The wonderful thing was that it was a gorgeous day in Massachusetts for apple picking, which is a New England tradition I don’t think we’ve ever missed in our 14 years here ~ warm, sunny, and perfect for seeing the changing colors in the trees. The sad things were that we were dong it without Kory for the first time, and it had to be tightly squeezed in between many other obligations that day. Why is life always so hectic?
We found a new orchard to try this year and much closer to our house. I discovered it while making numerous trips back and forth to Hampshire College for a big cross country meet that our Amherst team was hosting for runners all over the region the weekend before.
There were still multitudes of apples by the time we got there, and lots of folks showed up to pick on that beautiful day. Funny…even hordes of college students try and make time for apple picking, and sometimes those from out of town or state have never taken part in this quintessential New England activity. It’s fun to see them so giddy over apples. Fun to see my own teens enjoy this activity we’ve been doing since they were so small, too…
On our way home, we made time for a quick trip to our favorite ice cream spot complete with gluten free cones ~ Flayvors, which is also a local dairy farm. Picked up a pumpkin while we were there ~ time to change the summer wreaths to fall ones and decorate the front porch. Decorating is another one of those things which gets squeezed in, if done at all, but I really enjoy it.
|The Krumrey Apple Family
Back at home the activities began full force, and the apples sat in the mudroom for two or three days before I could even think about them. Well, several were eaten straight out of the bag, but we had picked a whole bushel, so the rest of them needed to be dealt with. We did make applesauce to go with our dinner that evening, and then I did a bit of research on how to make a non-sugar apple butter.
Apple sauce and apple butter are really so easy to make. I opted for a slow cooker version of apple butter, and my crock pot has basically been on all week cooking batch after batch of apple butter.
You start by washing, slicing, and coring 10-14 apples depending on their size. Don’t peel them; just slice out the seeds and core.
Add apple cider, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove to the apple slices and cider and stir.
After a few hours it will look like apple sauce, but it still needs to cook more!
It should cook for 12-16 hours and be stirred occasionally. At the end of the cooking process, it should be fairly thick. At this point, I added more of each of the spices and about a tablespoon of honey or agave and some vanilla. After this cooked a few minutes, I blended the apple mixture thoroughly in my VitaMix, and returned it to the crock pot uncovered while I prepared the jars for canning.
I didn’t take pictures of the canning process, but you need sterilized jars, lids, and rings, and a large pot with a rack in the bottom. The pot needs to be deep enough to allow for an inch or more of water above the jar lids once they are place in the pot. Pour hot apple butter into hot jars, seal and place in a pot of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Next, remove the jars with tongs and place on a cup towel to cool. You will hear each lid “pop” indicating that the airtight seal has happened.
All of this apple-butter-making was done around church, sleep, meals, homeschool, Classical Conversations, exercise, many coffee and dinner appointments, chauffeuring teenagers various places, Bible studies, and preparing for a trip to Texas for my 25th high school reunion. If it happens to cook for 18 hours instead of 12, it’s really not that big of a deal, and probably results in a thicker, sweeter butter anyway! I had to let mine keep cooking several times due to busy-ness.
Kayla and I made a quick trip to Michael’s for some labels and ribbon while we were out running errands after Classical Conversations on Tuesday ~ after dropping Cooper off for his cross country meet, and before returning to try and see him cross the finish line. We didn’t make it in time.
We had dinner with a new church planting intern couple that night, and I loved being able to take them a jar of apple butter. Even though both grew up in Massachusetts, neither had ever tasted apple butter. (But I heard they liked it!)
I also loved carefully wrapping up a jar to bring to my dad here in Texas. (That’s where I’m writing from today!) He will appreciate having something homemade and exported from New England, and he loves using various jams and jellies on toast in the morning. We’re heading to his house later today and to my reunion later this weekend.
But we also saw him last night. He happened to be calling on customers in the Waco area, and was able to meet up with us for a Mexican food dinner at none other than Chuy’s. Robert and I arrived in Waco around 3pm just in time for Kory to be finished with class for the day. We enjoyed sitting in the dorm living room and meeting each person who came through the doors ~ all incredibly nice, polite young men. After that, we walked a couple of blocks to a favorite coffee shop and enjoyed our drinks on the back porch and patio area. It was warm and sunny, so don’t be fooled by Kory’s sweatshirt. He claims it was “cool” that morning, but this is Texas, and so it didn’t stay that way for long!
We are looking forward to more time with him today in Austin, as the school has the day off for Fall Break, and then watching him play baseball back here in Waco on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday night, Robert and I will be at my reunion catching up with some dear old friends of mine from high school. Can’t wait!
Here’s the apple butter recipe which works just as well with store bought apples, but the New England orchard version is one you should definitely put on your bucket list!
No-Sugar Apple Butter
10-14 apples, sliced and cored, but NOT peeled.
3 tsp cinnamon (divided)
1 tsp nutmeg (divided)
1/2 tsp cloves (divided)
1 cup apple cider (juice will work, too)
1 Tbsp honey/agave
1 tsp vanilla
Cook apples, cider, and half of spices in a slow cooker on low for 12-16 hours, stirring occasionally. Blend mixture at the end of cooking process and return to slow cooker for another 30 minutes or so adding the second half of the spices, honey/agave, and vanilla. You can blend the mixture again at this point for an extra smooth butter. You can also play with the amounts of spices here. I like more cinnamon and less clove, but adding more or less will not hurt anything!
Then, simply fill 3-4 small jars ~ half pint sized or larger, and store them in the refrigerator, or you can “can” them for longer, non-refreigerated storage. I’ve described the “canning” process above, but there are many other resources out there for specific canning instructions, which you do have to take some care with!
Ok ~ off to shower after our morning run and breakfast in a cute local cafe ~ and on to spend some more time with our Baylor Boy in one of our favorite places ~ Austin, TX! Have a great Columbus Day Weekend!