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Have apples?

(article, Deborah Madison)

Boy, do I have apples! My dozen trees are all heavy with fruit. I have no idea what varieties they are, but the original owner of my house once told me, “They’re the best Kmart had.”  

I think I have Gravensteins, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, maybe an Arkansas Blacks, and Jonathans. Each tree is different. But regardless of the variety, the nasty coddling moth, which leaves a worm in nearly every fruit, invades them all; otherwise I’d happily give them away. An apple with a worm in it isn’t considered much of a gift.

[%image reference-image float=right width=400 caption="The apples are falling daily."]

The apples are falling daily. And nightly. The raccoons eat them right to the core — while leaving them hanging on the tree. Mostly they knock them to the ground, as does the wind, and when they fall, they bruise. 

Applesauce is the perfect use for these apples, because you can cut around the bruised spots and the wormy parts and use whatever is left, which is often a lot. So I chop the apples into large pieces, throw them in the pressure cooker, and then pass them through a food mill, which separates the inedible parts from what is now sauce.

Finally, I add sugar, spices, and lemon as needed. When the quince come in, which they will shortly, I throw one or two in with the apples. They tint the sauce rose, and give it a more interesting flavor.

With four big batches of sauce in the works, my friends and neighbors saturated, and no more space for storing it, I decided to make apple butter — mainly because it would reduce the quantity significantly. I seasoned and sweetened applesauce, cooked it slowly for a few hours, then let it rest overnight. The next morning I canned it in my nifty new canning unit. 

The butter is dark, sweet, spicy, and beguiling, and I’m hooked. I’d never been a big fan of apple butter, but I am now. I especially like it with the star anise. I know it will be much more interesting in an apple fool or a cake than applesauce, and it might make a good fall ice cream.

I know everyone’s been canning like mad this season, and for good reason. It makes you beam with satisfaction, knowing you’ve used what you had instead of wasting it, plus you have gifts for others. 

Here’s my method for making apple butter. It’s pretty improvisational, the apple varieties are mixed, and the amounts are based on proportions.

h4.Apple Butter with Star Anise

# Chop apples into large pieces, skins and cores included, and put them in a pressure cooker, filling it two-thirds full. Add 2 cups water or apple juice. Bring to high and maintain for 15 minutes. Reduce the pressure, either slowly or quickly.
# Work the cooked apples through a food mill to make the sauce. Measure the contents and transfer to a wide pot.
# For 8 cups of sauce, stir in 2 cups sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 3 whole star anise. Also add the zest and juice of 2 lemons. Cook over very low heat until very thick, 2 to 3 hours. (Because it will plop and spurt and make your stove sticky and dirty, cover it with a Flame Tamer.) Every so often, give it a stir with a whisk. 
# When it’s thick and dark, taste it. If it needs more acid, add more lemon, or aged red wine or balsamic vinegar. Now you can go through the whole canning routine.

p(bio). Deborah Madison is the author of numerous award-winning cookbooks, including Local Flavors. She lives in New Mexico.

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