An Apple Primer

With the air getting lighter and the temperatures getting cooler, the cravings for all things apple and cinnamon slowly fill the void left in blueberry and strawberry season’s wakes. Thanks to some farming friends, we’ve been getting some sweet, fresh apples from a farm in the north eastern part of Louisiana.

We had too many apples to snack on one a day, so I set about finding a way to use them all while they were still at their freshest. I spent one afternoon in my kitchen filling the house with fragrant fall smells of warm apples, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. At the end of the day, I had stocked the fridge with small servings of fresh apple sauce perfect for school lunches; jars of velvety apple butter to share with the neighbors; and a pitcher of sweet and tangy apple cider to sip on while watching the game. You’ll want to cut these out and save them in your repertoire of things to make instead of buy. All of the following recipes are easy to prepare and can be doubled as needed.

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All of these recipes can be doubled to make good use of a whole bushel of apples. You can also keep the cider and apple butter longer, up to three weeks or more, if you process each in a boiling water bath. A quick note about peeling: Apple peel contains many nutrients, so keep it on whenever possible.

appleciderApple Cider
5 apples, quartered
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup brandy (optional)

Core and quarter apples; you don’t have to peel them. Place apples in a large stockpot and add enough water cover by at least 2 inches. Stir in sugar, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for 1 hour. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours more. Strain apple mixture though a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth, pressing out all the liquid, while not allowing too many solids through. Discard solids or cook for 15 to 30 minutes to make apple cider butter.

Despite the all the draining, fresh cider will be cloudy because it is not processed with commercial equipment. Add the brandy before storing, if desired. Cider must be refrigerated, but it can be served warm or chilled.

This recipe makes about 1 pint of cider. It takes about 36 apples to make 1 gallon of apple cider. If you refrigerate it in an airtight container, your cider should keep for about seven days.

applesauceApplesauce
4 medium cooking apples (don’t peel) cut into fourths and cored
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

Core and cut apples into fourths. Don’t peel. In 2-quart saucepan, heat apples and water to boiling over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are very tender. Drain the apples and reserve the juices to use in other recipes like apple butter. Add sugar then puree the apples a few spins in the food processor. Add more sugar, cinnamon or other spices if desired. Store covered in refrigerator.

applebutterApple Butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla puree
5 medium apples

Cut apples into large chunks. They can be peeled or left unpeeled, cook’s preference. Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 30 minutes or until apples are very tender, stirring occasionally. Strain through a sieve or cheese cloth. Blend in the food processor. Return mixture to pan. Cook apples uncovered over medium-low heat 15 to 30 minutes more or until thick, stirring frequently. Let cool and store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Serve over warm toast or biscuits, pancakes or even savory pork.

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