Sunday, 24 October 2010

Apple Butter

It's a beautiful afternoon!  And by beautiful I mean mid-seventies, still, grey, and rainy.  Thunder rumbles far off in the distance and I've seen the occasional faint flash of lightning.  I'm holding out hope for an honest-to-goodness thunderstorm; autumn storms are a delight to my heart.  I love how even when the sky is clouded over, the trees stand out bright and cheerful in their changing colours.  Some people may deplore the rain, but I love it!

I've spent the afternoon studying for a psychology test.  I think I might find this class interesting if I had a better teacher: as it is, the class is boring, and most of the material seems to be either just giving names to common-sense ideas, or complete nonsense.  Needless to say I don't find it very inspiring.  So I took a study break and hung some posters in my bedroom!  It's always been homey but now it looks... settled.  I'm happy with it :)

In honour of the autumnal weather, I thought I'd post my recipe (such as it is) for apple butter.  I made this this summer - our apples come in really early - but it's about the right time for fall apples now and I think a pot of sauce slowly simmering down into butter would be the perfect accompaniment to this rainy day!


Apple Butter


Wash and quarter tart apples. If you have a food mill, don't bother peeling or removing skins - if you don't have one, go ahead and do that. Cook in water (or apple cider, or a mixture - this heightens the apple flavour!) until soft and disintegrating. The amount of liquid sort of depends on your apples - always put in at least enough to keep them from sticking/burning; I usually fill the pot until the liquid shows under the top layer of apples.  I have any cider but I think it would have been even better with it.
When the apples are soft enough, put them through a food mill, or if you're skipping that step, just cook the fruit until it is falling apart and apple-sauce consistency. Then put the apple into a heavy pan - I used our 8-quart enameled cast-iron casserole dish, which was perfect for the huge batch I was making. Season the sauce: a little sugar (to taste - don't overdo it!), cinnamon, nutmeg, a tiny bit of clove, maybe some allspice. Some recipes say a splash of lemon juice - I think I did this in one batch but not in another. And you can always adjust and put in more of something, so again, don't overdo it.
Then put this pot on the stove over low heat, with a heat diffuser if you've got one, and just cook it down until it's lost some moisture and is the consistency you like. It will get gradually darker and thicker. I cooked all my batches at least 24 hours - on the lowest heat with a diffuser on my gas stove. I honestly can't remember if I left it on overnight or turned off the flame while I was asleep - may have done both, with different batches. Somewhere between the halfway cooking point and the point at which your butter is almost ready, run it through a blender - this smoothes out the texture and makes it less grainy. (I tried blending it before the long cooking stage, but it didn't work as well and I had to go back and repeat later, so it's definitely not worth it!) Taste at intervals and adjust sweetening/seasoning if necessary - and STIR. A lot. I would guess at least every 10-20 minutes it needs to be stirred, thoroughly and making sure you get the bottom, because this does tend to stick/burn if you don't watch it.

This is about 1/2 way through the cooking-down process.

Then you just put it into canning jars, freeze, or keep for immediate use!

My grandfather used to always keep us supplied with Pennsylvania Dutch apple butter, which was WONDERFUL - so dark it's almost black, really thick, and such a full flavour - but we don't see him very often and the family eats huge quantities of it, so I thought I'd try making it. It's not quite the same but it's a fairly acceptable substitute - and my picky brothers, who are apple butter connoisseurs, gave it a thumbs-up :-)


(I apologise for the weird font sizes and formatting on this post - I can NOT get it to cooperate!)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Fried Chicken


My roommate and I tried a new dish for both of us tonight - fried chicken!  It was actually surprisingly easy, and it turned out SO well.  We used the recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, although we used chicken tenders instead of a cut-up fryer.  We also sort of missed the step about soaking the chicken in buttermilk overnight, but it worked just fine with only a half-hour soak.  The breading is delightful and it really wasn't a very greasy finished product.  Yum!


This is the rest of our meal.  We made oven fries (new potatoes, quartered, sprinkled with Italian seasoning and parmesan cheese, drizzled with olive oil, and baked brown), asparagus, and fruit salad.  It was utterly delicious.  And quick - less than an hour and a half from the beginning of cooking till the time we sat down.  I love how we've been able to eat so well this year, but at such a low cost - much less expensive than eating in the school cafeteria or dining out all the time!  And we get the benefit of fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and no preservatives.  I like it :-)

Friday, 22 October 2010

Temptation

I went to Hobby Lobby today for some jewelry supplies (I make the "pearl" necklaces for all the girls in the choirs here at school, and it's coming up on time for a new batch.)  But of course, since this is me, I had to go and look at the yarn and fabric before I left.  I wasn't going to buy... just to look.

Right.

I should know by now that if I don't intend to buy, I should. Not. Look.  I came away from Hobby Lobby with my jewelry hardware... and eleven balls of yarn.  Eeep.

I justify this purchase to myself by saying, well it was wool.  It was $1.90 a skein.  How often are you going to find a nice, soft, dove-grey wool in that quantity for that price?  It really is a fabulous price.  I'm going to make myself a sweater, I think - and I promised the friend who was with me that I'd make her mittens with red accents.

Still, though.  I've been trying to stay away from impulse buys, since my budget is tight and I'm trying to learn to even have a budget.... so this wasn't the best idea, probably... and I need to keep a better check on my impulses.

But I'm keeping the yarn :-)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Odds and Ends

I've been quiet for a long time again - almost a month.  Mainly I've been trying to keep up with school and performances, but I've also been working on graduate school applications.  It's hard to believe it's time to do that already!  Sometimes it feels like I just started college, and here I am almost ready to graduate.  It's weird.

I also took three CLEP tests this month - English Literature, Western Civilization II, and Biology.  Since I added my English minor so late I had to clep some core classes to fit everything in on time, but I'm actually really glad I did this.  It took very little time and much less money than taking the courses at Union would have.  I got 10 hours of credit with probably only about 10 hours of study time, and the cost was a fraction of what I would have paid.  And now I can tell people that I'm getting 28 hours of credit in one semester! ;-P

I've also been cooking, and slogging away (slowly) on my quilt, and I made a pair of socks.  They're finished except for grafting the toes, but they're a gift, so I won't post pictures until after Christmas :-)  Now I'm working on another pair of socks, and a beaded lace shawl which is going to be gorgeous, if I can avoid shooting myself  before I finish it.  Placing tiny seed beads with a 0.5 mm crochet hook is NOT the most fun activity in the world!

Oh.  If anyone can tell me if it's possible to keep up with the laundry and the dishes, I'd appreciate it!  My roommate and I are so busy with school that the apartment gets - and stays - cluttered.  I don't like it, but the best I seem to be able to do is a cleaning spree every three weeks or so.  It's depressing.  On the up side, the weather is beautiful now.  If only it would rain - we need it.  But I'm loving the temperatures!  Never above mid-seventies, and the nights are down in the forties now.  This is my kind of weather!