup of bourbon or single malt and at least three cups of brown sugar. Then I turn the crock pot on low and I use the 10 hour setting. I watch it and stir occasionally and at a pat of butter every once in a while which keeps the foam down. As the mixture "melts" down, I add more apples and brown sugar. I let it cook for about 18 hours on low, stirring and tasting as I go.
At about the 14th hour I add about a cup and a half of maple syrup and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice and stir. Then let it continue to cook for several more hours. You'll know it's done because it will have turned a lovely color (rich caramel) and will smell absolutely wonderful. Cooking it for that long concentrates the flavors and produces a butter that is absolutely delectable. Right before it's done, I add a tablespoon of smoked paprika. This adds a touch of smoky wildness that I love!
You can use your apple butter in so many ways......on hot buttered biscuits, waffles, pancakes, as a filling with fresh apples for pie or on oatmeal as I've done here with brown sugar, cinnamon, walnuts and fresh butter. It's a bit like having dessert for breakfast! A steaming cup of coffee with cinnamon or a delectable cinnamon tea seals the deal!
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