Much work….but worth it
November 30, 2013
This apple butter, y’all. You need to do this. Albeit you need to be more prepared for it than I was.
See, I had two recipes for apple butter. One called for peeling and coring the apples and cooking the stuff in the crock pot. That, on reflection, might have been the easier option.
But there was one that called for simply quartering the peeled, uncored apples. Because pectin, which causes the stuff to get thick, resides in the seeds, and a lot of flavor resides in the peels.
Don’t have to peel and core? I’m all about that. So I set about quartering about six pounds of apples; I’d bought a five-pound bag, and had a few left in the crisper drawer I pitched in for good measure. Quartered until I had my big shrimp boil pot, which is the largest pot I own, full, and then I quit. Covered those apples with a cup of cider vinegar and enough water to come up to where I could see it in the pot.
Cooked that until the apples were tender. Don’t let anyone tell you diluted vinegar doesn’t smell as stout as full-strength when it’s heated on the stove. It does.
Then it was time to separate the apple pulp from the skins and seeds. The recipe called for a chinois sieve.
This is what a chinois sieve looks like. It’s made for pressing the pulp of any given fruit or vegetable away from the seeds and skins of same. I don’t have one. A food mill serves the same purpose. I don’t have one of those, either.
I first figured my old faithful mesh strainer would work. Uh, no. It’s too fine. So I shifted over to the faithful colander. Set it over the pot I’d originally boiled the apples in, and commenced to try to push apple pulp through the holes.
I was reminded of a basic lesson of physics. Given the principle of displacement, which is one of Newton’s laws, I think, a spatula trying to squash some pulp through a strainer will move an equal or better amount of pulp off to one side. Ditto the bottom of a smaller mixing bowl. I will be in the market for a chinois strainer, yes, I will.
Nevertheless, eventually, I had separated the shrimp pot full of apple quarters into a sizeable amount of apple pulp, and a less sizeable lump of skin and seeds. I had to work on it a while to make sure, as Daddy would have said, “I got all the good out of it,” but eventually, it went into the trash. And the pulp went back into the shrimp pot atop the stove, where it burbled along uncovered on low heat with an addition of cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.
I eventually got the pulp simmered down to a fairly thick substance, which I pureed (more than it was already pureed, which was about applesauce texture) with my immersion blender. And then, because I was damn well tired, I put it in plastic thingies and froze it, vice canning it in half-pint jars. Sue me.
Verdict: It’s fine stuff. If I had a chinois, I’d do it again; otherwise, I’d go ahead and peel and core the damned apples, pectin and flavor be damned. But it’s pretty marvelous on a piece of toast in the mornings.
You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come over for breakfast some morning, and I’ll share some of this with you.