Apple Butter: No Sugar, Just Memories

Fall is the best.  It is the best colors, the best food, the best aromas, and, unless you want a winning professional football team, the very best that Northeast Ohio has to offer.  Fall is apples and crunchy leaves and early, smoky dusk.  It is pumpkins and bonfires and flannel shirts.  Fall is a time to listen to Van Morrison and Otis Redding and get sentimental and pleasantly sad about the sweet, distant past.

No, we weren’t much help. Also, we lost my dad’s best flashlight in that leaf pile.

I have 10,000 happy childhood memories that take place in the fall, but the one I most enjoy re-living is the Apple Butter Festival in Burton, OH.  My parents used to take us every year, and when I visit as an adult, the smell of apple butter cooking in giant copper kettles transports me back immediately (it helps that the event takes place in a historic village, so it is truly timeless).  As a child, my favorite snack there was a slice of thick white bread spread with warm apple butter, straight from the kettle.  My second favorite (and my parents’ very favorite) was the bag of trail bologna and cheese that we’d get to snack on while we walked around.  Today, my tastes have veered very, very far from cured meat (my parents would be so disappointed!), and the festival offers kettle corn, so it’s a natural substitute.  You can’t walk around the Apple Butter Festival empty-handed!  You’ve got to buy something delicious.

Back in the day, you could buy “sugar free” apple butter, which was usually sweetened with some kind of sugar substitute.  In my family there are several of us who’ve chosen to watch our sugar intake for one reason or another, so historically there have been a bunch of “sugar free” condiments knocking around.  But in 2017, when I am grown up who would like fewer chemicals in my food?  What I have to say about that is apples are made of sugar. Here are some quick facts I’m going to use to convince you to make naturally sweet apple butter, no sugar or sugar substitutes needed!

  • Apples are 80% sugar.
  • Apple butter’s brown color comes from the caramelization of all that sugar.
  • You will get a more concentrated apple flavor if you keep the ingredients list short.  Don’t bother with the sugar!

So if you really like apples, and want to take on a kitchen challenge that will taste like pure Ohio autumn in a jar, try this recipe!  The only thing that makes it a “challenge” is the length of time it takes.  Choose a day when you want to sit around looking at old photos while listening to that Van Morrison playlist and occasionally giving a mindless stir to a crockpot.  Mine was an especially Ohioish batch, because I used apples from Patterson Fruit Farm – another family tradition.  Read on if you’d like the recipe!

[Bonus points if you also make yours in your mother’s Corningware Crockpot from the 1990s–I do own a modern crockpot, but this one still works and I use it for things that are messy or likely to burn. If you’d like to read more about vintage Corningware, the site CorningWare 411 is a treasure trove of info!  It’s how I learned that this is the “Forever Yours” pattern, and was only produced from 1990-1993.  Which means this thing has been working for a minimum of 24 years!]

Continue reading “Apple Butter: No Sugar, Just Memories”

The sad conclusion of the Slovenian science project

This is an update I really haven’t wanted to write.

(read here for the start of this experiment)

I’ve wished and hoped that maybe I was wrong, that maybe things would be okay in the end, everything would work out, and I and my loved ones would be enjoying sweet magenta wine in a few short weeks.  If you’d been following along on Instagram, you may have been a little curious about the silence.

I’d been ready to buy some empty wine bottles online!  I was learning how to siphon things!  I’d even cleared some space on a basement shelf.

But sadly, the wine is not to be.

Despite a few VERY hectic weeks in our personal life, I and my husband have faithfully stirred the wine every other day and kept it covered in cheesecloth in a cool corner of the kitchen, away from the sun.  For many weeks, it looked and smelled like wine.

Until one day, it didn’t.

Overnight, a misty white pallor developed over the surface of the wine.

I stirred it, and waited.

The white mist came back, more dense than before.

One more stir.

More white.

Not so much a smell of wine, but an unpleasant, yeasty odor.

I don’t know how or why it happened, but it appears my wine has been overtaken by mold.  And I’m not serving it to myself or anyone else!

It’s a good thing I didn’t buy the wine bottling supplies, but it is a sad day for my future winemaking career, and the “all of us sitting around on a hot summer day drinking really sweet homemade wine” occasion that is never to be.

RIP, Homemade Rose Wine.

(PS: Yeah, it smelled horrible when I poured it down the drain.)

Slovenian Science Project: Week 1

wine week1

(read here for the details on this Homemade Wine project!)

One week in to our summer science project, and changes are happening!  Per the instructions in the original recipe, I’ve kept the jar covered with cheesecloth and have been stirring the mixture every other day.

Day 3: the color was noticeably lighter, with some fizzing around the top,

Day 5: still  fizzy, but a little darker in color

Day 7: the fizzing had decreased, and wine had begun to separate (lighter with some sediment at the bottom, darker and clearer at the top).

Whereas on Day 1 this really just smelled like grape juice with yeast in it, by the end of the week it’s more reminiscent of Cold Duck sparkling wine (which, if you’ve never enjoyed it, can be obtained for about $5 and tastes like boozy grape juice in the best possible way).  We still have a ways to go, but I’ve scoped out some wine-making supplies online, and hope this yields a product worth bottling!

1 week down, 3 to go?  I will continue to post updates here and on Instagram.  It’s not too late to get your own ingredients and follow along!