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Monday, October 15, 2012

Apple buttering

So the rains have come, and I'm feeling better about working indoors! One of the last things we did before the rain was get in apples from our apple trees, and we also foraged some along some of the neighborhood's farm fences, where birds have planted trees the Johnny Appleseed way. Multiple varieties add zing to one's homestead apple products.

There are plenty of apples in baskets in the mudroom. As they are organic, most years there are worms at the core and if I try to store them they will deteriorate fairly rapidly. This year is no exception, so if I want to capitalize on these I must cider, dehydrate, freeze, or can. I've been doing all these things and right now there's really only room for canning jars. What we don't have yet is apple butter and so that's what I'm doing today.

For this job I get out the Victorio apple peeler. It's a nice machine, as it does work. They warn you, though, that the clamp must never be set with a pair of pliers on the turnscrew, or it will void the warranty. Hand-tighten only. I have to say, I'm quite strong and hand-tightening does not get me a tool I can use here. They need a hole in the base at the other end so that one has the option to put a screw into the work surface if you're willing to do that otherwise, you might have to void the warranty as I've done by applying a pair of pliers (you can see mine at upper right). A paper towel folded and inserted under the base seems to help hold Mr. Victorio in place. For next year I will drill a hole and set a screw.

To use, hold out the spring-loaded handle on the right here, pull back the lathe (which is what it is) and chunk an apple onto the fork, stem end to the fork. Push forward, let go the lathe release handle, grab the lathe-turning handle, and the magic begins. Peeling comes off, often, in one piece, while the slicer and corer are doing their work, and when the apple has gone through the corer, open the lathe release and pull back on the lathe, and the apple and core fall off the fork (usually).

Separate the two parts of the peeled apple, examine the coiled apple meat for worm damage to cut out, then drop the core in with the peelings and cores in the bucket below (to take to the chickens, or to the compost, or to make cider or vinegar). Tear apart the coil and drop the resulting rings into a crock pot or stock pot. I usually put a half pint of grape juice (from our grapes) in the bottom of the pot to get things going without a burn.

Stock pots often burn apple butter, no matter how hard one tries to remember to stir enough, so we tend to use three crockpots for the initial cook down. Then we ladle the resulting chunky applesauce into the blender with cinnamon, ground cloves, and honey, then pour off the thin apple butter that results back into one crock pot. This will simmer, stirred, until thick, then goes into jars for a ten minute water bath to seal the lids. We like to use pint and half-pint jars for this, so that there is little wastage as there might be from opening and refrigerating a quart jar and letting it age in the refrigerator in the inevitable presence of mold spores.

If you have some left over that doesn't fill a jar, be baking some bread at the same time. Spread the one, fresh, upon the other, also fresh.

Bon app├ętit!


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